Last year it was Brandon Brooks. The year before it was K.J. Wright. In 2013, Mike Catapano is my favorite NFL draft sleeper.
Everything about Catapano screams steal. For starters, he was the most impressive player at the East-West Shrine game, and he also backs this up with NFL size and good athleticism.
Catapano stands 6'4", and is a well built 271 lbs.
Also, surprisingly for someone who was offered very few athletic scholarships, he tested well at his pro day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, but of real importance is his vertical leap of 37.5", his three-cone drill time of 7.09 seconds and his 33 reps at the bench press.
His vertical would have been second at the combine just ahead of Barkevious Mingo, his three-cone drill would have placed him tenth in the combine and just ahead of Ezekiel Ansah and his bench press performance would have been the best of any 4-3 defensive end.
It bears saying that he does not flash this level of athletic ability on the field, but it confirms that he is not going to be too slow or weak for the NFL.
Catapano's coming out party happened, as I stated earlier, at the East-West Shrine game.
This is the stage for little known prospects outside of the power conferences to practice and play in front of scouts and to put their name on the map, and its fair to say that Catapano did just that.
Catapano, while against low level competition, was consistently dominant in all areas of the game. He showed burst off the snap, hand-fighting technique to shrug off blockers and the variety of moves to beat offensive tackles inside and outside in the run game.
While I do question his ability to consistently turn the corner in the NFL, his pro day performance indicates he just might be able to. He also was unblockable in running game drills. In short, he looked like a stud.
Even more exciting is that he only started playing on the defensive line when he went to Princeton. While he is a technically sound player, he only stands to improve with better coaching, tougher competition and more experience.
However, his ability to beat up on undrafted free agents and seventh-round picks does not make him a great player. There will be a very steep learning curve for Mike to ascend once he reaches the NFL, and it would be ridiculous to expect him to be anything other than a garbage-time body for his rookie and maybe even sophomore season.
That being said, he has the long-term upside of a starter, and at worst he should be able to fill a roster spot as a rotational specialist who can hold his own, much like Lawrence Jackson.
If the Lions can get him in Round 5 or 6, where he is projected to go, they should waste no time sprinting to the podium.
In fact, even at the top of Round 4 he still presents fair value in my opinion.