By now you’ve heard all the names. You’ve seen all the rankings. The rumors, the forty times, and the highlights, you’ve seen them all. But who haven’t you seen? Every year there is a player or two that fly under the radar. Last year players like L’Jarius Sneed and Darnell Mooney were sleepers and proved to be solid contributors to their teams without receiving much hype pre-draft.
Sleepers come in many different forms. There are the prospects that played for small schools with limited exposure. There are the prospects that played in a scheme that didn’t quite fit them. Also, there are talented athletes that need more coaching. No matter the reason, these players escape the media hype and are passed over. All it takes is one scheme fit on one team, and you have another James Robinson.
So who are some guys that need their names out there?
Brenden Knox RB Marshall 5’11 215
Brenden Knox isn’t mentioned much when talking about this RB class, but he deserves some recognition. Knox ran a 4.64 at his Pro Day. At Marshall, Knox ran for over 1300 yards and also averaged over 9 yards per reception in 2019. In just 9 games of a shortened 2020 season, Knox ran for nearly 900 yards. On tape, Knox shows a good blend of quickness and power. I believe Brenden Knox offers immediate contributions on special teams and as a rotation RB.
Bryce Hargrove OG Pitt 6’4 320
Bryce Hargrove comes to the NFL with a ton of experience at Left Guard. At Pittsburgh Hargrove finished his time there with 27 consecutive starts. In 2019 he only surrendered 1 sack. The film shows real strength to move men against their will and enough movement ability to be a solid puller. I see Hargrove as a solid interior offensive lineman in a man/gap scheme or a zone-blocking scheme. Sleepers similar to Hargrove will fall in the laps of a team seeking to improve their interior offensive line in the later rounds.
Antonio Nunn WR Buffalo 5’11 203
In another deep WR class, it’s easy to overlook a talented pass catcher. Just make sure the guy you overlook isn’t named Antonio Nunn. Nunn amassed over 1200 yards receiving as a two year starter at Buffalo. At his Pro Day Nunn posted forty-yard dash times of 4.43 and 4.47. The tape shows that Nunn has the speed to get down the field as well as quickness at the top of his routes. He did not make the cut as a possible X-receiver, but I’d love to see Nunn as a Z receiver at the next level with immediate special teams value.
Ambry Thomas CB Michigan 5’11 191
I’d say the only reason Ambry Thomas is on this list is out of sight out of mind. Thomas opted out of the 2020 season, so many have forgotten how good he is. In 2019 Thomas snatched 3 interceptions and had 7 pass defenses. Going back to the 2019 tape, Thomas shows to be a quick-twitch athlete. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and throughout the route. Thomas aligns mostly as the slot CB where his press-man coverage ability is on full display. His Pro Day forty time of 4.37 is an example of his long speed.
Olijah Griffin CB USC 5’11 176
Son of rapper Warren G ( I will refrain from talking about my favorite Warren G song out of fear of showing my age). Olijah Griffin lines up as an outside CB for USC. Don’t let the weight fool you, Griffin plays a physical brand of football. On tape, you see rep after rep of Griffin being physical during the play and after the whistle. When in zone coverage, you can see his quick-twitch and click/close ability. With a Pro Day forty time of 4.53, I’d like to see Griffin in a Cover 2 zone scheme where his quickness and physicality can shine. Griffin is one of the biggest sleepers in a deep cornerback class.