A couple of weeks ago I posted five sleepers to consider later in the draft on defense. We’re looking at the other side of the ball today for guys that might be under the radar but are capable of making an impact for your favorite football team. As always, guys deep in the draft come flawed. They either have an injury history, a size limitation, a physical limitation, or they come from a small school and never faced upper level competition. Whatever the case may be, these five guys stand out as players that could rise above.
Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
I’m already picturing Taylor as a star for the New England Patriots in the Wes Welker / Julian Edelman role. Carlos Henderson of Louisiana Tech is the flashy speedster that will garner much more interest in the draft as a receiver. His teammate Taylor is very small (5’8″) and he doesn’t have the speed to attract most teams as a viable prospect. But Taylor is arguably the toughest receiver in the draft class and he has the best set of hands. It would have to be the right system for him to succeed, but Taylor is a late round prospect that will shock some people. And while Tech has frequently had prolific passing stats, Taylor’s production in 2016 (136 catches, 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns) can’t be dismissed.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Another receiver from a Louisiana school, Dupre is the exact opposite prospect from Taylor. He has inconsistent hands and poor production in college. His 41 catches for 593 yards and 3 touchdowns was slightly worse than his 2015 campaign. But it’s well documented how much LSU has struggled to throw the football in the Les Miles era. Further, we’ve seen players like Dwayne Bowe, Jarvis Landry, Brandon LaFell, Russell Shepard and Odell Beckham, Jr. have much more prolific careers in the pros than they did at LSU. What Dupre has over all of those players is ideal size. He’s the prototypical superstar receiver build at 6’4″, 195lbs. Give him the right system, a capable quarterback and the light might just come on in a big way like it did for so many others from this school at this position.
Antonio Pipkin, QB, Tiffin
If you’re looking to take a flyer late in the draft on a QB, Pipkin is your guy. He came from a small school and he’s a little small for the position (6’1″). Those are two clear knocks against him. But then you look at all his pluses. He’s got excellent running ability, good accuracy, he improved every year in college and he takes very good care of the football. He didn’t have a very good showing in the actual Senior Bowl game, but by all accounts scouts were very impressed with him in practice throughout the week.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Like Taylor, he’s 5’8″ small. Really small for a back. And like Taylor, his production is undeniable. He led college football in rushing with 2,133 yards in 2016. He’s also passed Ron Dayne for the most career rushing yards in college football history. His speed is clearly elite, but it’s his Darren Sproles-like cutbacks and vision that really make him special. Someone will get past the size limitations, put him on the field, and reap the rewards when the ball is in his hands.
Julie’n Davenport, T, Bucknell
The 6’7″ 310lbs physical beast may come from a small school, but many believe he’s the next small school star. He completely dominated the lower level competition he faced in college and he has the ideal tackle size any NFL team would dream of. His Senior Bowl week was highly spoken of.