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NFL Draft Sleepers

By: Robert Davis

All the games have been played. The all star games have come and gone, and the combine is up next, followed by individual workouts. Some people may gain attention based on what they accomplish in workouts, but there are still some players that have not gotten their just due. Whether you want to call them a sleeper or just plain underrated, here is a look at some players that still do not get the attention they deserve.

QB Stephen McGee, Texas AM
McGeeís career has not gone as he pictured. He spent his first three seasons running quite a bit of the option, despite being too good of a passer to be stifled in such a system. Just when he was about to get the chance to shine as a passer as a senior, a shoulder injury put a damper on things. The pain lingered throughout the year, and the Aggies went with their future, getting Jerrod Johnson experience. McGee is a work in progress and will need some time to adjust to a pro style offense, but he has the talent to make the adjustments. He has shown a solid arm and has been efficient on the field when throwing the football. What sets McGee apart are the intangibles he brings to the table. He has a lot of moxie and doesnít get rattled. He takes a lot of hits in the pocket and running the football and pops right back up. He beat Texas during his sophomore and junior seasons, and can step up his game when the situation calls for it. McGee had a solid showing at the Shrine Game, but will need a solid workout circuit to put to rest any concerns about his shoulder. He likely will not carry a high grade going into draft day, but do not be surprised to see McGee outlast some of the QBís selected ahead of him. He has the raw passing ability, mobility, and leadership skills to develop into a starter in the NFL.

WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio St.
Robiskieís father coaches in the NFL and he has been a key part of a perennial BCS contender so he isnít your typical sleeper. But Brian Robiskie seems to slip out of the spotlight when people mention the top receivers available for the draft. All the talk focuses on the abundance of underclassmen that have declared. In some cases, it is understandable. Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin are the class of the WR crop this year. Robiskie may not be the home run threat or possess the blazing speed some of the other receivers have, but the kid is a 10 year NFL starter in the making. Other than his size, he does not have any true standout physical quality but he is above average across the board. He will go over the middle to make the tough grab, but has the athleticism and body control to go up and get the football in the air. What truly sets Robiskie apart is the coaching he has received all his life. You can see the influence his father has had on him, as he runs crisp routes and has tremendous hands. He may not become a true game breaker, but Robiskie should become a very solid #2 receiver in the NFL. If he gets out of the second round, he is a big time steal.

OT Jason Watkins, Florida
This is another kid from a big time program that doesnít receive much attention. He was a two year starter, spending time at both left and right tackle for the Gators. Watkins has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. He has a classic tackle frame: long and lean with long arms. He can easily shuffle his feet in pass protection and mirror a defenders moves. He actually carries a lot of potential on the left side in the NFL. The issue with Watkins is that he is too lackadaisical on the field. He just goes through the motions and doesnít play with much fire. That is a real concern, and it is the reason he only carries a mid round grade. He did have a solid showing at the Senior Bowl, and if he can continue to show he is ready to play with some intensity, Watkins will come off the board earlier than the middle rounds and could have a long career in the NFL.

DE/OLB Cody Brown, Uconn
Connecticut has been producing some quality NFL talent over the past couple years, and there are a slew of Huskies that should impact the draft this year. Cody Brown is one of them. He specializes in getting up the field after the quarterback and that trait could make him a rich man in the NFL. Brown appears to be a great fit in a 3-4 defense as an edge rusher, but is limited in a 4-3 alignment. He excels getting up the field, where his speed and athleticism stand out. Brown has excellent agility and can easily run circles around tackles, and he has the speed to close on the play. The past two years he has combined for 33 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. Brown checked in at the Senior Bowl at 6'2 and just over 240lbs. So he must continue to add weight to his frame but he has the skills you canít teach. With the value teams place on getting after the quarterback, Cody Brown should be talked about a lot more. He has all the skills to be a dynamic pass rusher in the NFL, and some team is going to be happy they landed him where they do come April.

DT Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St.
Gilbert as a solid defensive end for the Spartans during his first two and a half years in the program, but his game took off with a shift inside to tackle. He had 20 tackles for loss and 12 sacks through his junior year, while playing as a good sized end. His shift inside full time as a senior led him to a breakout season in which he finished with an amazing 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Gilbert has tremendous first step quickness and can just leave the offensive lineman standing as he blows by him into the backfield. He is good athlete, with quick feet, and the speed to finish the play off. He is active and uses his athletic talents to consistently wreak havoc in the backfield. Gilbert has very good natural strength but he may need to pack on some more pounds to better handle engaging players that currently outweigh him by nearly 30 pounds. That light build and not facing the best talent on a game to game basis may keep Gilbert in the middle rounds but he could have an impact much greater than that once he gets on to the field in the NFL.

DE Kyle Moore, USC
The USC defense this year featured a couple headliners like Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, but the unit was as strong as it was because of the talent all over the field. Many players on the defense can fit into the sleeper or underrated category, and Moore is definitely one of them. Moore led the team in sacks with five, despite being maybe the fifth or sixth option if you were to ask people who led the team in that category. Moore has solid size with the room to get much bigger. He holds his ground at the point of attack well and can get off blocks to make plays. These skills should make him an ideal fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment. He has underrated athleticism and ability to play in space as well though, so he also fits on the edge in a 4-3 defense. He is relentless off the edge, and actually displayed impressive football intelligence when asked to drop into coverage. Moore isnít going to post eye popping numbers in the NFL, but he is a player that could develop into a quality starter and provide a consistent impact from game to game in whatever role he is asked to play.

DE Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond
Sidbury became a hot name after he had four sacks in the FCS title game, but heís been on scouts radar before that performance. He is a good athlete that looks the part of an NFL prospect. He is put together very well and has very long arms. Sidbury shows the ability to get off blocks and stop the run, or get up the field and attack the pass rusher. His natural gifts and pass rushing ability could allow him to play end in a 4-3, or linebacker in a 3-4. Sidbury had the benefit of playing both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, and has taken advantage of it. Each game was a step up in competition from what he faced at Richmond, and he has impressed at both stops. The combine is up next and if he can put together some impressive 40 times, Sidbury could shoot through the roof. He carries a third or fourth round grade but has the potential to be an impact player in the NFL.

LB Michael Tuailiili, Duke
Every year there are undersized tackling machines but not all of them make it in the NFL. For every Zack Thomas there are five Will Dertingís. Tuailiili hopes to have a career more like the former Dolphin, and he may just be able to. He has tremendous football instincts and is very aggressive on the field. He doesnít waste much time reading the play and getting to the ball carrier. Tuailiili is not afraid to mix it up between the tackles and will knock the ball carrier back when he hits them. The questions about Tuailiili revolve around his size. He is short, stocky, and can be engulfed by larger lineman. He will need to be in a scheme that can protect him up front and flow to the football. Tuailiili was named team captain for the Shrine Game and earned defensive MVP honors on top of it. In the right system, Tuailiili be a solid performer at stopping the run and be a boost on special teams despite not hearing his name called until the final third of the draft.

CB Joe Burnett, Central Florida
Average size, average speed, ball hawk that can also help on special teams from Central Florida. Sound familiar? That scouting report applied to Asante Samuel as well, and he has fared pretty well in the NFL. Burnett does have a lot of similarities to Samuel. He is a very good athlete with good quickness, but lacks a second gear. Speed hasnít been a major issue as heís running with receivers or running away from defenders as a return man. Burnett has tremendous ball skills, as his 16 career interceptions show. He has the hips and change of direction skills to cover and has the aggressiveness to go up and fight for the football. Burnett can be too aggressive at times leading to a big play on the other end, and he isnít much of a factor in the running game. The skills he brings in coverage though could make him a surprise from this draft. A lot of underclassmen have declared pushing him down the boards, but he could have an impact much greater than his draft position.

CB Jackie Bates, Hampton
Bates began his career at Oregon. He started off with a bang, earning Freshman All America honors that year. It was all downhill from there. He ended up transferring from Oregon to Hampton after injuries and a suspension due to conduct detrimental to the team. That incident is going to be something Bates has to face, and NFL teams will draw their own conclusions from. As a player, there is a lot to like about Bates. He is tough and plays with an attitude. He is not afraid of anyone and loves a challenge. Bates is a very good athlete with the change of direction skills and hips to blanket a receiver, and the speed to recover for his mistakes. His natural skills should allow him to be a fine cover man in the NFL. The downside to Bates is that he has had durability issues. He just hasnít been able to stay healthy at both Oregon and Hampton. He does not carry a very high draft value, but he is a player that could turn heads if his own head is on straight. He has the cover ability to play in the NFL. It will come down to his desire to put in work and respond to coaching. If he can do that, someone will have a steal in the sixth to undrafted range, because his talent is much higher.

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