We've been over the top of the draft at this point with a comb so fine-toothed that it could even penetrate Dunta Robinson's dreadlocks. Kyle Wilson, Devin McCourty, Ryan Mathews, Maurkice Pouncey...the arguments have been hashed and rehashed. The guys who we're hoping fall to us: Dan Williams, Joe Haden, Earl Thomas, in one order or another. And so forth.
I want to take a little break from this stuff and look at some lower-round prospects I like. I already went over guys I liked in the first round and guys I liked in the second round. This list will mainly be filled with guys I think have a legitimate chance of going in the fourth round or lower.
Now obviously, I'm not advocating we take any of these players over a surprise faller. If for instance, say, Cam Thomas is available in the fourth for some reason, or everyone falls asleep on Lamarr Houston, these guys should be grabbed first. My draft philosophy in the first few rounds is to try to take the safest player available at a position of need, barring a case where best player available simply demands we take Dez Bryant or someone like that. With my lower round picks, I'm a lot more willing to gamble on guys who have been hurt, guys who haven't been consistent but have shown star ability at some point, and so forth. I love the steady guys early, but when we get into the later rounds, I want boom or bust players--guys who can be very productive but have had a few question marks. I also stop caring about positional needs almost altogether. Because of this, you'll find my list overpopulated with guys who ran poor 40s, were hurt at some point, and stacked at positions the draft is deep with. That's the way it crumbles.
1) WR Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas. Age at start of 2010 season: 21.
Alright, if you haven't read up on Football Outsiders' Playmaker Scores yet, I'll save you the time looking it up:
The formula is simple: Take each receiver's yards per catch in college football, multiply it by his career touchdowns and divide by games played. The theory behind the formula is equally simple: If you can't show dominance against NCAA defenses with a steady diet of big plays, spectacular red zone performance or both, you aren't likely to be productive in the NFL.
Running the numbers for the 2010 draft class, Dez Bryant comes out first (compares very favorably to Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne, in fact), and second, in this deep crop of wideouts, is Dezmon Briscoe. Why has Briscoe become an afterthought? If you guessed "poor combine times", you are correct! He has terrific hands and crisp route-running, but his 40 time of 4.64 has teams second-guessing the numbers. Combine his terrific production and his relative youth (barely 21 at the start of 2010), and I think adding him as a fifth receiver would make life uncomfortable for Walt Whiteout, Jakespeare, and Kevin Walter in the near future, if not immediately.
2) Patrick Stoudamire, CB, Northern Illinois. Age at start of 2010 season: 22.
If you want a really deep sleeper, you could do worse than the "Nmandi Asmougha of the MVC" in the last few rounds. Stoudamire was a three-time all-conference performer, showed off terrific skills in the Shrine game, started from his freshman year on, and reportedly didn't allow a single touchdown in his entire time at Northern Illinois. Now, the real question is: How does he look versus real competition? Well, that might be a little inconclusive. However, anyone who runs a sub-4.5 40 and has the Stoudamire athletic blood (Damon, Salim) shouldn't be too overmatched in the NFL. Instead of nabbing a big conference player who projects as a nickel or dime back, why not an athletic small school player with high upside?
3) George Selvie, DE/OLB, South Florida. Age at start of 2010 season: 23.
Okay, so obviously everyone knows who George Selvie is. He was invited to the combine, he has a truckload of college hardware, and had he come out after his 14.5 sack redshirt sophomore season, he almost undoubtedly would've been a first round pick. So why is everyone so down on him? He had a pretty unproductive senior season (9.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks), and he followed that up with a very unsexy 4.92 40 time. Why is he here, aside from the productivity of his past 3 years? Well for one thing, with all the South Florida defensive players (Allen, Pierre-Paul, Murphy) that are on this side of the draft, I have expressed some doubt about how great they were because they fed off each other as a unit. What I was really trying to say is "I think teams that played South Florida gameplanned for Selvie and these other kids picked up the slack in easier situations." Another, more memorable moment, is the staggering amount of times an offensive lineman was asked at the combine what player was the hardest he'd gone up against, only to say George Selvie. It was at least 4 or 5. You'd expect the first-round grade guys, Brandon Graham, Pierre-Paul, and so forth, to get that treatment, but I kept hearing Selvie over and over again. The Texans aren't really in the market for another edge rusher, but if Selvie falls to them, they might find themselves with one more.
4) James Starks, RB, Buffalo. Age at start of 2010 season: 24.
Starks is a one-cut runner with exceptional bulk and speed. He ran a flat 4.5 40, weighs 218, and caught an exceptional number of balls out of the backfield. What does this tell us? He's damn near perfect for the zone blocking scheme. He's not as good as Ben Tate, no, not by a long shot. Not at age 24 and padding his stats for Buffalo instead of the SEC, but he's not too far off. The only reason he's this low in the pecking order is small school syndrome and a season ending injury last year, which was a labral tear, and thus not related to his main tools--his legs. My main concern is simply the age. If I'm drafting someone, I want him to be someone who can play for us for 8-10 years. However, later in the draft, that's not as much of a concern.
5) Jay Ross, NT, East Carolina. Age at start of 2010 season: 22.
There's a lot of talk about Linval Joseph's rising status as a result of his (admittedly impressive) physical attributes, but as someone who has actually followed Conference USA football, Jay Ross is the better player to me. A big nose who could potentially demand double teams, he has similar tackle for loss and sack numbers to Dan Williams...although obviously at a lower level of competition. I think he made that line and Joseph is piggybacking on him to get up so early in the process.
Other sleepers I like: the loser of the Dekoda Wadson/Rennie Curran contest for first mid-round 4-3 OLB, Mike Johnson, Zane Beadles (as a guard), Danario Alexander, Perrish Cox if he checks out off the field, Donovan Warren, Myron Lewis (intentionally left him out of the top five so TexansDC can officially drive that bandwagon), Myron Rolle, Walter Thurmond III, the third wideout named Mike Williams (is the charm), Colin Peek, and Zoltan Mesko.
How about you BRB? Who are your favorite sleeper picks? I will also accept sleeper pics.