Draft Sleepers Part.4
by Sam Monson
It’s time for yet another instalment of the Diner’s sleeper picks for the upcoming NFL Draft. My illustrious pancake companions have given you some of their favourite unheralded players who they fancy to make an unexpected impact in 2008, and here I intend to do the same. Every year there are some players who fall before the draft, and most of the time it’s for a good reason. Sometime, just sometimes though, it’s for reasons that won’t affect how that player performs in the NFL. That’s the case with the first sleeper pick in this list. From the man who brought you Yamon Figurs, here is:
Colt Brennan QB Hawaii
This time last year Colt Brennan was the first round pick QB who had tantalised the NFL by declaring for the draft, only to change his mind and decided he wanted to finish his college career at Hawaii. Wise move as it turns out, since he led Hawaii to an undefeated regular season, and a BCS Bowl berth against many experts’ top team in the nation, Georgia. This is where the wheels fell off for Brennan though; this is the cliff off which his stock jumped.
Brennan was sacked, hit or knocked down 46 times during that Georgia game, as the Hawaii offensive line was horribly exposed by Georgia’s fearsome pass rush. The negative buzz started: ‘Brennan looked terrible against legit competition’ ‘Brennan couldn’t lead his team when it mattered’. The truth is that Brenna had led Hawaii to that undefeated season, stepping up when it mattered late in the season vs. Washington and Boise St to get them there. Brennan was helpless against a vastly superior side, and facing the pressure he did, stood no chance.
He then showed up to the Senior Bowl and looked terrible, not to mention small at 185lbs, before revealing that he had only just shaken off a virus which had knocked 20lbs off his weight. At the Combine he was back to 205lbs and threw as well as anybody. He was just about back to repairing his stock before a new blow came Brennan needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, which would put him out for some of the NFL’s off-season program. In the end none of this matters. Brennan will be drafted late in the draft, and someone’s going to find a smart QB, with the most accurate arm in the draft, who can make all the throws, lead his team, and is athletic enough to do damage when it breaks down. In short, somebody is going to find themselves the new Marc Bulger, the guy nobody knew could play in the NFL until he stepped up and showed people.
Davone Bess WR Hawaii
When Colt Brennan needed a big play at Hawaii, he found Davone Bess. Bess is a playmaker, but he doesn’t have any of the measurables the NFL wants. If you wanted to draw up the perfect WR (and he’d look a lot like Randy Moss…), he would be the polar opposite of Davone Bess. Bess is short at 5’10, light at 190lbs, and slow, running in the 4.6/4.7 range for the 40, but he plays bigger, stronger and faster than that.
Bess was found by June Jones in a juvenile hall football team, where he was serving time for helping out the wrong friends driving some goods he didn’t know was stolen. Jones ended up bringing him out to Hawaii, where, like Colt Brennan, he matured into a great character kid, as well as enjoying outstanding production.
He plays quick rather than fast, and has great ability to run after the catch, which is something that will always get people a look. Bess may not even be drafted, but this particular Diner reporter is betting that Bess will far surpass his measurables and make a contribution to an NFL team.
Kendall Langford DE Hampton
We’ve looked at a guy who doesn’t have any of the measurables in Bess, now we have a kid who’s the polar opposite, and might have the best measurables of any defensive end in the draft. He’s 6’6 and 295lbs, and at that speed ran in the 4.7 range, and he was upset at that speed. Langford has the size and speed combination that teams would kill for, and this kid is a sleeper in the sense that he’s less known to the general populous than he is to NFL personnel.
Langford played at Hampton, and moved between DE and DT during his time there, recording impressive stats. Langford is going to go higher than a lot of people think, and could be off the board as early as the second round, where the Vikings might look to take him if they miss out on a first round defensive end. Langford brings a mouth watering blend of size, speed, athleticism and versatility. His question mark is now whether he can make the step up from Hampton to the NFL, but to his credit he’s dominated all of the pre-draft work he’s been involved in, including wreaking havoc in the Hula Bowl.
Dexter Jackson WR Appalachian St.
Dexter Jackson has scary speed. No, I’m serious. If you’re a cornerback, Jackson eats up a cushion and forces them to flip their hips so fast that he can take advantage of them shallow, or deep. Cal’s DeSean Jackson is predicted to be a 1st round pick, well Dexter Jackson is better, and he won’t go until the second at the earliest, more likely into Day 2.
Jackson has the size that the NFL wishes DeSean Jackson had an extra 15lbs of muscle on his 5’10 frame, and he keeps the same speed and quickness. He will bring an immediate impact in the return game, and the kind of speed that can be put to good use as a situational player in the passing game. In time Jackson could become an excellent WR in the NFL.
In a league that covets speed above anything else, Jackson has looked like the fastest guy in the building everywhere he has been in the last year, including the Shrine game, the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Michigan went to sleep on Jackson in the first game of the 2007 season, and it cost them an epic upset, NFL teams shouldn’t do the same thing in the draft.