The term sleeper is used to describe many types of players. It could be a player from a big name school that did not get the reps or a player from a small school that just did not get the hype. Here are a few sleepers to keep an eye on this year.
Josh Johnson, QB, San Diego
Johnson has put up amazing numbers at the Division I-AA level. He has been ridiculously efficient, throwing for 113 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions, while completing over 68% of his passes. He is an excellent athlete, that has the mobility to elude the rush and throw on the run, but is a legitimate threat with the ball in his hands as well. He has the arm to make all the throws and has been extremely accurate and productive throwing the football. He has only average size and will have to pack on some weight to his frame however. Johnson has not played against the greatest competition but he has the talent and has dominated at his level. With some time, he is a player that could definitely out play some of the bigger name QBís from more well known schools.
Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware
Flacco began his career at the University of Pittsburgh but transferred after two seasons because Tyler Palko was entrenched as the starter. In two seasons at Delaware, Flacco threw for 7,046 yards and 41 touchdowns to just 15 picks, while completing over 63% of his passes. While he threw almost exclusively out of the shotgun for the Fightiní Blue Hens, Flacco has shown the necessary talent to project to the NFL. He has an excellent frame with a cannon for an arm. He is the prototypical pocket passer, with the capability of making every thrown and showing the toughness to stay in the pocket and take a hit. Flacco will need time to adjust to lining up under center and become more consistent with his accuracy, but he has the talent to develop at the next level.
Tim Hightower, RB, Richmond
Hightower was a solid all around back his first three years as a Spider, but he took it to another level this past season. He ran for 1,924 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, but also added 32 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. The 225lber can run it between the tackles and does not go down easily. He runs with authority and is decisive in his cuts with the ability to make the first defender miss. Hightower has also proven to be a real weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. His size and all around skills should be a welcomed addition to some NFL team next season.
Hershel Dennis, RB, USC
Injuries and the depth chart at USC have hindered Dennisí ability to put up big numbers during his career. He was behind three senior tailbacks as a freshman, then was the starter as a sophomore. That was the year that LenDale White and Reggie Bush began their Trojan careers. Two knee injuries and stardom for those two has caused Dennis to see more time on the sidelines. He appears to be healthy again even though he spent the year with just mop up duty. When at 100%, Dennis has very good balance, quickness, and elusiveness. He runs tough and has always been an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He has only average size and the health of his knee is a major concern, but do not be surprised to see Dennis make an impact in the NFL.
Dexter Jackson, WR, Appalachian St.
Dexter Jackson may be one of the best playmakers in this draft. He has fantastic speed and quickness, and is a threat to score any time he touches the football. He caught 30 balls for 688 yards and eight touchdowns this season, showcasing his big play ability. Although he played at a lower level, Jackson showed the ability to perform against elite competition in Appalachian Stís monumental upset of Michigan this year. He caught three balls for 92 yards and two touchdowns against the Michigan defense, including a 68 yarder for a score. Jackson is small and will not be much of a threat over the middle, but he has the homerun ability to make an impact as a return man and receiver in the NFL.
Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG, Bentley
Bernadeau started his college career at tackle, and has shuffled between tackle and guard since. He has been a starter since his first day on campus, showing excellent durability over his career. He projects inside at guard in the NFL, and has shown all the necessary physical tools to develop nicely. He is a good athlete, and shows the ability to get out and block on move. Bernadeau has also shown the ability to drive defenders off the ball and clear running lanes for his backs. The obvious knock is the level of competition he played at, and Bernadeau will have to get stronger to handle the jump in levels. He also seemed disinterested at times because of the level he played at, and will need to show he has the desire to give his full effort on every down. The size and athletic talent is there to get Bernadeau selected on day two, and possibly start down the road.
Kendall Langford, DL, Hampton
Langford has an impressive combination of size and athleticism. He has the size to play inside at tackle, or on the end in the 3-4. He can hold his ground at the point of attack, but also shows the quickness and burst off the line to get into the backfield. His career numbers of 56 tackles for loss and 24.5 sacks speak to his playmaking ability. Langford is the ideal 3-4 end but also brings value to a 4-3 defense. A quality post season could make him a first day selection.
Ronnie McCullough, LB, Bethune Cookman
McCullough spent two seasons at South Florida before transferring to B-CU for more playing time. He showed the ability to make an impact at USF, finishing with 40 tackles, six for loss, and a sack as a reserve in 2005. He has blown up at B-CU, becoming one of the best linebackers in the Football Championship Subdivision(formerly known as D1-AA). This past season he finished the season with an amazing 149 tackles, 20 for loss, and five sacks in just ten games. McCullough has excellent instincts and knows how to locate the football. He is quick to diagnose the action, and has excellent quickness in getting to the ball carrier. He is tough as nails and is willing to take on bigger lineman to get to the ball. McCullough is undersized for a linebacker, but his instincts and toughness should allow him to find a role in the NFL.
Spencer Larsen, LB, Arizona
Larsen is a little older than your average prospect, spending two years away on a Mormon mission before returning to the gridiron. He is a tackling machine though when he is on the field. He has excellent instincts and flies to the action in front of him. He has only average size and athleticism but he will not back down and will make plays solely on determination. Larsen is not the physical specimen you see in a high selection, but he is a true linebacker and will play on Sundays.
Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado
Wheatley is one of the best pure corners in the draft. He is athletic, quick, and fast but couples that with excellent ball skills and playmaking ability. On talent alone, he is a Top 50 selection. Wrist injuries have sidelined him and bothered him at various points though, which may be of concern. He also only has average size at best, and will lose out to bigger, physical receivers. If healthy though, Wheatley has the ability to develop into a quality NFL defender.
Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee St.
Rogers-Cromartie may not be much of a sleeper anymore as he has risen up as a potential first round candidate, but many still donít know much about him. He has excellent athleticism, quickness, and speed and put that on display in the Senior Bowl. He showed that he has the natural athleticism and cover ability to stick with players from the bigger schools, and that performance has put him on the bring of the first round. He is raw and may need some time to develop, but he has the natural cover instincts to potentially become a standout corner with some coaching. He will need to add some weight to his thin frame, but Rogers-Cromartie is a guy you will hear a lot of about on Sundays.
Bobbie Williams, S, Bethune Cookman
Williams has made a name for himself with his big play ability from the free safety position at B-CU. He has excellent ball skills, showing the ability to locate the football while it is in the air and go up and make a play on it. As a senior he had 77 tackles, four for loss, and two picks. Those two interceptions gave him 15 during his college career.. Williams wasnít just a ballhawk, as he has shown the ability to lay the wood and make receivers pay for coming into his territory. Williamsí lack of blazing speed may move him to strong safety in the NFL, but he is a kid that could surprise some. He may be drafted late and only contribute on special teams early on, but he has the potential to develop down the road.