NFL Draft Sleepers
By: Robert Davis
Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego St.
Lindley is your typical gunslinger: big, strong armed QB that can put too much faith in that arm at times. He has very good size, the toughness and willingness to take a hit to wait for a receiver to get open, and an arm capable of making any throw at the next level. That arm has allowed him to break many SDSU records, and he will end his career as the best Aztect QB in school history, at least statistically. The downside to Lindley's game is that he is very erratic. He can throw a 50 yard laser on the money, but the very next throw could one hop the receiver. The raw tools are there to develop at the next level, and the right coach, may be able to tap into that ability and draw more consistency in Lindley.
Darrell Scott, RB, South Florida
Scott was an elite recruit out of high school in 2008 and chose to play at the University of Colorado. Midway through his sophomore season, injuries and a lack of carries caused him to leave, and he wound up at South Florida. After sitting out a year, Scott earned All Big East 2nd team honors for the Bulls this year, rushing for over 800 yards and five scores. Talent is not an issue for Scott, even though he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations entering college. He has great size at 6'1 230lbs, runs hard between the tackles, has quick feet for a big back, and has very good speed once he gets going. There have been questions about his mental toughness going back to high school, and it's something that will make scouts dig deeper into his background. If everything checks out and he shows some added maturity, Scott has the skills to develop into a contributor at the NFL level.
Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
Jones has the look of a first round pick, but is seldom placed even in the second round. He has fantastic size at 6'4 220, but also provides very good athleticism and speed for such a large receiver. The talent is there, and so is the production: Jones caught 85 passes for just under 1,200 yards and 12 scores. He still needs some work sharpening his route running skills, and the hands could still become a bit more consistent, but Jones has displayed big time ability and has shown drastic improvement the past two years. He is a kid that is going to outplay quite a few players drafted ahead of him, and be a steal, if he lasts outside the top 40 picks.
Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss
Many close to the Rebel program knew Massie was eyeing the NFL all year, but he was somewhat of a surprise entry to most people. He was a 5 star recruit out of prep school three years ago, and he made an impact fairly early for Ole Miss. He took over as a starter in the second half of the 2009 season at right tackle, and held that position for the duration of his Rebel career. The natural tools are all there to be the prototypical right tackle: very good size, decent athleticism, and the power to dominate at the point of attack. The development is a bit lacking, however. Had Massie stayed in school for his senior year, he could've pushed himself up into the second round. While great workouts could still improve his stock and get him selected there, he looks more like a third or fourth rounder this year and he may need some time to become more consistent with his footwork and ability off the snap.
Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Jackson began his career at USC, but took advantage of the NCAA's decision to let USC juniors and seniors transfer without having to sit out a year when their sanctions were handed down. And end at USC, Jackson spent most of his time inside for the Vols. Playing inside at just 265lbs shows his toughness and he was able make 22 tackles for loss during his two years in the SEC. It is also a move that limited his ability to make a name for himself as a DE prospect. Jackson is a solid athlete with good quickness ,but he lacks the closing speed to finish off plays with sacks. While he was overpowered at times as a DT, that had a lot to do with his lack of bulk. The experience inside has helped him develop his ability at the point of attack, and as an end, he is an excellent run stopper. Jackson will never be a big play threat, but he is a better pass rusher than he's given credit for and his all around skills give him the ability to play the strong side DE spot in a 4-3 alignment, or potentially a 5 technique in a 3-4 defense.
DaJohn Harris, DT, USC
His first couple of years in college were spent struggling with academics and conditioning, which isn't all that uncommon for kids adjusting to college. Harris' problems weren't typical though. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which caused extreme fatigue, and limited his effectiveness as an athlete. Things started to click as a junior once everything was treated, and he further improved as a senior. Harris' best football is ahead of him, and he's already pretty good. He has very good size at 6'4 300lb, and can be very difficult to block because of his quickness and athleticism. At times, Harris is unblockable with his quick first step. Once he gets a step on a blocker, he picks it up even more, and shows impressive closing speed for a player his size. He's still coming along in terms of conditioning and making plays more consistently, but he's been on the upswing for two years, and could really surprise once he gets into the league with his ability to get up the field.
Terrell Manning, OLB, North Carolina St.
If Manning were 15lbs heavier, he is a first round lock. The rest of his game is that good. He is an excellent athlete, with very good quickness, and closing speed. He can chase plays down sideline to sideline, and can really close on the action. He is aggressive on the field, and has very good instincts in all phases of the game. He is quick to see run and explode forward to the action. Manning is fluid in coverage and space and has good ball skills for a linebacker. He's even shown a knack for getting the QB when he blitzes. His all around skills show up in the box scores as well. Over the last two seasons, Manning has 151 tackles, 25 tackls for loss, ten sacks, and four interceptions. As mentioned, the big knock on Manning is his lack of bulk. He is listed around 230 but he's not that big. He looks lean and is overpowered at the point of attack in the running game. The right team will be able to mask his lack of skills at the point of attack, but if he can pack on some more weight, he could be a stud wherever he lands.
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
There is always a small school DB that makes noise on draft day or that comes out of nowhere once in the league to become a playmaker. Johnson's physical skills could make him a riser as we enter the workout phase of the draft process, but no matter where he is selected, his skills on the field should make him a playmaker in the NFL. Johnson has tremendous size for a corner, which will be attractive to NFL teams because of the number of big wideouts dominating the league right now. He's also an excellent athlete with good speed for a player his size. Johnson's toughness and size could even allow him to move to safety in the NFL. The obvious issue with Johnson is the level of competition he played against in college. He'll have to learn to play every snap against a receiver as talented as he is, and he'll need to process information and read the action must faster in the league. As is the case with most bigger corners, Johnson is going to struggle with the smaller, quicker corners because he lacks the quickness in and out of breaks to chase them around the field. There's no denying his overall physical skills and production(15 career interceptions), so he is a player with a legitimate NFL future, and may be one that outplays kids from much larger schools.
Ryan Steed, CB, Furman
Steed is another small school guy that could surprise some people. He isn't going to blow you away with his size like Johnson will, but Steed may be the better pure cover man. He has the natural athleticism, quick feet, and hips to turn and run with receivers. He also displays some toughness and physicality, and has shown the ability to be a big play machine with 14 career picks. Steed earned a Senior Bowl invite and had some impressive moments during the week of practice, but also had some rough patches. That should be expected, considering the jump in talent he was facing and such a short time to make improvements. All the tools are there for Steed to make a name for himself in the NFL. He probably will not hear his name called until the fourth round, but he will be a player that outperforms some of the guys drafted ahead of him.