We’re a month away from the NFL Draft, and everyone knows who the top prospects are at this point. Players like Darren McFadden, Chris Long, Jake Long, Matt Ryan and Glenn Dorsey have been dissected, discussed and dissed since the start of the new year, and it’s time to look at something different.
The players I mentioned above are potential franchise players and deserve all the accolades they receive. But with a new year comes an opportunity for once unheralded and under the radar prospects to take their lumps in the draft, prove that they were misevaluated and show their talent at the next level.
So, I’ve decided to put together an “All Sleeper Offensive Team.” My team consists of players who were top prospects at one time and then faded into obscurity, small school prospects who dominated their level of competition, and hardworking guys who fly under the radar and don’t get the credit they deserve.
With that said, my team features 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 FB, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 2 OTs, 2 OGs, and 1 C. These players are prospects that teams can grab in the mid-to-late rounds and possibly as undrafted free agents. Keep an eye on these guys, as they may become intrical parts of your favorite team down the road:
Strengths: Wright has a great frame and solid tools that make him an intriguing QB. He has a strong arm and above average accuracy. He has a quick release and locates his receiver quickly. He's mobile in the pocket and avoids pressure. He demonstrates good leadership qualities and is a high character guy in the locker room.
Weaknesses: He's a talented player, but he's extremely inconsistent. He has to read defenses better and work on his decision making. He has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and force throws. He doesn't feel pressure well and takes too many sacks.
Overview: After a standout sophomore campaign where he threw for 2,403 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Wright was on the path to superstardom. But Miami's offense struggled during the 2006 season, and Wright got most of the blame. If that wasn't bad enough, Wright suffered a season-ending thumb injury that caused him to miss the remainder of his junior season and the Hurricanes final four games. Entering his senior year, Miami named his 2006 backup Kirby Freeman the starting QB. But after a slow start, Freeman was benched and Wright assumed the starting position. Wright finished his career at Miami completing 58-percent of his passes for 1,747 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Entering this offseason, Wright was considered a long shot to be drafted and an after thought among this year's QB class. Despite a lackluster finish to his collegiate career, Wright is inching back into the spotlight this offseason. He threw the ball well at the Scouting Combine with surprising velocity and accuracy and showcased above average mobility running a 4.85 in the 40. He also had a good showing at Miami's Pro Day and improved his vertical jump by 5 1/2 inches registering a 31-inch effort in front of scouts. Wright's strong showings at the Combine and his Pro day now puts the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Wright back on the radar as a late-round, developmental QB.
Strengths: Parmele has great size and good quickness and is a player with a lot of upside. He's an explosive athlete with excellent measurables. He's deceptively fast and uses his strong running style to his advantage. He's physical between the tackles and has the ability to get around the end. He fights for extra yards and is tough to bring down once he gets started. He's a solid blocker on passing situations.
Weaknesses: He's not a game breaker and isn't an elusive runner in the open field. He's not a shifty runner and takes a lot of big hits. He has to work on his hands and become a consistent receiving threat out of the backfield.
Overview: Parmele has been a consistent performer over the last two seasons and has averaged 5.5 YPC over that span. He emerged on the scene as a junior in 2006, after two seasons of situational work, and had 207 carries for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns. This past year, Parmele exploded for 1,511 yards on 276 carries and 14 touchdowns. Parmele, who measured in at 6-feet, 224 pounds at the Scouting Combine, performed well in front of scouts. He ran a better than anticipated 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and showed a solid burst during shuttle and 3-cone drills. He also demonstrated his athleticism with a 34-inch vertical and a 10'5" broad jump. He only managed to put up 225 pounds 19 times in Indianapolis, but that doesn't measure his powerful running style on the field. At his Pro Day, Parmele surpassed his vertical jump from the Combine with a 41.5-inch effort. Parmele is an excellent option for a team looking for a late-round sleeper with the potential to develop into a starting RB at the next level.
Strengths: Stewart is a tough, physical lead blocker who displays great strength and instincts. He's extremely athletic and explosive. He has good speed, plays with a high motor and is a hard runner. He has good hands and is an average weapon as a receiver. He's a high character guy with elite attributes.
Weaknesses: He has the ability to carry the ball, but didn't get many opportunities at the collegiate level. He has to improve his pass catching. He has to finish his blocks better and not allow the defender to have a second chance to make a play.
Overview: Stewart is a player who will be viewed as a bit of a tweener. He doesn't possess the speed you want in a running back and doesn't have the ideal size of a fullback. He had a productive collegiate career and showed that he can be an offensive option and make some plays. He displayed good hands the last two seasons when called upon and has the ability to break tackles and get tough yards after the catch. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Stewart demonstrated his explosiveness to scouts at the Scouting Combine and was really impressive in the vertical jump (39") and broad jump (11'2"). He also showed great strength in the bench press lifting 225 pounds 30 times. For a man of his size, Stewart was timed at a 4.66 in the 40 and really turned some heads with his impressive workout. At his Pro Day, Stewart tried to improve on his measureables from the Combine, but ended up with a similar result. Stewart will receive some attention on draft day, and there's a chance he will be an undrafted free agent.
Strengths: Robinson is a physical receiver who has great hands. He plays faster than his timed speed and is elusive in the open field. He's not afraid of contact and makes tough catches over the middle. He uses his size to break tackles and has plenty of YAC potential. He's an elite return specialist who possesses excellent vision.
Weaknesses: He lacks elite timed speed and isn't necessarily a burner on the stop watch. He has to run crisper routes and improve his quickness out of his breaks. He didn't play against top competition in the WAC.
Overview: Robinson may be the most under appreciated WR/RS in the country. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he has outstanding vision and hands that allow him to excel on offense and special teams. He was a consistent offensive weapon for Utah State during his collegiate career and had the ability to make catches over the middle and stretch the field. This past season for the Aggies, Robinson had the most receptions he had in his career (55), but also the lowest YPC average (11.6). Robinson was invited to the East-West Shrine game this offseason and made an impact on offense and special teams. He scored a touchdown on offense and returned a 72-yard punt for a touchdown to help the West team to a 31 - 13 victory. At 6-feet, 202 pounds, Robinson didn't fair well in a number of drills, including the 40-yard dash (4.69). He didn't show much explosion in the vertical jump with a 27.5-inch effort and had a 9'7" attempt in the broad jump. However, Robinson redeemed himself with a 32.5-inch effort in the vertical jump at his Pro Day, but marginally improved his 40, broad jump and shuttle and 3-cone drills. Even though Robinson didn't show the attributes scouts wanted to see at the Combine and his Pro Day, he's still a rising player who will attract team interest as a mid-round prospect.
Draft Projection: Fifth Round
Strengths: Jordan is a reliable, productive receiver who has sure hands. He lacks ideal size and isn't physical, but gets separation and is a deep threat. He's quick in and out of breaks and comes back to the ball. He works the middle well and finds holes in the defense.
Weaknesses: He's a small receiver who struggles against bigger defenders. He has to catch the ball consistently with his hands and not allow it to get in on his body. He doesn't play as fast as his timed speed indicates. He was overshadowed during the course of his collegiate career.
Overview: Overshadowed by DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins, Jordan quietly put together a nice career at California. He's not a big receiver, but he has nice hands and was consistent in his role. He dealt with a few injuries during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but developed into a reliable target for the Golden Bears. This past season, he had 47 receptions for 689 yards and three touchdowns. At 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, Jordan is considered to be a possession receiver with good quickness, but after a surprising showing at Cal's Pro Day, scouts were forced to reevaluate their initial thoughts. Jordan ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash and showed great athleticism with a 34-inch vertical and a 10'2" broad jump. Jordan is likely to be an undrafted free agent, but may be considered as a seventh round selection.
Draft Projection: Seventh Round - Free Agent
TE, Drew Atchison, William & Mary
Strengths: Atchison is an intriguing tight end with great physical tools. He has great size, good speed and is a threat in the redzone. He displays the ability to stretch the field and be a big play threat. He shields defenders away using his frame and makes acrobatic receptions with his leaping ability. He makes tough catches over the middle and adjusts well to errant throws. He runs good routes and finds openings over the middle. He's still developing and is a developmental player with upside.
Weaknesses: He's not a great blocker and has to develop strength in his upper body. He has to move better laterally and get out in the flat quicker. He only has two years experience playing at the collegiate level and didn't face top competition.
Overview: A former baseball player at William & Mary, Atchison decided to give up baseball in the middle of his sophomore season to play football. Atchison is a very intriguing player with great size and athleticism. At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Atchison had 34 receptions for 475 yards and six touchdowns this past season. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game and displayed nice hands, but has to get stronger and develop better technique blocking the opposition. He's a developmental prospect who reminds me of Kevin Boss when he came out of Western Oregon last year.
Draft Projection: Seventh Round - Free Agent
LT, Chris Clark, Southern Mississippi
Strengths: Clark is a smart, durable lineman who was consistent at the collegiate level. He's quick off the snap and immediately engages opponents at the line of scrimmage. He delivers a quick, initial jolt to the opposition. He's efficient and possesses good range. He has good tools and blocks well on the move. He's a hard worker and finishes his blocks.
Weaknesses: He's not a natural knee bender and plays a little stiff. He has to work on his agility and get out on the edge quicker. He has a nice frame, but has to get stronger.
Overview: Clark started 38 consecutive games for Southern Mississippi; 30 starts at left tackle and eight at left guard. He's versatile and helped the Golden Eagles to obtain record setting offensive success. He only allowed 1.5 sacks this past season and just seven for his entire career. The 6-foot-4, 298-pound Clark has to add bulk to his frame to compete at the next level.
Draft Projection: Seventh round - Free Agent
LG, Brandon Barnes, Grand Valley State
Strengths: Barnes is a versatile player who has experience playing right tackle. He's a steady blocker with good fundamentals. He positions himself well and uses his strength to his advantage. He's solid in pass protection and run blocking and mauls opponents. He immediately gets his hands up and jolts opponents at the line of scrimmage.
Weaknesses: He didn't face top competition at the collegiate level. He has to improve his footwork and not rely on his strength. He's not very explosive.
Overview: Barnes dominated at the Division II level and was named the Gene Upshaw Award Winner this past season, which is given to the top lineman in Division II. Barnes participated in the Cactus Bowl, which features the top seniors at the Division II level. He also was invited to the East-West Shrine game. At 6-2, 325 pounds, Barnes has experience playing LT and LG and projects to be a guard at the next level.
Draft Projection: Free Agent
Strengths: Scott is a versatile player who has experience playing at guard. He's fundamentally sound and plays with a good degree of intelligence. He's effective in space, moves well laterally and holds his own against bigger defenders. He's patient and doesn't overextend at the point of attack. He's a good athlete and gets to the second level.
Weaknesses: He's still developing as a player, as he's played three different positions during his collegiate career. He has to use his hands more effectively and not allow defenders to initiate contact. He has to develop a mean streak and finish off blocks.
Overview: Scott started his career at Kentucky as a tight end and then moved to defense and played defensive end. The following year he moved back to offense to play center before starting at guard. This past year, he started the entire season at center and was invited to the Texas vs. Nation game. He faired well during the week and showed his athleticism to scouts.
Draft Projection: Free Agent
RG, Mike Gibson, California
Strengths: Gibson plays with a solid base and is physical at the point of attack. He's quick off the line and delivers a devastating initial punch. He has a mean streak and plays well against a bigger opponent. He's versatile and can play inside or outside. He has a lot of tools and possesses a great work ethic.
Weaknesses: He's undersized and may have trouble at the next level competing against bigger, faster DTs. He has to work on his lateral movement. He has to improve his hand placement and not play over aggressively. He's still developing his game and has room for improvement athletically and technically.
Overview: A former JUCO transfer, Gibson is a maximum effort, hard-nosed player who mauls the opposition. He played at Cal for two seasons and played right and left tackle. He helped the Golden Bears achieve great success through the air and on the ground. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game and was moved to right guard and impressed scouts. At the Scouting Combine, Gibson displayed his athleticism and ran a 5.27 in the 40 and showed good mobility in the shuttle and 3-cone drills. At 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, Gibson displayed his strength and benched 225 pounds 31 times and showed good athleticism with a 27-inch vertical. At Cal's Pro Day, Gibson lowered his 40-time to 5.21, improved his vertical jump to 29.5 inches and did well in positional drills.
Draft Projection: Fifth Round
RT, David Hale, Weber State
Strengths: Hale has a solid frame, good size and still has room to fill out. He possesses good lateral movement and balance. He uses proper technique and uses his hands well. He plays with a mean streak and is a mauler. He's an intelligent, instinctive blocker who understands his assignments.
Weaknesses: He has to bend his knees consistently and gain proper leverage. He struggles against fast, physical DEs who are quick on the edge. He's a small school prospect who didn't play against top competition. Durability is a concern.
Overview: Hale is a small school talent with big school game. He's been a mainstay on Weber State's offensive line since his freshman year. He contributed to the offensive success Weber State enjoyed this season (399.6 YPG). He was invited to the East-West Shrine game and played well at right tackle. He was quick off the line and finished his blocks in running situations. He's still a work in progress as a pass blocker, but his intensity allows him to be physical. At the Scouting Combine, Hale performed well. He ran a 5.27 in the 40 and showed good athleticism with a 26-inch vertical and a 8'4" broad jump. He showed above average strength in the bench press with 25 reps of 225. The 6-foot-5, 314-pound Hale improved his vertical jump by three inches (29) at his Pro Day.
Draft Projection: Sixth Round - Free Agent
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.