Class Sleepers – AFC North

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” AFC North Baltimore Ravens – Matt Judon, DE Grand Valley State 5th rd. 7th pick (#146 overall) Having already drafted pass rushers in Kamalei Correa (2nd round) and Bronson Kaufusi (3rd round) did not deter the Ravens from taking another pass rusher in the form of Grand Valley State’s all-time leader in sacks (34) Matt Judon. Judon led all of college football in sacks last season with 20, to go along with his 23.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. In 2015 he was named the Division II Top Defensive Lineman of the Year, and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Judon, who played defensive end at GVSU, will be transitioned to outside linebacker with the Ravens. Where they will use length and strength to help generate a pass rush off the edge. Judon has the size, athletic ability, and production on tape that the Ravens covet. Look for Judon to contribute on special teams next season, while also getting a look as a situational pass rusher. Judon becomes the fifth player drafted from Grand Valley State, joining Brandon Carr (Cowboys), Dan Skuta (Jaguars), Charles Johnson (Vikings), and Tim Lelito (Saints) in the NFL. Cincinnati Bengals – Clayton Fejedelem, S Illinois 7th rd. 24th pick (#245 overall) Having elected not to resign veteran safety Reggie Nelson this offseason conventional wisdom was that the Bengals were going to draft a safety in the 2016 draft. With Clayton Fejedelem they get a downhill in the box safety who was a tackling machine as a senior leading the Big Ten with 140 tackles. Fejedelem started his collegiate career at the NAIA level playing for St. Xavier before transferring to Illinois, walking-on, and playing in 2014. Then he earned a scholarship in 2015, was named a starting safety and team captain for the Illini. Fejedelem impressed scouts and coaches first at the East West Shrine game and then at his pro day where he weighed in at 204 pounds with just six percent body-fat, put up 20 reps at 225 on the bench press, and had a 40.5 vertical jump. Fejedelem is a smart, confident player whose calling card is his tackling ability so expect to see him used more near the line of scrimmage as an extra defender in the box. Although Fejedelem struggles with man-to-man coverage he does a good job in zone coverage keeping the play in front of him then attacking and securing the tackle. Fejedelem is also a terrific special team’s player and should develop into a core player on the team’s unit. As a rookie expect Fejedelem to provide depth at safety and see most of his action on special teams. However, don’t be surprised if the Bengals coaches fall in love with this kid’s competitiveness and football character and you start to see him getting meaningful snaps in Cincinnati’s defensive backfield. Cleveland Browns – Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State 5th rd. 35th pick (#172 overall) The Browns made it a point to address the wide receivers position in the 2016 NFL draft coming away with four receivers in total, with the final one being Rashard Higgins out of Colorado State. Nicknamed “Hollywood” Higgins has put on a show ever since he stepped foot on Colorado State’s campus. The junior receiver was a three-year starter and leaves school as Colorado State’s all-time career leader in receptions (238), yards (3,643), and touchdowns (31) Higgins was a 2014 consensus All-American after leading the nation with 1,750 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. He is a high-volume catcher who possesses sure hands and is able to set up defenders to create separation. Higgins runs clean routes with quick feet that allow him to plant and cut without needing to slow down. Higgins can extend away from his body and snatch the ball out of the air which gives the quarterback a little room for error on his accuracy. Although he lacks game breaking speed Higgins is tough and physical which enables him to get leverage on defensive backs downfield allowing him to go up and get the ball hauling it in for a big gain. Higgins carries a swagger about him that many of the top receivers have. He believes that if the ball is in the air it is his to go and get. Having played on a Pro-Style system at Colorado State the transition to the NFL passing game should be smoother for Higgins than some of the other rookie receivers. With head coach Hue Jackson proclaiming that no jobs will be handed out and that every player has a chance to earn a starting position, it would not surprise me to see Higgins making some big plays for the Browns this season, and yes possibly even starting. Pittsburgh Steelers – Travis Freeney, OLB Washington 6th rd. 45th pick (#220 overall) The Steelers got tremendous value in the sixth round when surprisingly former Washington Huskie linebacker Travis Sweeney was still available. Freeney is an athletically gifted fast linebacker who possesses good length and is still developing as a pass rusher. Athletically Freeney put on a show at the combine, posting the best forty times (4.50), vertical jump (40 inches), and broad jump (almost 11 feet) of any linebacker at the combine. All while reportedly dealing with a sports hernia. Freeney can accelerate and close in fast and hard on his targets. The Huskies transitioned to a 3-4 scheme in 2015 and moved Freeney to a “Buck” position which is a hybrid linebacker/rush end, and with his 34-inch arms and speed off the edge Freeney posted a career high in tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (8). Freeney came to Washington originally as a safety before being moved to linebacker during his freshman season. Then this season with the defensive switch he was asked to move to the outside and get after the quarterback. Concerns over his lack of size (226 pounds) and whether physically he can play on the outside are valid, as too are Freeney’s shoulders where he has had both his left and right labrums surgically repaired. The Steelers though are not concerned with Freeney’s lack of size as they are looking for him to utilize that speed to run around making plays from sideline-to-sideline, and being a terror on special teams. Freeney stands to be the lightest Steeler outside linebacker since Greg Lloyd played for them back in the 90’s. Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp.  Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56
Danny Shimon
NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate. Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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