2019 NFL Draft: Sleepers on the Rise.

By Michael Stewart/@golferbad

Introduction: With the 2019 NFL only a few weeks away, many prospects have positioned themselves nicely by having solid seasons in 2018 and carrying their hidden talents at the NFL combine and pro day tryouts. Below are a few prospects offensively and defensively who are suddenly on the radar and getting more attention. We could see these prospects possibly move up in the draft.

  1. Emmanuel Butler (WR) Northern Arizona-6’4/220: Butler moves gracefully and without effort for his size. Butler averaged 17.0 yards per reception for the Lumberjacks and was a dominant force all season. Butler has soft hands and does well in traffic and usually wins the one on one battles for the ball. Another quality that scouts love about Butler is his ability to gain yards after the catch.
  2. Donald Parham (TE) Stetson-6’8/240: Parham stock is rising and may not consider a sleeper much longer. Parham is more of an oversized slot receiver at this point as his blocking skills are limited. However, his size and speed makes him an red zone threat
  3.  Lamont Gaillard (OC) Georgia-6’2/305: Gaillard was a three year starter for the Bulldogs in the toughest division in college football. Gaillard faced off against many 1st round and projected 1st round prospects and handled himself well. 
  4. Wes Hills (RB) Slippery Rock-6’1/209: Hills can make a big play at anytime and excels on yardage after first contact. Hills is most dangerous once he gets through the first line of defense and once in open space; he’s hard to bring down. Hills runs mean and has great vision, another solid pick on day 3.
  5. Devon (Bo) Johnson (OT) Ferris State-6’7/320: Johnson moves well for his size and has good technique. Johnson utilizes his hands well at the point of attack and keeps his legs under him to maintain strong balance. Johnson is solid as a run blocker and equally effective as a pass defender. If Johnson played at a well known school, he could be considered more of a day 2 selection.
  6. Brad Mayes (QB) Lehigh-6’2/220: Many times a college quarterback playing in the shadows is often unnoticed, despite their ability. This is exactly what’s happening to quarterback Brad Mayes at Lehigh. In terms of arm strength, good technique, accuracy, awareness and the ability to extent the play, Mayes checks off all the boxes. Mayes distributes the ball around effectively and has a very high completion rating on 3rd downs. Mayes should be a late Day 3 pick (rounds 6th /7th) as the team drafting him will be projected him to start by 2020 or 2021.

Defense

  1. Khalen Sauders (DT) Western Illinois-6’0/320: Despite Saunders stout built, he moves light on his feet with quick feet. When you watch Saunders on film, what impressed you the most is his ability to move around and/or through opposing linemen with a relentless pursuit? Saunders plays to the whistle and often is around the ball.  Saunders would be a solid day 3 pick
  2. Justin Hollins (DE/OLB) Oregon-6’5/245: Hollis has the athleticism and speed to succeed at the next level. Hollis uses his attributes well along with a 79 inch wing span to keep OL off him and has an endless motor.
  3. Ulysees GilbertIII (OLB) Akron-6’1/230: Gilbert is extremely quick and is a reliable linebacker with great instincts. Many scouts have compared him to linebacker Takeo Spikes and believe Gilbert could be quality linebacker at the Pro level contributing in 3rd down coverage and special teams.
  4. Renell Wren (DE) Arizona State-6’5/297: Wren is very athletic for his size and he has the strength to match. Wren has a quick first step which he utilizes well and also uses his hands to keep separation from opposing linemen.
  5.  Adarius Pickett (S) UCLA-5’11/200: Pickett is a play-maker who should excel as a box safety. Pickett has elite ball skills and plays with an edge that will serve him well at the next level. Pickett is relentless in pursuit and plays very physical at the point of attack. Pickett is more gifted against the run than in pass defense, but many feel that he can develop into a well-rounded safety in the NFL.
  6. Jimmy Moreland (CB) James Madison-5’10/180: Moreland finished his career at James Madison as the all-time leader in interceptions (18); which indicates he has a nose for the ball. Moreland’s lack of ideal size doesn’t stop him from playing a physical game and his ability as a solid tackler. Moreland is very aggressive, but keeps the play in front of him and is rarely out of position.

 Final Thoughts: Some of these prospects have a good chance to hear their names called on Day 3 of the NFL draft; while other will more than likely become UDFA. Many talented prospects have started their NFL career either by being a Day 3 pick or signed as a UDFA and have gone on to have productive careers. GM Dave Gettleman has a solid track record for finding these types of players and he’s banking on that again in 2019. 

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