2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Sleepers Who Will Surprise Us All
The 2013 NFL draft may be stacked with defensive talent, but there are going to be a couple handfuls of offensive players that will shock the football world this upcoming season and moving forward.
They might not be highly-touted prospects at this point, but have proven through tape and game film that they're more than capable of providing an added boost for teams in needs of upgrades on offense.
You will not see players who are currently projected to go in the first round on this list. Hence the title of the article, "players set to surprise."
Lets take a gander at players this humble writer believes will be draft-day steals later this week in New York City.
All combine numbers provided by NFL.com
Dion Sims, Tight End, Michigan State
At 6'5" and 262 pounds, Dion Sims will be a huge target for a quarterback in need of a safety valve between the hashes. The Michigan State product, while not terribly productive in college, has the skill set to be a starting tight end in the National Football League.
He possesses great athleticism for someone of his size and will create a ton of mismatches against smaller linebackers and weaker defensive backs. In essence, Sims is a spitting image of Delanie Walker, who signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans last month.
He is one of the best blocking tight ends in the entire draft, which will help him go higher than most people anticipate.
I currently have a fourth-round grade on Sims, but wouldn't be too surprised to see him go towards the back end of the second day.
A team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are in need of a reliable multi-threat tight end, would seem like a great fit here.
Cobi Hamilton, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
Cobi Hamilton might be flying under the radar of mainstream scouts, but NFL teams know full well what they're going to get from the Arkansas product. He is a big-bodied wide receiver at 6'2" and 212 pounds. This makes him an instant possession receiver threat out of the gate.
In addition, Hamilton runs precise routes and will not struggle getting off the line against press coverage. He has sneaky speed, which will enable him to get to the second level in relatively short order.
Bleacher Report lead writer Sigmund Bloom filed the following report on Hamilton last week:
Hamilton has an excellent combination of size and speed and can create separation deep. He is fast enough to run away from safeties in the open field and he has a few tricks up his sleeve after the catch. Hamilton's leggy frame disguises his speed; he seems to sneak up on corners who don't respect his jets before leaving them in the dust.
While Hamilton's best role as a rookie would be a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver on a good team, I can see him making a solid impact for a wide receiver-needy offense such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers.
Matt Scott, Quarterback, Arizona
Matt Scott jumped on to the scene at the combine in Indianapolis where he dazzled onlookers with one of the most impressive performances from a quarterback at the event.
Rob Rang over at CBS Sports filed the following report on Scott immediately after his stellar combine performance:
Scott, who finished third behind Smith (4.59) and Manuel (4.65) in the 40-yard dash testing with a best of 4.69 seconds, demonstrated the live arm to go along with his athleticism.
The ball explodes out of his hand on short and intermediate throws. Several caught receivers by surprise during the gauntlet drills with how quickly they arrived.
Scott has a rare combination of arm strength and athleticism that seems to be embedded into the new generation of quarterbacks we have seen in the NFL. While still raw in his throwing motion and likely a one-read signal-caller at this point, I can easily envision a scenario where he takes over on a mediocre team as a rookie and proves he belongs with the big boys.
I wouldn't be surprised to the Jacksonville Jaguars or Arizona Cardinals take a shot on him in the late third, early fourth.
Travis Kelce, Tight End, Cincinnati
Character issues aside, Travis Kelce is a beast among boys at the tight end position. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, the Cincinnati product is right up there with Dion Sims as one of the biggest receiving tight ends in the draft.
He is an angry blocker at the line and plays with a certain amount of swagger that you rarely see from draft prospect. While both of these things could get him in trouble in the NFL, I am pretty sure teams would love to have the passion he plays with on Sundays.
While Kelce might have a limited route tree coming out of Cincinnati, he has the length and build to be a superior receiving target relatively early in his career. He does a tremendous job stretching out for the ball and will physically manhandle smaller defenders at the point of contact. If teams want to try and press him, just forget about it.
I could see a Rob Gronkowski-type rookie season from Kelce. Don't be surprised if he nears 700 receiving yards and six scores in his freshman campaign.
The Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins seem like ideal fits. Kelce's ceiling in the draft is likely the second round, while character concerns could keep him available until the beginning of the third day.
Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
All Quinton Patton did at two seasons with Louisiana Tech is produce. He tallied 183 receptions for over 2,500 yards and 24 scores. While it doesn't make a lot of sense to place a high amount of stock on production from product at a mid-major school, that's mighty impressive (via Pro Football Reference).
What's even more impressive is Patton's otherworldly skill set.
At 6'0" and 202 pounds, Patton isn't necessarily your prototypical NFL receiver. His size indicates that he might have an issue catching the ball over the top against defenders at the next level. With that in mind, it is even more important to look at how his athleticism can make up for it.
Patton runs precise routes, will not loop back to the ball comebacks and possesses one of the better sets of hands of any wide receiver in this draft class. In addition, he will surprise defenders with his ability to break the line against press coverage.
Again, Sigmund Bloom chimes in on the Louisiana Tech prospect:
Patton is an ultra-productive, tough receiver who can beat his opponent in a number of ways. He gets up to speed right out of his stance and puts immediate pressure on cornerbacks. Because of this, he usually gets a big cushion and can take advantage on short and intermediate routes by creating a lot of separation.
Patton can also get free deep and has excellent ball-tracking ability over his shoulder to make big plays. His body control and moves to create separation in routes are all advanced.
Patton will likely come off the board early in Day 2 in the middle of the second round. Though, there is a chance he could leapfrog other receivers into the back end of the first round. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers seem like stellar fits.
Stepfan Taylor, Running Back, Stanford
Talk about production. Stepfan Taylor was a regular cog in Stanford's offense for four seasons and showed exactly why he was a great complement for Andrew Luck prior to the 2012 season.
Once Luck graduated and moved on to the Indianapolis Colts, Taylor completely took over. He tallied over 1,800 total yards and scored 15 touchdowns for Stanford as a senior in 2012 (via Pro Football Reference).
Here is a brief excerpt of my scouting report on Taylor:
Taylor is a powerful, thick running back. He churns those legs at the line and can go beast mode past defenders, even in his first gear before he gets going. Defenders will not be able to arm tackle this running back. He is strong at the point of contact and used a low center of gravity to create an advantage at first contact.
Remind you of anyone? While I am not ready to compare Taylor to Doug Martin, I see some similarities in their games. Both run with a low center of gravity and are great receiving running backs. Taylor might not do one thing on an elite level, but he is about as solid of an all-around running back as you can get in the mid rounds. Again, I am not comparing the two in terms of overall skill set; that'd be enough to get me fired.
Our very own B.J. Kissel had the following to say about Taylor in his scouting report:
Taylor does a fantastic job of lowering his center of gravity when running between the tackles. Considering how much Stanford would go with heavy formations Taylor was often running within traffic.
He's a powerful runner that will press the hole and lower his head and initiate contact at the end of his runs. He possesses great body control and displays excellent short-area change of direction elusiveness with his footwork.
Look for Taylor to go somewhere early in Day 3. If he ends up with a team like the New York Jets, who are in need of an immediate producer, I wouldn't be surprised to see a 1,000-yard season from Taylor as a rookie.
Gavin Escobar, Tight End, San Diego State
Gavin Escobar is an interesting prospect. He is probably one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the entire draft class, but cannot block worth a lick.
Considering how much NFL teams value blocking from tight ends, at least most of them, this could hurt Escobar's draft stock come Friday.
That being said, the San Diego State product seems to have the necessary skill set to be a dominating receiving threat between the hashes and down the field.
At 6'5" and 255 pounds, Escobar will tower over opposing defensive backs in the passing game. This makes him a legitimate red-zone threat out of the gate. While he did run a pedestrian 4.84 40-yard dash at the combine, Escobar is much faster than that on the football field. He gets off the line in relatively short order, will not struggle against press coverage and gains separation on the intermediate routes.
He will immediately become a solid safety valve for a quarterback in need of consistency from the tight end position.
The New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers all make sense in the second round.
Da'Rick Rogers, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Tech
Make no bones about it, Da'Rick Rogers is one of my favorite offensive players in the entire 2013 NFL draft. Heck, I even have a first-round grade on the talented youngster.
I guess you could say he is a draft crush.
At 6'2" and 217 pounds, Rogers has the build to be a physically imposing wide receiver on the outside. He does a great job fending the defender off at the point of contact and is natural in terms of getting up in the air for jump balls.
Rogers' 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine is nothing to look over either. He can beat defensive backs down the field and isn't just the possession receiver that his relatively strong build suggests.
Despite off-field issues that have been well documented, Rogers should go off the board more than most people anticipate. In terms of overall skill set, he is one of the top-three most talented wide receivers in the draft class.
My overwhelming hunch here is that the New England Patriots may shock the football world and go with him relatively early in the draft. While this is pure conjecture on my part, New England does seem like a good fit for him.
The question here is whether Rogers would "fall" to the end of the second round? I personally believe he is going to go much higher than most people anticipate.
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.
Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.