NFL Draft: Late Round Sleepers, Offense

Finding late round sleepers will be imperative to the Patriots in April's Draft. With 12 picks in the Draft (7 in the last 2 rounds), New England will be one of the top teams looking to uncover those hidden gems. We take a look at nearly 20 sleeper prospects who bear watching.

(Photo: Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington)

Most teams headed into April's Draft, bring with them seven opportunities to find the right guy when their turn comes to select a player in each round. Including compensatory picks, the Patriots have 12 picks available, seven in the final two rounds. Unfortunately, New England's four compensatory picks (1, 6th round; 3, 7th round) cannot be traded, so New England will be have plenty of opportunities to use their late round picks on Draft sleepers.

Here is a breakdown of Draft sleepers courtesy of Bill Huber of Packer Report:

You've heard of Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh. You've heard of small-school gems Mike Iupati and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

But what about some of the hidden gems and small-school standouts who could be impact players as late-round or undrafted players? We introduce some of them to you, based on college production, insiders buzz or offseason workouts. We start today with the offense.

QB: Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington: The FCS All-American set six Big Sky Conference records while starting 45 games. Nichols (6-foot-2) passed for 3,830 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior, giving him 12,616 yards and 96 touchdowns in his career. His career yardage total ranks sixth in FCS history and his touchdown total is 10th.

QB: Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State: With more and more teams incorporating at least a little bit of Wildcat, Edwards (5-foot-11) is the perfect quarterback. He ran a 4.41 40 at his pro day last week and also worked out at receiver. The only two-time winner of the Walter Payton Award as the FCS player of the year, Edwards tallied 30 total touchdowns in 2009, including a whopping 18 on the ground — not to mention almost 4,000 yards of total offense.


Deji Karim
Southern Illinois athletics
RB: Deji Karim, Southern Illinois: Working out at Northwestern's pro day, Karim (5-8, 209 pounds) ran a blistering 4.43 40 with a 43-inch vertical jump. Those numbers showed that his 1,694 rushing yards (7.1 average) and 18 touchdowns as a senior may translate to the NFL. He added 17 receptions and averaged 30.9 yards on kickoff returns with one touchdown. About the only knock is a knee injury that cost him all of 2008.

RB: Pat Paschall, North Dakota State: In 10 games, Paschall (6-0, 209) rushed for 1,397 yards (6.8 average) and 16 touchdowns, with his per-game average leading the FCS ranks. He topped 100 yards in every game. Scouts will wonder about an arrest as a freshman at Georgia Southern and a suspension for a fight against Northern Iowa during his senior season.

RB: Michael Smith, Arkansas: His senior season was a washout because of injuries that cost him four games and slowed him for a few others, but it's his electric speed (sub-4.4) and production that will give him a look. As a junior, Smith (5-7, 180) rushed for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns and was the Razorbacks' second-leading receiver with 32 receptions.

WR: A.J. Jackson, California (Pa.): The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has undeniable physical tools. As a senior, he caught 101 passes for 1,424 yards and 18 touchdowns. He scored at least one touchdown in 13 of 15 games. His pro day is Wednesday.


Marcus Easley
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
WR: Marcus Easley, Connecticut: Easley (6-3, 207) practically came out of nowhere. After catching a total of five passes in his first three seasons, Easley was a breakout star as a senior with 48 catches for 893 yards and eight touchdowns. He's one of the fastest big receivers in this draft after running a 4.46 40 at the Combine.

WR: Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green: Barnes, who was recruited as a quarterback, caught an NCAA-record 155 passes with 19 touchdowns as a senior. Yes, 155. That should put him front and center in this draft. Instead, he didn't even get an invite to the Combine. He's not big (6 foot) and not fast (4.65 40 at pro day). But all of those catches must mean something.

WR: Tim Toone, Weber State: The FCS first-team All-American caught 83 passes for 1,109 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games as a senior. Plus, Toone (5-10, 185) averaged a whopping 19.9 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns. He ran a 4.42 40 with a 35.5-inch vertical at his pro day.

WR: Kelton Tindal, Newberry: The 6-foot-3 Tindal caught only 33 passes this season with 116 receptions and 16 touchdowns in his career. He blocked five kicks in his career and averaged 21.8 yards on kickoff returns as a senior. Still not impressed? He ran a blistering 4.28 40 at Monday's pro day. That puts him behind only LSU's Trindon Holliday in this draft class.

WR: Terrell Hudgins, Elon: The three-time FCS All-American caught a whopping 123 passes for 1,633 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. He owns Division I records (both FCS and FBS) with 395 catches, 5,250 yards and 28 games with at least 100 yards. He scored 51 touchdowns. Against Wake Forest this past season, he caught 13 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. At his pro day, he ran his 40 in 4.52, a source said, though he was ill. Scouts will be invited back for another pro day next week, now that he's healthy.

TE: Clay Harbor, Missouri State: Harbor (6-3, 256) could wind up being the best two-way tight end in this draft. Harbor, who ran a 4.56 40 at his pro day, is one of the rare pass-catching tight ends in this draft who actually played at the line of scrimmage on most snaps. He caught 59 passes for 729 yards and four touchdowns as a senior.

TE: Jon Hannah, Texas Southern: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Hannah has the potential to be an old-school mauler in the run game and a move-the-chains guy as a receiver. He caught 28 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown as a senior.

G: Dorian Brooks, James Madison: Brooks (6-2, 306) was a three-year starter and third-team All-American as a senior. A physical blocker, he was one of the most athletic linemen at the Combine.


Shelley Smith
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
G: Shelley Smith, Colorado State: Smith (6-3, 300) was a three-year starter. He missed the first few games of 2009 with an ankle injury but was superb upon his return. By the school's count, he allowed only two pressures all season and had almost 50 knockdown blocks. He was one of the most athletic linemen at the Combine.

C: Kyle Mutcher, Weber State: Mutcher (6-3, 300) was a three-year starter and a consensus first-team FCS All-American as a senior. He helped Trevyn Smith become a four-time first-team all-Big Sky selection and Weber State's all-time leader in rushing yards and all-purpose yards. A broken fibula suffered in the season finale has kept him from working out for scouts, but he's considered athletic and perfect for a zone blocking scheme.

OT: Derek Hardman, Eastern Kentucky: Hardman (6-5, 300) was a four-year starter at offensive tackle, including the final two seasons at left tackle. He ran a 5.15 at his pro day with 22 reps on the bench and impressive 31-inch vertical. A first-team All-American as a senior, he could move to guard in the pros or maybe even center, a source said.

OT: Casey Knips, South Dakota State: Knips (6-8, 306) has a hugh frame with good athleticism (5.07 40) and strength (28 reps on the bench). He played left tackle in college and probably has the long arms and enough athleticism to handle right tackle given time to develop.

K: Garrett Lindholm, Tarleton State: A Division II kicker? All you need to know is Lindholm kicked a 64-yard field goal as a senior, the third-longest in NCAA history and only 1 yard off Martin Gramatica's non-tee college record. He made 15-of-18 as a senior with 22 of his 77 kickoffs going for touchbacks, and hit 13-of-16 in a workout with Carolina recently.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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