Don't You Forget About Me: 2009 NFL Draft Sleepers
We know about all the big names: Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Aaron Curry, Mark Sanchez, Jason Smith, etc.
However, the draft holds a number of quality guys who could become the next Antonio Pierce or Tom Brady.
This is the guy that doesn't have the appeal of being a top 10 pick, but has the skill set that could make him a candidate for being one that will, eventually, make the biggest impact.
The guys that follow are my picks.
(pictured here: Donald Brown, RB)
Nathan Brown, QB: Central Arkansas
The biggest issues with him are his size—he's 6'2", 219 pounds—and his school.
He played in the FCS, and his opposition was hardly that of what you would find in the FBS, but he's got the intangibles needed to be a success in the NFL if given the right situation.
He would need to work on his throwing motion, as he gets a bit sloppy with his release points at times, and he would need to prove that he is adept at reading and reacting to a quicker defense than what he saw playing at Central Arkansas.
The potential is there for him to be good if developed in the correct manner.
Josh Freeman, QB: Kansas State
At 6'6" and 248 pounds, Freeman has the size, height, and body of an NFL quarterback—with room to spare!
He's got the smarts and the arm to go along with the frame, and he may very well be the purest talent at the position in this year's draft.
He's got average speed but really is more comfortable as a pocket-passer.
If he is going to get better at the next level, he has got to learn how to find holes in the defense and give his receivers an opportunity to make plays for him.
Furthermore, he needs to learn how to square his body and step into his throws, instead of relying on brute strength to get the ball downfield.
He's got the potential to be a solid starter in this league someday.
Kory Sheets, RB: Purdue
Sheets is 5'11", 208 pounds, and may very well go undrafted this year, but that would be a mistake. He averaged nearly 5.1 yards per carry in his four years at Purdue and was an adept receiver as well.
His agility and patience as a runner serve him well, and the ability to act as a kick return man make him versatile enough to start for any team very early.
He has a lot of upside, but he will need to get with a team that can use him in the proper manner in order to be a successful pro.
He needs to get better at blocking in pass protection and will need to have a bit of a learning curve, as he only had one season as the full-time starter at Purdue.
Ramses Barden, WR: Cal Poly
A small-school standout, Barden would need some polish in order to be the NFL receiver his 6'6", 229-pound frame promises him to be.
He doesn't have the speed of an elite receiver—he ran a 4.68 at the combine—but he has an excellent set of hands and can elude defenders much more ably than you would think.
If he is given room to grow and develops a better approach to his game (i.e. ball security during big hits and better moves to get past corners who may jam him at the line), he could become a big-time starter in the league for years to come.
Brandon Gibson, WR: Washington State
A deplorable Cougar offense may have scared many off of Gibson, but he is a good receiver.
In his junior year at Washington State, he totaled 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns for a 17.6 yards per catch average.
He runs routes well and has an excellent pair of hands. At 6'1" and 204 pounds, he may be a bit smaller than most teams would like.
But if he can learn to play with the physicality needed for an NFL wide receiver, I believe he will do well in the league.
Richard Quinn, TE: North Carolina
Quinn is no Brandon Pettigrew. He's hardly the kind of guy that teams will be targeting to catch passes for their squad.
However, he is a phenomenal blocker, and that makes him a huge commodity for teams that essentially are looking for an extra tackle to help out in pass protection and be a big body in run-blocking schemes as well.
Quinn was not used much as a pass catcher, true, but that does not mean he can't catch passes. He won't be able to get downfield like a Jason Witten or Greg Olsen, but he may be a decent safety net for a short-range throw with some decent yards after the catch.
He's definitely worth watching.
Scott McKillop, LB: Pittsburgh
McKillop is not the fastest, the most athletic, or the most talented linebacker in this draft. But what he lacks in skills, he more than makes up for with his instincts and feel for the game.
He plays smart and reads plays very well. He's tough as nails and always around the ball on a play.
His lack of speed could be a bigger issue in the NFL than it was in college, but his hustle and non-stop motor make him my pick for becoming a big-time contributor for a hard-nosed defensive team.
Lee Robinson, LB: Alcorn State
Another small-school product, Lee Robinson is much like McKillop in that he lacks the speed and burst off the line that teams want to see in a linebacker.
He ran a very pedestrian 4.87 at the combine, but he has a penchant for getting upfield when he needs to make the play.
His ability to shed tight end blocks and get to the runner make him a good candidate for becoming a quality strongside linebacker.
In his career at Alcorn State, he had 35 tackles for a loss.
Coye Francies, CB: San Jose State
He did not run well at the combine, and his limited starts at the FBS level could be cause for concern, but the intangibles are there and should not be overlooked.
In his last year at San Jose State, he had 69 tackles and three interceptions.
He needs to add a little more weight to his 6'1" frame, but he has good awareness in coverage and has the hands and instincts to be an able interceptor. He's not afraid to take on blockers and is not likely to be caught out of position.
He's got the tools. He just needs a little more development, and he could be Pro Bowl material.
Bradley Fletcher, CB: Iowa
His body of work is small, but there can be no denying his upside.
As a senior, he had 60 tackles, three interceptions, and 10 passes broken up. He's the right size for the position and has the speed to keep up with most NFL wide receivers.
He has the instincts of a free safety and can play well in space or on an island, which gives him the right kind of versatility for any NFL team looking to fill holes in their secondary.
He needs to become a better tackler and has to show he has the long speed needed to stay with the big play receivers he will match up against.
David Bruton, S: Notre Dame
He could be a year or more away from being starter material for any NFL team—but his speed, size, and athleticism make him a top-flight candidate for any team looking to groom a potential playmaker.
He needs to gain a better understanding of the game and learn how to break down a play from the quarterback's point of view. He is often not involved in plays on the ball because he misread the play.
However, his closing speed and ability to catch a ball at its highest point make him a threat to become an interception machine at the next level if given time.