NFL Draft 2011: Jacquizz Rodgers and Round 4 Sleepers
(This is a continuation of a look at sleepers in Rounds 2 and 3. Rounds 5, 6 and 7 will be covered in the coming days.)
The fourth round will be the beginning of the end for the 2011 NFL draft. It’s an awkward period. Great players are still available, yet they generally have some concern that’s scared away teams in previous rounds.
Asante Samuel was an excellent example of this in the 2003 draft. Picked by a grateful New England Patriots team in need of depth at cornerback, the knock on Samuel was his naturally aggressive style.
This is a trait that has endured to this day, and though it’s cost him (and his team) in certain situations, he has by and large become a dominant corner nonetheless.
So once again, this round of the draft will be scouring the remaining prospects who could make a difference despite some supposed defect.
Ahmad Black, S, Florida
His 40 time sucked (4.70), there’s no way around it. And he’s small (listed at 5’9” and only 184 lbs).
But he had an extremely productive career at Florida, where he notched 108 tackles last season with 11 tackles for loss and five interceptions (one of which he took for a touchdown).
He seems to have a natural football intelligence which makes up for his lack of ideal athleticism. Now, obviously I don’t think he should be an automatic starter, since similar safeties from Florida haven’t turned into stars (like Reggie Nelson).
Still, there’s no reason why a smart, instinctive player like Black can’t contribute to a team and add depth with the possibility of becoming a starter over time.
Jeremy Beal, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
Beal played defensive end in college but could be converted to linebacker possibly in the pros. Questioned for lacking “elite” speed and size, Beal has tumbled down draft boards in the last few months.
For me, that’s sometimes a telltale sign that someone is being undervalued only because NFL teams are “re-evaluating whether he has an NFL body-type.” That’s basically a fancy way of saying that they’re over-thinking.
At Oklahoma, a Big 12 school, Beal totaled 28 sacks in three years as a starter, including 53.5 tackles for loss. Those are great numbers. He’s clearly able to be productive.
And on top of that, he’s durable (41 straight games started) and mature (was awarded the prestigious Don Key Award for being respectable both on and off the field).
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
Rodgers made a surprise move to declare for the NFL draft, mostly because he projects as a better college player than pro to most draft experts. But I know what I saw. I distinctly remember him torching a very talented (if not cohesive) USC defense for 128 yards when Oregon State destroyed USC this past season.
He ran a poor 40 time and didn’t register as being particularly good in other workout drills, but he’s a tough runner and durable (he was without question the focal point of his college offense).
And he’s another good pass catcher. In the last two seasons, he caught more than 100 passes. Durability, versatility and a proven college track record; I’d say he’s worth a shot.
Chris Carter, OLB, Fresno State
First of all, he has an NFL name. And like the original Cris Carter, I think he'll go in the fourth round.
Carter possesses what most NFL teams (and Charlie Bucket) would call "the golden ticket." He can rush the passer (nothing 11 sacks in 2010). He's also fast and relatively agile.
The problem for Carter is that his size and speed are not of the caliber as the many other prospects who will probably be taken in the first or second rounds. Add to that the fact that he played in the WAC and some question whether his competition inflated his numbers.
But when you consider he was the WAC 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, he starts to look like a bargain in the fourth round.
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