Highlighting 6 NFL Draft Sleepers with Superstar Potential
Scouting isn't exactly a science, as there are a multitude of factors that affect the decision-making processes behind it. One man's treasure may be another man's trash. Some have certain criteria or a threshold they will or will not pass.
That's what inevitably leads to sleepers and diamonds in the rough. The ability to pinpoint talent that will translate to the NFL is an art form that's tough to master, and it's far from perfect.
The following guys aren't just any prospects, though; they're guys with a big upside that could end up being late-round steals in April's draft.
Jasper Collins, WR, Mount Union
Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports
Jasper Collins of Mount Union is the most intriguing late-round option at the wide receiver position. Current NFL wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts III both came out of the small Ohio Division III school.
He's not going to line up split out and beat some the strong and physical NFL cornerbacks off of the ball, but he won't have to.
Collins, who caught 92 passes in 2012 and posted 22 touchdowns on 1,694 yards receiving, has a very similar makeup to New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore. Physically, the two are nearly identical. When it comes to talent, they are eerily similar with the way they move on the field and catch virtually everything thrown in their direction.
Any team looking to add a bona fide NFL-ready receiver should show no hesitancy tabbing Collins as their guy in the fifth to seventh rounds.
Michael Hill, RB, Missouri Western State
Photo Credit: AP
There isn't much not to like about Missouri Western state running back Michael Hill. The redshirt senior broke all kinds of records in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association this season.
His 1,809 yards and 7.4 yards per carry average were both conference records for a season. While the competition surely wasn't as good in Division II, Hill proved he deserved some NFL draft consideration after a big performance at the Raycom All-Star Game in January.
In that game, Hill totaled 148 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. The offenses were restricted into more "pro-style" formations and groupings in order to get a good look at the players in a controlled setting.
He passed that test and is ready to explode for a team willing to take a risk on him in the later rounds.
Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Stefphon Jefferson, a junior from Nevada, declared for the NFL draft after narrowly coming in second in rushing yards for the 2012 college football season. He did it in the Pistol offense, though, so some may be questioning his ability to repeat success at the next level.
News flash: The Pistol offense and spread-style running attacks are being implemented at the next level at a rapid rate. Jefferson certainly has more to offer than the inflated stats he racked up as the main cog of a gimmick offense.
While he isn't a burner, Jefferson is deceptively quick and seems to have a good knack for finding creases in the defense, especially at the second level. He does run upright at times and struggles with changing direction quickly enough to execute his own reads.
He could be a good late-round option for a team looking for help at the running back position. With an offseason of NFL coaching and strength and conditioning, he could improve even more and surprise with a quicker first step on opening day.
Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State's Jake Stoneburner was a highly productive tight end prior to his move to wide receiver in 2012.
He's big (6'5", 245 pounds) and quick and has excellent hands that will make him a very attractive option for teams in the middle-to-late rounds.
Overall, he could improve on his hands and route running, but neither are an overall detriment. He's a willing blocker that can get into his man and drive him off the ball.
Stoneburner's size and natural ability are enough to lead a team to take a late-round flier on him in hopes that he'll realize his superstar potential after being given some time to develop.
Sanders Commings, CB, Georgia
USA TODAY Sports
NFL cornerbacks are starting to become bigger and stronger in order to compete with the ridiculous, freakish athletes on the other side of the ball. That's a good thing for Sanders Commings, a 6'0", 223-pound cornerback from Georgia.
Commings is a very interesting prospect, as he's currently slotted to go in the sixth round of April's draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com projections.
His potential, if realized at the next level, screams No. 1 cornerback. While jamming receivers at the line, Commings has a strong technique and physicality that interrupts and alters timing between the receiver and his quarterback.
He isn't too bad after the initial jam either, as he demonstrates a good ability to read his man and alter his course without giving up too much speed in the process.
Wes Horton, DE, USC
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sometimes a guy gets a bad reputation for being "lazy" when he doesn't finish plays. That can be said about USC's Wes Horton, who looks to be a ferocious pass-rusher some plays and then disappears completely on others.
But Horton isn't mailing it in on those plays; he seems to be giving up on them too soon. Work ethic issues are definitely a concern for NFL talent scouts, and there's no doubt they've seen the same thing on his film.
When Horton is going all out, though, he has a very impressive and quick initial burst off of the snap and can quickly get into a quarterback's face. He also has a couple of different moves he will turn to in order to keep defenders guessing, but not all of them seem to work.
Overall, his quickness, burst and awareness are all very positive indicators of success at the next level. Horton might not be a first- or second-day pick at the draft, but he has the physical tools to make a serious impact at the next level should he improve his work ethic.