Below are the draft grades and rankings for each position. I have also selected three players from each position to highlight as “sleepers”. In order to qualify as a sleeper, you must have a draft grade of “Round 3” or later.
Sleeper #1 – Davis Mills
Davis Mills is a former five-star recruit that started 11 games over the last two seasons at Stanford University. Unfortunately, injuries slowed his development and kept him from flashing his God given talent for NFL scouts on a weekly basis. Mills has the perfect frame for a quarterback (6’3, 217 pounds) along with accuracy and professional arm strength. The aforementioned injuries, as well as general inexperience under center, pushes Mills down the board. The crowded quarterback group in 2021 doesn’t help either. The Stanford Cardinal alum projects as a developmental prospect that needs to sit and learn for a year, at minimum. The amount of potential he possesses is worth the time it will take to develop.
Sleeper #2 – Jamie Newman
Jamie Newman starred for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 2019 before transferring to Georgia to play for Kirby Smart. Much like many other prospects, COVID-19 brought Newman’s plans to a screeching halt. Rather than getting a full season to develop in the SEC, Jamie has been limited to doing workouts with private trainers. He had mixed results during the Senior Bowl, displaying below average accuracy and struggling with hitting his receivers in stride. However, he showed enough arm talent, athleticism and intelligence to have teams kicking the tires on making him a day two selection. I project Newman as a back-up with starter potential down the line.
Sleeper #3 – Brady White
Brady White is slightly smaller than most teams look for in a quarterback. At 6’1, 210 pounds, it’s fair to wonder how his frame will translate to Sundays. White is also older than all other quarterbacks in the 2021 draft, as he will be 25 years old by week one. These are the reasons why White is unlikely to hear his name called before day three. Traits wise, he has a rocket arm and isn’t afraid to show it off by taking shots downfield. He would be better served taking the check down or throwing the ball away, but believes in his arm too much at times. By all accounts, Brady is coachable. I look for an NFL coach to reign in his wild tendencies and sculpt him into a long term backup quarterback in the NFL.
Sleeper #1 – Khalil Herbert
Following four seasons in a backup role at the University of Kansas, Khalil Herbert seized the starting role for the Virginia Tech Hokies in 2020. Herbert averaged a shade under eight yards per carry while serving as the lead back. I would like to see him get a little bit “nastier” when running the football between the tackles. His vision is elite but he needs to keep the legs churning when in a pile. The game breaking speed isn’t there with Herbert but he is fast enough to take some plays to the house. I would also argue that Khalil is the best blocker at the position, and it’s not even relatively close. The NFL has more and more passing sets each season, making running backs with blocking ability a major plus. Herbert has the potential to be a three down back in the right situation.
Sleeper #2 – Jaret Patterson
Jaret Patterson is one of the most accomplished running backs in the draft, having surpassed 1000 yards in each of his three seasons at Buffalo. He is a shifty back, that runs behind his pads well and can make tacklers miss with ease. Patterson is short but very stout. He needs to improve at finishing his runs after contact and must work on becoming a threat as a receiver. If he’s able to become a more well rounded player, he will lead a backfield one day.
Sleeper #3 – Javian Hawkins
Javian Hawkins profiles as a jack-of-all-trades option out of the backfield. Over a two season stretch at Louisville, Javian produced 2432 yards from scrimmage on 417 touches. He plays smaller than Herbert and Patterson, but also has an extra gear that those two don’t have. Hawkins lacks the vision between the tackles that feature backs need to succeed in the NFL, however, he projects to be a great change of pace option. Look for Hawkins to be a regular in PPR fantasy football leagues as a rookie.
Sleeper #1 – Nico Collins
Size is the difference with Nico Collins when you compare him to the other receivers with 4.4 40 yard dashes. Collins stands at 6’4, 215 pounds and is a special athlete. He ranks in the top percentile for broad jump at the position and boasts an impressive 37.5” vertical jump. Nico uses that athleticism to high point the football, while also being able to get good release out of his routes. The glaring concern for Collins is separating from press corners without getting knocked off of his line. He also is more of a possession receiver, with only 25% of his yards coming after the catch. After sitting out the 2020 season, he played well at the Senior Bowl in front of scouts. There’s a chance he squeezes into day two.
Sleeper #2 – Jaelon Darden
There could not be more of a polar opposite to Nico Collins than Jaelon Darden. Darden excels at creating plays after the catch, oftentimes working from the slot. He is able to accelerate from zero to 60 in a matter of steps. Separation is never an issue for Jaelon either. He is open seemingly every play you see on tape. The issues with Darden consist of drops (15 in two seasons) and lack of size that causes concerns about his durability. His route tree in the mid-range could use some work as well. He thrives on deep routes and underneath routes, but needs to work on going over the middle of the field. Darden will also contribute as a return man on special teams.
Sleeper #3 – Josh Imatorbhebhe
Josh Imatorbhebhe is one of the better athletes in the entire draft. Imatorbhebhe runs a 4.5 40 and has the best vertical in the draft (46.5”). The problem is, that’s all he is right now. He is unable to run consistent routes and struggles to separate from stingy cornerbacks. A high 13% drop rate is likely enough to scare teams off as well. If Imatorbhebhe is able to get proper NFL coaching, I view him as a depth wide receiver in the league with potential to be a steal as a day three value.
Sleeper #1 – Tommy Tremble
The tight end spot is incredibly weak as a whole, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some diamonds in the rough. Enter Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble. Tremble is the most physical blocker at the tight end position in this draft. He doesn’t possess the polish in the passing game yet, but has the athleticism and traits to make massive leaps in that department. His movement is fluid with the ball and he invites contact at all times. Tremble will play full back along with the traditional tight end role for whichever team drafts him. Think of Kyle Juszczyk-lite.
Sleeper #2 – Kenny Yeboah
Kenny Yeboah was the top option at tight end for Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss squad. Yeboah was recruited as a wide receiver to Temple and later convinced by Matt Rhule (Temple head coach at the time) to switch positions. This yielded underwhelming results before Yeboah decided to transfer to Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin was able to showcase Kenny’s athletic ability by allowing him to stretch the field while lining up both inline and off the ball. He has an injury history that raises red flags and his blocking is non existent. He will have to become more willing to engage in the run game or his talents through the air won’t matter.
Sleeper #3 – Kylen Granson
The shortest tight end in the draft at 6’1 is SMU’s Kylen Granson. Granson was barely ranked in the top 500 recruits coming out of high school. Due to injuries in high school and lack of exposure in general, Kylen got limited offers. He decided to sign with Rice, but after a couple years of struggling to get consistent playing time, eventually moved on to Austin Community College. His long journey finally ended when he decided to walk-on at SMU. Granson made the team in 2019 and broke out to the tune of 731 yards and nine touchdowns. He followed that with similar numbers, making first team All-AAC in 2020. Granson is raw in every facet of the pass game and needs to get better at blocking. He has defied every obstacle in front of him, making him a fun sleeper pick.
Sleeper #1 – Trey Smith
Trey Smith has not been considered a sleeper at any other point in his life. Smith was ESPN’s number one overall recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. He spent four seasons in Knoxville as a stalwart on the offensive line for the Volunteers. Trey played primarily at left guard, but has starts under his belt at both tackle positions and right guard. His versatility is impressive, however, he projects as a guard in the NFL due to a lack of foot speed and length. He has very sloppy technique and allows defenders to get underneath his pads because of it. Smith needs to bend his knees more and learn to use his hands more effectively.
Sleeper #2 – David Moore
David Moore cannot relate to a single thing I said about the recruiting process in the previous section. Unlike the former five-star Trey Smith, Moore was a no-star athlete out of Arkansas. The term “got it out the mud” is what Moore lives by. He scratched and clawed his way onto the NFL radar while playing at little known Grambling State. Moore is a blank slate for offensive line coaches. He has every trait needed for a successful career at guard. The technique needs to be refined and it can’t be ignored the lack of top flight talent he played against in college. Moore is a very intriguing prospect for the middle rounds of the draft after winning the best offensive lineman award at the Senior Bowl.
Sleeper #3 – Jimmy Morrissey
Jimmy Morrissey is another player that garnered no-stars as a recruit in high school. Like Moore, he carved out a good college career all the while earning a spot on the 2021 Senior Bowl roster. He had an up-and-down week, but was able to impress in individual workouts and on run plays during the game. Morrissey was a two-time captain at Pittsburgh and regarded as the leader of the team. He is far from an elite athlete, but has solid form post snap. The biggest faults in his game is that he’s simply overpowered by bigger interior defensive tackles. His lack of elite strength is something that he will have to overcome in the pros.
Sleeper #1 – Spencer Brown
Spencer Brown looks like a WWE superstar, standing at an astonishing 6’8. The size is both an advantage and disadvantage for Brown. Such length is used against him when facing speed rushers. He is frequently unable to get his pads low enough to successfully thwart pass rushing moves. The technique itself is rather sloppy at times. Most of which is due to Brown being a converted tight end that only has a few seasons as a tackle on his resume. He’s able to handle power rushers well with his size and length. He is also a committed blocker in the run game. Brown would fit well in a power run scheme.
Sleeper #2 – Jaylon Moore
Jaylon Moore is another offensive tackle that is new to the position. Recruited as a defensive lineman by PJ Fleck (the Western Michigan head coach in 2016), Moore redshirted as a freshman before eventually becoming a three-year starter at left tackle. Jaylon is more of a finesse blocker, using his high level footwork and hand technique to fend off pass rushers. He lacks strength in the run game and can be overpowered by the bull rush. The film looks good for Moore, but it’s noticeable the level of talent that he played against. It will be interesting to see if Moore can become a presence in the run game. He needs to do so in order to be a starter in the league.
Sleeper #3 – Tommy Doyle
Another monster left tackle, Tommy Doyle matches Spencer Brown at the 6’8 mark. He is an impressive athlete for that size, showing a willingness to get to the next level in the run game. Doyle is aggressive at the point of attack and has the edge you want in an offensive lineman. His aggressiveness can be used against him, however. Doyle gets over eager when in pass coverage and can be tricked by a pass rusher with a catalog of moves. He keeps his pad level too high to engage properly. Doyle is also prone to holding penalties when he’s beat off the line. He needs to cut down on penalties and become more polished on passing downs.
Sleeper #1 – Benjamin St-Juste
Minnesota’s Benjamin St-Juste has a frame that you don’t often see on the defensive side of the ball. St-Juste has quick feet to match his height (6’3). He also is the owner of an impressive 78.5” wingspan and ideal weight at 202 pounds. The downside to such an illustrious frame is the fact that he runs a 4.5 and is susceptible to penalties due to it. He gets beat by speedy receivers if he doesn’t have help over the top. I like him in a zone scheme because he’s got the size and range to be elite in short area coverage. It’s imperative that he is never left on an island by himself. In the right scheme that uses his traits the correct way, St-Juste can be a starter relatively soon in his career.
Sleeper #2 – Mac McCain lll
HBCU stand up! The highest ranked HBCU prospect on my board is NC A&T’s own, Mac McCain lll. McCain was late to football. He joined the high school team during his junior year at Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. His technique and general instincts for the sports aren’t quite there yet, but Mac jumped off the screen every game. He has a knack for breaking up passes and is above average in terms of ball skills. He is in need of some legitimate coaching, but coaches will view him as a ball of clay that can be worked into whatever they choose.
Sleeper #3 – Israel Mukuamu
Israel Mukuamu is the “other” South Carolina cornerback in the draft. Mukuamu played opposite Jaycee Horn during the 2019 season where he led the team in interceptions (4) and finished second in passes defended (13). Mukuamu is even bigger than St-Juste (6’4, 212 pounds) and comes with similar concerns. He has a tendency to get handsy against smaller, quicker receivers. He doesn’t tackle the way that someone his size should either. Versatility is what sells me on Israel. He is capable of lining up as a box safety and off the ball linebacker when he’s not in coverage on the outside. It’s a risk to take a corner as big as him, but a risk worth taking on day three.
Sleeper #1 – Chris Rumph ll
Chris Rumph classifies as a “tweener” due to being slightly undersized (6’2, 244 pounds). His arsenal of pass rushing moves transcends his smaller frame and Rumph has proven capable of defending tight ends at the off-ball linebacker position. He gets a little bit anxious off the line and is victim to penalties because of it. He also has trouble diagnosing run plays and where he needs to be on such plays. Rumph needs to improve his awareness and continue crafting his skills to be able to be a starter in this league. The potential is there.
Sleeper #2 – Patrick Jones ll
Patrick Jones has the most fun tape to watch. His burst and finesse moves rank among the top in this draft class. Jones produced 25 tackles for loss, as well as 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons while starring for Pittsburgh. He was a team captain in 2020 as a senior. The concerns center around his lack of polish. He has every speed move in the book, he just doesn’t always know how to use them in an effective way. Many times he comes off as reckless and out of control. Power moves are another major weakness for Jones. He constantly relies on his speed rush, which makes for fun tape, but won’t work against professional left tackles. He needs to get stronger and develop those moves to become a more well-rounded player.
Sleeper #3 – Tarron Jackson
Coastal Carolina had a magical season in 2020 and Tarron Jackson was a large part of that — figuratively and literally. In three seasons as a full time starter, Jackson posted 38 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks over that span. The production is unquestioned. The competition he put those numbers up against, however, is not. Jackson was able to outclass lesser talented players with his burst off the line. It’s fair to question whether his bevy of pass rush moves will work against more experienced players. He doesn’t have the frame to overpower NFL tackles, so he needs to refine his technique in order to succeed.
Sleeper #1 – Jacoby Stevens
JaCoby Stevens regularly played safety at LSU but was not shy to slide down and play some linebacker when asked. He could get away playing safety at his size in college, but I like him more as a linebacker going forward. Stevens loves to put the hurt on running backs by meeting them in the hole. He’s capable of rushing the passer in shorts spurts, too. The worry is when he is lined up against quicker running backs/tight ends. JaCoby simply doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up. Moving him to linebacker helps most of his concerns, but the limitations still exist. The team drafting him will need to scheme up a game plan for Stevens to be effective.
Sleeper #2 – Cameron McGrone
Cameron McGrone is a good athlete with a solid build (6’, 234 pounds) and flourishes in the run game. He is smart and shows gobs of maturity on the field. The most underrated part of McGrone’s game is his ability to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. The first step is much quicker than anticipated. He may be stout, but he lacks average length at the position. An inability to cover shiftier players out of the backfield is a major cause for concern as well. McGrone has two ACL tears under his belt, one of which occurred last season, causing him to miss pre-draft workouts.
Sleeper #3 – Isaiah McDuffie
Isaiah McDuffie has arguably the best motor of anyone in the draft, regardless of position. McDuffie is ALWAYS around the ball. Whether it’s meeting a runner in the gap or tackling a receiver after the catch, you’re guaranteed to see him near the ball. He has great sideline-to-sideline mobility along with a winning mentality. On the flip side, McDuffie lacks length and pass coverage instincts. He also tends to be over aggressive, leading to being out of position on occasion. McDuffie exudes confidence and leadership, but he does it in such a way that can rub teammates the wrong way. He needs to control his emotion and pull back the reigns a bit to have a long career in the league.
Sleeper #1 – Jaylen Twyman
If you squint your eyes a little bit while watching Jaylen Twyman’s tape, you’ll get a glimpse of a former Pittsburgh Panther. That Panther is Aaron Donald. Now before you get carried away, Twyman is not Aaron Donald. They have exceptionally similar builds and skillsets though, so the comparison tracks. Like Donald, Twyman is considered too small to play the interior. It’s a fair take with Jaylen weighing in right at 300 pounds and lacking average arm length. He also had one of the worst pro days possible. Posting a 5.3 40 yard dash, and a terrible three-come time (8.01 seconds), did him no favors. Testing numbers aside, Twyman has incredible pass rushing chops. His hand placement and ability to wreck the backfield is reminiscent of Donald. A team will need to work on keeping Jaylen consistent. When he’s dialed in, he is a game wrecker.
Sleeper #2 – Marvin Wilson
Marvin Wilson was a top-ten draft prospect at one point in time. As early as 12 months ago, he was viewed as the top defensive tackle prospect. So, what changed? To start, his coaching staff. Three times. After arriving on the Florida State campus as a member of Jimbo Fisher’s star studded 2017 recruiting class, Wilson would have a different coach each year of his college career. He, like most Florida State players, was completely disinterested in the 2020 season. It’s disheartening to see a player give less than his all, and NFL scouts won’t forget that. Wilson is a tough projection because the traits are all there, it’s just a matter of getting him to buy in. Perhaps stability up top is all Marvin needs to reach his potential.
Sleeper #3 – Bobby Brown lll
Bobby Brown is more of a traditional defensive tackle than the two mentioned before him. He is 6’4, 321 pounds and light on his feet. Brown is great at keeping offensive linemen occupied, freeing space for EDGE rushers in the pass game and linebackers filling the gap in the run game. He tends to give up when doubled team. Brown has been given the lazy label and is guilty of taking plays off. His motor is questionable and it remains to be seen how much he loves football and wants to improve. If he doesn’t succeed in this league, it isn’t due to a lack of skill.
Sleeper #1 – Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo has a similar build to that of JaCoby Stevens. Deablo is much better in pass coverage, however. He has a natural ability to play the ball, frequently jumping routes and causing pass break ups. Deablo posted a stat line consisting of eight break ups and four interceptions as a senior at Virginia Tech. The issues come in the run game. He is often out of position and slow to fill gaps. It would be nice if he was a shade faster, because he’s vulnerable against the speedy slot receivers. At the end of the day, he is a high character individual that will work to improve those deficiencies.
Sleeper #2 – Trill Williams
One of my favorite names in the entire draft belongs to Trill Williams. He plays faster than the 4.5 40 time indicates and is a thumper. Trill has never been afraid of contact. Williams is also a ball hawk, likely due to his pedigree on offense in his younger years. As good as he is in the run game, he’s equally as shaky in coverage. Ball hawking leads to a constant lapse in coverage. Trill allowed an ACC-high 72% completion rate when targeted in 2020. He has a lot of work to do with that part of his game. It will be important for him to work on technique and getting his hips rotated while out in coverage.
Sleeper #3 – Christian Uphoff
Christian Uphoff hails from Illinois State. If that sounds familiar, that’s because Uphoff was teammates with Jaguars’ breakout rookie star James Robinson in 2019. Uphoff is incredibly sound with his fundamentals in pass coverage. He has great movement and recovery speed. Christian is not a good tackler, to put it lightly. He is often picked on in the run game when he’s brought into the box. Uphoff needs to be exclusively a free safety center fielder in the NFL. That is where his ability in coverage can be best utilized.