When you think of sleeper draft picks, you think later rounds. However, there are some players who were projected to go in the first round and slipped to maybe the second or third rounds. Sleepers? Perhaps.
Our B/R contributors have their list of five sleepers who they think are going to make it surprisingly well in the NFL.
For starters, Marvin Jones, the fifth-round pick out of Cal, seems like he may make some noise in the Bengals camp. Cincinnati has had some luck of late, selecting Georgia's A.J. Green last year with the fourth overall pick and getting rewarded by a Pro Bowl season in turn.
There should be a good fight in the Bengals camp this year with Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the third-round pick from Rutgers. It seems the results will be positive, as Andy Dalton will have some new and exciting weapons to throw to in 2012.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has to be even more excited than Dalton. First, Chicago reunited Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Next, the Bears were thrilled to see South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery available in the second round with the 45th overall pick. Mike Tice, Chicago’s offensive coordinator, said of a recent Jeffery workout, he was “picking peanuts,” as in picking balls away from defenders.
Andrew Luck comes to the Indianapolis Colts with a top notch dependable wide receiver in Reggie Wayne. However, lots of folks are looking at T.Y. Hilton out of Florida International as a sleeper pick. And in him, Colts GM Ryan Grigson feels he has a diamond in the rough.
Grigson traded up five spots with the San Francisco 49ers to get the diminutive 5’10” and 183-pound wide receiver. Hilton did nothing but improve his stock in the lead-up to the 2012 NFL draft, as he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day. He was projected to go in the fourth or fifth rounds, but Grigson snagged him in the third.
One of the Denver Broncos' biggest needs in the draft was at running back. Enter Ronnie Hillman, the versatile back out of San Diego State. The Broncos moved up in the third round by trading with the Cleveland Browns. Hillman was coached by Snoop Dogg in his youth football days in Long Beach, Calif. Enough said.
Anyone nicknamed “The Hammer” has to be feared. Ronnell “The Hammer” Lewis was one of the biggest hitters in Oklahoma Sooner history, and the Detroit Lions were thrilled to have him available in the fourth round. The debate with Lewis is whether he’ll play outside linebacker or possibly be more valuable as an undersized defensive end at 6’2” and 253 pounds.
LaMichael James doesn’t exactly meet the definition of “sleeper.” However, the 49ers' second-round pick can put a huge jolt into a San Francisco offense that desperately needs it. The former Oregon star is only 5’9” and 195 pounds, but James is as tough a running back as they come.
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