With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”
Buffalo Bills – Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas 5th rd. 18th pick (#156 overall)
Although running back was not a need position for the Bills heading into the draft they received tremendous value with the selection of Williams in the fifth round.
In Williams the Bills are getting a runner who possesses good size with some wiggle to him and someone that demonstrates the ability to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage as well as in the open field. Williams has good vision and balance with quick feet that allow him to avoid some of the trash at or near the line of scrimmage. Although he does not have game breaking speed Williams can hit a gap and rumble 15 to 20 yards before a defender catches him.
Williams missed the 2015 season due to a foot injury he suffered in August that required surgery. In 2014, while splitting carries with fellow Razorback Alex Collins, Williams rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With the Bills he will be expected to supply depth at running back behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, while also helping to strengthen the league leading ground game that Buffalo featured last season. With McCoy and Williams missing a combined nine games in 2015, the Bills looked to add some insurance to better equip themselves for potential injuries.
Having Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator, and with his preference to build the offense around a powerful rushing attack, selecting Williams was not only good value, but it could turn out to be one of the better selections made during the 2016 draft in the years that follow.
Miami Dolphins – Jakeem Grant, WR 6th rd. 11th pick (#186 overall)
Former Texas Tech receiver/speed demon Jakeem Grant is a player who is small in stature (5’6” 165 lbs.) but has a big presence on the field, as he plays the game without fear and was one of the most electrifying players in college football last year. Grant led the Big-12 conference with 90 receptions last season to go along with 1,268 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. While on kick-offs Grant average 26.1 yards a return with two touchdowns.
Grant’s calling card is his speed and quickness, patterning his game after Darren Sproles and Tavon Austin, which is why he was disappointed to not receive a scouting combine invite as he had planned on breaking Chris Johnson’s record forty time (4.24). At the Texas Tech Pro Day various hand times had Grant posting forty-times anywhere from 4.10 to 4.38. For the record grant believes he is closer to a time of 4.10 than a 4.38
Grant is also not lacking in confidence as he told the media, at the recent Dolphins rookie camp, that he plans on lining up at wide receiver in the NFL, and does not see himself as just a specialist.
Whether he makes an impact on Miami’s offense is yet to be determined, but Grant will most likely have a positive effect on the Dolphins special teams unit. Not only is Grant dangerous with the ball in his hands on kick-off returns (had four KO return touchdowns in college) but his presence will also allow the coaches to remove receiver Jarvis Landry off punt return duty which will give him less exposure to big hits and make him less susceptible to injuries suffered while playing special teams.
New England Patriots – Malcolm Mitchell, WR 4th rd. 14th pick (#112 overall)
The Patriots undeniably knocked it out of the park with the selection of Malcolm Mitchell in the fourth round. Look for Mitchell too quickly garner Tom Brady’s confidence and give him a receiver on the outside who he can rely on to make plays for him.
Mitchell’s ability to go up and make a play on the ball in traffic is something Brady hasn’t really had at the receiver position. Although he is just six feet tall, Mitchell has long arms (33 inches) and big hands (10 ½) coupled with a 36 inch vertical, and that allows him to win those 50/50 balls downfield. Mitchell’s speed along with his route running, and run after the catch toughness will allow the Patriots to utilize him in a number of different ways within multiple sets. Mitchell’s character both on and off the field along with the toughness he will bring to the receivers group is sure to make him a fan favorite as well.
Concerns over Mitchell’s size and durability, as he has missed a number games with both minor and major injuries (torn right meniscus and ACL), allowed him to drop to New England in the fourth round.
Bill Belichick and the New England coaches will absolutely love the character, toughness, and versatility (started three games at cornerback in 2012) that Mitchell will bring to the team. If he manages to stay healthy there is no doubt in my mind that he will develop into a nice offensive weapon for the Patriots.
New York Jets – Charone Peake, WR 7th rd. 20th pick (#241 overall)
On paper Charone Peake’s size speed ratio would lead you to believe that he would have been drafted much higher than the 241st overall selection, but to the delight of the Jets Peake was available for them to select in the seventh round.
What may have contributed to Peake’s fall was that for the better part of his years at Clemson it seemed like he was always either playing behind a future NFL receiver or hurt. With players like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Martavis Bryant all ahead of Peake on the depth chart seeing some meaningful snaps was not easy. Add to it the fact that two games into the 2013 season he tore his left ACL, then in the Summer of 2014 he tore the meniscus in the same knee. The two injuries caused Peake to miss a total of 18 games in two seasons.
As previously mentioned, Peake has a great combination of size, length, and speed. He possesses terrific arm length, giving the quarterback a big target to throw to. Peake does a nice job of eating up a corners cushion with his long strides, before turning on the jets and simply running right by them with pure speed. He displays good concentration downfield hauling in a long pass over his shoulders, and looking the ball it into his hands. On film Peake does a good job of adjusting to back shoulder throws and catching the ball cleanly with his hands.
With the Jets often liking to utilize three and four receiver sets on offense Peake will be given every opportunity to play and contribute as a rookie. As long as Peake can stay healthy he has the talent and skill level to continue the recent string of former Clemson Tigers turned big-play NFL wide receivers.
Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp.
Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56