2011 NFL Draft: 10 Late-Round Sleepers
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A lot of times what makes a draft are the guys taken in the later rounds. Sure, it doesn't hurt to hit with a top pick, but what about the guys who are looked at as being practice squad guys and not starters?
Some people only care about the overrated—see picture at left. However, there are a lot of underrated players taken in the late rounds every year that either came on strong or blossomed into a force on their teams.
It's all about the surprises, like seventh-round picks Ahmad Bradshaw, Jay Ratliff, Cortland Finnegan and Marques Colston, fourth-round selections Justin Tuck, Jared Allen and Asante Samuel and fifth-rounders Trent Cole and Michael Turner.
Am I missing any notable sixth-round picks from the past 10 to 15 years? Anyway...let's see 10 players who could be those late-round steals that'll blow people away.
DE/OLB Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh
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He was looking to be a sure-fire first-round pick after his junior year, but back surgery and then a torn ACL have dropped his stock considerably. He is now projected to be taken in the fourth or fifth round.
He has good size at 6'5", 265, and he has the production on his résumé. It's just the injuries that make him a big question mark for a lot of teams.
Do the injuries he suffered his senior year make him injury-prone? We will find out whenever he is drafted, but I think he will fare like another former projected first-round pick who dropped because of an injury, Michael Bush. They play different positions but were in the same position prior to the draft.
Bush has been a valuable member of the Oakland Raiders after being drafted with the first pick in the fourth round after being projected as a first-round pick heading into the 2006 season before breaking his leg in the season opener.
WR Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M
He stands at 6'1", 224, so size isn't a question. The small-school product had a good combine and was impressive at his pro day, running a 4.38 40. He had 70 catches for 1,021 yards and 11 scores in 2010.
Burton is a good leaper and has good body control. He needs to work on route running and getting separation. He is currently projected around the fifth round or later.
OC Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock
Another small-school product who could come into his own at the next level. Brandon Fusco did well against the better D-linemen he faced at the Senior Bowl. He's 6'4" and weighs in at 306.
Fusco won the Gene Upshaw Award given to the top D-II lineman, and he was the D-II winner of the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation's top center. He is projected as being a fifth-round pick or later.
CB Cortez Allen, Citadel
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Cortez Allen is 6'1", 197 and ran an unofficial combine 40 of 4.45. He is a CB who could move to FS in the NFL. He has fluid hips and has great footwork as well. Allen had good performances at the combine, as well as his pro day. Allen is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round.
OG Andrew Jackson, Fresno State
Andrew Jackson is 6'5" and 300 pounds. He has solid size and could use another 15 or so pounds on his frame. He is solid in both pass- and run-blocking. He is very intelligent and has good awareness as well. He needs to get stronger and get better leverage.
OLB Chris Carter, Fresno State
Chris Carter was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. His 11 sacks was one of the best totals in the nation. He also had 16.5 TFL and four FFs in 2010. He will likely be an OLB in the NFL, but I think he will play with his hand in the dirt some as well.
He has solid size at 6'1", 248, but he has room to add another 10 to 15 pounds. Solid speed, running a 4.58 40. He's a good pass rusher. He has good burst off the edge.
Carter's projection has been all over the place. He's been projected to go in the fifth or sixth round all the way up to being a late second-round pick. Wherever he goes, he'll be worth the pick in my opinion.
WR Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union
Cecil Shorts III is a D-III product with decent size (5'11", 205), speed (ran 4.35, 4.41 at his pro day on wet turf) and good route running, and he can catch the ball as well. He just needs to not be lazy on the out routes, and his hands can be inconsistent at times. He can also be used as a KR/PR.
He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons at Mount Union. He had 4,705 yards and 63 TDs for his career. In 2010, he had 17 receiving scores, one rushing, two on punt returns and one on kick returns despite missing the first three games with an ankle injury. He's a three-time All-American, and he was an All-American in track as well.
Shorts is slated to go anywhere from the fourth round to the sixth round.
QB Greg McElroy, Alabama
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McElroy may be a little short at 6'2", but he was productive as a QB at Alabama, winning the national championship in 2009. He's smart with the ball and doesn't force it into tight coverage.
He has good arm strength on short to intermediate passes but may struggle with some deep passes. Good awareness in the pocket and will throw the ball away to avoid a sack. He needs some work on his delivery.
McElroy is projected for the sixth round.
Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska
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Helu Jr. has good size (just under 6'0", 219 lbs.) and good speed (4.42 40). He has good vision and hits the hole hard. He runs with agility and can separate from would-be tacklers.
Helu really came on the last two seasons, rushing for 2,392 yards and 21 TDs and averaging 5.86 YPC. He's thought to be a fourth- or fifth-round guy.
QB T.J. Yates, North Carolina
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This is the guy who I have as my biggest sleeper in this draft. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Mr. T.J. Yates.
Yates has good size at 6'4", 220. He was a four-year starter at North Carolina and ran a pro-style offense under Butch Davis.
Yates is a leader. He has very good accuracy on his short to intermediate passes. Decent arm strength and can make all the throws. He had a solid combine and a great pro day, completing 110 of 112 passes.
He's a smart player who can perform under pressure and is smart with the ball. Completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,418 yards and 19 TDs vs. nine picks his senior year despite being sacked 37 times.
Projected sixth round to undrafted. Could he be the next Tom Brady?
Those Are My Sleepers
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They may not get to go on stage and have their pictures taken with the commissioner, but they are just as important as the rest of the players drafted ahead of them. When will Mr. Irrelevant be relevant?
Thanks for reading my article. I hope everyone enjoyed it. Feel free to leave comments.