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Predicting the 11 Biggest Sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft

Marc LillibridgeContributor IJanuary 21, 2013

Predicting the 11 Biggest Sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft

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    Football executives and coaches knew about quarterback Tom Brady before the 2000 NFL draft.  Brady had started 25 games in his University of Michigan career and won two bowl games.

    Yet for some reason, Brady was passed over for five rounds, ultimately being selected in the sixth round (No. 199 overall) by the New England Patriots. 

    Brady is the epitome of a sleeper. But every year, the draft is littered with players that may not get the media hype or be nationally known, yet end up producing at a high level in the NFL. Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris is an example from the 2012 draft.

    Here is a list of 11 players who are not well-known or are not projected to be selected until day three of the draft. But each player has produced at the college level and should have success in the NFL.

11. Travis Chappelear, Defensive End, Northwest Missouri State

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    NFL scouts that went into Maryville, Missouri this season were pleasantly surprised to see the growth of Chappelear. The 6'5", 270-pound defensive lineman showed strength, hustle and toughness. Chappelear has good speed for a big man and his talent is still scratching the surface.

    Chappelear impressed NFL scouts at the Casino Del Sol game with his use of leverage and his ability to rush the passer. While raw in his techniques, he makes plays all over the field and will make tackles 30 or 40 yards down field. NFL scouts have compared him to a poor man's J.J. Watt.

10. Armonty Bryant, Defensive End, East Central University

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    Bryant may be one of the best athletes in the 2013 NFL draft, and scouts have compared him to DeMarcus Ware. He measures in at 6’5” and 265 lbs. and has a wingspan of over 85 inches. His 27.5 career sacks broke the school record, and he also had 49 career tackles for loss in three seasons.

    Bryant missed three games in 2012-13 due to a drug suspension that he will have to answer for when being interviewed by NFL teams. He has the athletic talents to line up as a defensive end or stand up and play outside linebacker.

    Another small-school player whose best football is still in front of him, Bryant will get selected in the 2013 NFL draft and be a piece of clay for his position coach.

9. Terron Armstead, Offensive Tackle, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

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    Armstead might not have played against the best competition in college, but that will not keep him from being a starter in the NFL at some point. He has great arm length and exceptional foot quickness for a man his size and was easily the best offensive lineman during the week of the East-West Shrine game practices. Armstead was not beaten in one-on-one pass rushes.

    Armstead needs to get stronger in his upper and lower body. But as is the case for lower-level players entering the NFL, when Armstead’s only job is to eat, lift and study football, that transition will happen quickly. Armstead is one of the most naturally gifted offensive linemen in the 2013 NFL draft.

8. Keith Pough, Linebacker, Howard

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    Pough is not a household name but he will be a NFL starter and has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player. He has good size and plays the game with unbridled intensity. Also, he is known as a vocal leader who takes practice just as serious as the game.

    Pough was the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13 and is the career leader in tackles for loss in the entire FCS. During the week of practices at the East-West Shrine game, Pough stood out for his effort, hustle and leadership. His ability caught the attention of coaches and scouts, who selected him the winner of the Pat Tillman Award for his efforts during the all-star week.

7. Melvin White, Cornerback, Louisiana-Lafayette

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    White has prototypical NFL size for a cornerback at 6’1" and has the length to play physical in press coverage. He wins when he lines up face to face with the wide receiver and use his size to re-route the offensive player. NFL defensive backs coaches covet that length and strength.

    White will need to show he can run a fast 40-yard dash to improve his draft stock, but he has played safety in college as well. That versatility will benefit him greatly in the NFL. He is a willing tackler and a very good blitzer off the edge.

    Dwight Bentley—who was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions in 2012—played opposite White in 2011. Many scouts believe White has more pro potential than Bentley.

6. Zeke Motta, Safety, Notre Dame

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    Motta does not get the media hype that teammate Manti Te’o receives, but Motta was a major part of the Fighting Irish’s run at a National Championship.

    Motta is a solid tackler and plays the game extremely hard. He finished his college career with 179 total tackles and never missed a game.

    Motta was the brains of the Notre Dame defense and was responsible for getting the secondary to work together. He showed off his range and speed at practices during the East-West Shrine week.

    Like most of the players on this list, Motta will initially make a name for himself on special teams. But whatever team selects him will be getting a football player who eats, sleeps and breathes the game.

5. Dennis Johnson, Running Back, Arkansas

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    Heading into his senior season, Johnson was not even the top running back listed on the depth chart. He was supposed to share carries with Knile Davis and Ronnie Wingo, Jr.

    Instead, Johnson became the featured runner and led the team in rushing with 757 yards. He also added eight touchdowns on the ground.

    Johnson will make his splash in the NFL as a kickoff returner. He has the speed and quickness to score on any return. He is not a tall player—measuring in at 5’9”—but his size and blazing speed remind scouts of Darren Sproles. He is durable, smart and has good hands in the passing game. He should be returning kickoffs on Sundays next season.

4. Caleb Schreibeis, Defensive End, Montana State

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    The 2012 Buck Buchanan Award for the best defensive player in FCS, Schreibeis will be playing in the NFL in 2013. Schreibeis is a full-motor player who had an outstanding senior season to put himself on the NFL map. On his college career, Schreibeis had 23 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

    Schreibeis may have to transition to outside linebacker in the NFL, but his effort and toughness prove he is capable of the switch. Schreibeis will be a core special teams player at the next level. He cares about the game and showed amazing effort in the East-West Shrine practices.  

3. Jakar Hamilton, Safety, South Carolina State

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    Hamilton started his college career at the University of Georgia before transferring to South Carolina State for his senior season. Georgia has two safeties, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, eligible for the 2013 NFL draft. NFL scouts believe Hamilton is just as good as, if not better than, those two.

    Hamilton stood out at the NFLPA All-Star game practices and showed he can return punts and kickoffs as well. Hamilton has natural hands and is a vicious hitter. He will start his NFL career using his ability to return and cover kicks. But once Hamilton grasps the defensive playbook, he will get the chance to play in the secondary.

    He should follow fellow SCSU alumnus and current Baltimore Raven Christian Thompson into the NFL.

2. Sio Moore, Linebacker, Connecticut

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    The speedy linebacker was a playmaker in college and extended that showcase to the East-West Shrine game. Moore was making tackles and flashing great quickness all over the football field. Moore is not the biggest linebacker in the draft, but he compares well to Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, who started all season.

    Moore finished his college career with 274 total tackles and also had 16 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. A testament to his speed and coverage ability, He had 18 total passes defensed as well.

    Moore will make his presence known on special teams to start his NFL career, but even as early as next season, he could be taking repetitions as a nickel linebacker.

1. Alex Carder, Quarterback, Western Michigan

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    The Kansas native had a solid week at the East-West Shrine practices and made a name for himself in a weak quarterback class. Carder threw for 8,886 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career. He could have easily topped 10,000 yards passing if not for missing five games with a hand injury this season.

    Carder does not have prototypical size, but has solid arm talent and is a natural leader. Carder is impressive with his knowledge of the playbook and the way his teammates respect him. NFL coaches love to work with players like Carder, and he will be on an NFL roster next season.

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