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2016 NFL Draft Sleepers: Potential Late Round Packer Draft Choices

A lot of people already have an idea of who they think the Packers should take early in the draft. Most understand what the Packer needs are and who they could address early to make an immediate impact; tight end, inside linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, outside linebacker. But there are guys at those positions and others that are projected to go on day 3 of the draft that if given the opportunity, or some time to develop, could emerge as starters for this team.

Let’s take a look at a few of the potential sleepers that I think would fit well in Green Bay.

OFFENSE

Wide Receivers:

Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Mississippi- The "other" wide receiver named Mike Thomas remains one of the more popular sleeper selections amongst the online draft twitter community, but for whatever reason the "big draft" or "mainstream draft" analysts still seem to be sleeping on him. Listed at 6'1" 200lbs Thomas had 71 catches for 1391 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season as a senior. He does so many things well on the football field, he has excellent body control and fantastic hands to pluck the ball cleanly away from his frame. Thomas also has the ability to take screen plays to the house and out jump defenders down the field. It was a shame he didn't get invited to the Combine but he'll have his chance to show teams his speed and agility testing at the Southern Miss Pro Day on March 24th. If he tests well there's a chance he gets selected on day 2 of the draft, but if he tests average he could be a potential steal on day 3 of the draft.

Other sleeper wide receivers: Tajae Sharpe, UMass; Charone Peake, Clemson; Chris Moore, Cincinnati

Tight Ends:

Thomas Durate, TE, UCLA- I really wanted to list my #2 ranked tight end Tyler Higbee from Western Kentucky here, but if he's my #2 ranked tight end is he really a sleeper? Thomas Durate on the other hand is a guy who had a ton of production last season catching 53 passes for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns. At only 6'2" and 230 lbs. Durate is extremely undersized as a tight end at the NFL level. Teams will have to be creative to mask some of his size deficiencies and also have to coach him to be a more consistent blocker. It's his ability as a pass catcher and as an athlete that is really intriguing. If a team can be patient with him, he could be a draft pick on day 3 who could be dividends a year or two down the road. 

Other sleeper tight ends: David Morgan, Texas-San Antonio; Beau Sandland, Montana St.; Temarrick Hemmingway, South Carolina St.

Running Backs:

Daniel Lasco, RB, California- Lasco is projected to be drafted on day 3 of the draft and is often times overlooked. This is more than likely has to do with his injury plagued season where he only played nine games due to hip and ankle injuries. It was in 2014 that he ran for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns. That went along with 33 catches out of the backfield. Lasco participated at the East West Shrine game and turned some heads, showing some of his 2014 form. Then at the Combine Lasco was one of the top performers in the 40 yard dash running a 4.46 and the vertical jump where he jumped 41.5 inches. Lasco has a lot of the physical attributes that can entice a team to spend a late pick on and hope he can develop into a good rotational running back. As a bonus Lasco is a very good special team’s performer.

Other sleeper running backs: Tyler Ervin, San Jose St.; Marshaun Coprich, Illinois St.; Aaron Green, TCU

Offensive Line:

Dominque Robertson, OT, West Georgia- At 6'5" 324 lbs. Robertson has a great build for an offensive tackle. Robertson also has 36" arms which are incredibly long. He is not real well known at this point despite getting a Combine invite. He didn't particularly test well with subpar 40 yard dash time and an average 3 cone. He did however bench press 225 lbs. 30 times with his arm length is very impressive. Robertson dominated the small school competition which is what you'd expect from an NFL talent. Robertson has a few things to work on but has all the tools of a developmental offensive tackle with the ability to slide in and play guard.

Other sleeper offensive lineman: Tyler Johnstone, Oregon; Joe Dahl, Washington St.; Spencer Drango, Baylor

DEFENSE

Defensive Line:

Dean Lowry, DE, Northwestern- Lowry is the type of blue collar high effort player that opposing teams hate going against. At 6'6" and 296 lbs. he is built perfectly to play end in a 3-4 defense. Lowry doesn't offer in the way of pass rush but he does all the little things and dirty work to free up his teammates. He did record 13.5 tackles for loss last year and does a nice job pursuing ball carriers down the line of scrimmage.  Lowry isn't the best athlete, testing average at everything at the Combine with less than ideal arm length but he is said to have incredible work ethic and a great teammate. Drafting a guy like Lowry late would at worst help push the guys ahead of him to play better but I think Lowry can be a part of a rotation early in his career.

Other sleeper defensive lineman: Matt Loanniidis, Temple; D.J. Reader, Clemson; Quinton Jefferson, Maryland

Outside Linebacker:

Matt Judon, DE/OLB, Grand Valley St. - Matt Judon led all of college football last year with 20 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Standing 6'3" and 275 lbs. he'd be a little stiff being asked to stand up as an outside linebacker but he has great explosion and quickness to get around the corner. Judon made a living in opposing team's backfield by not only using a speed rush but by also displaying rip move. There will be a learning curve for Judon to adjust to NFL offensive tackles but he has shown an ability to put pressure on quarterbacks and with a little time he could turn into a valuable 3rd down pass rusher.

Other sleeper outside linebackers:  James Cowser, Southern Utah; Victor Ochi, Stony Brook; Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech

Inside Linebacker:

Nick Vigil, LB, Utah St.- There isn't much buzz about Nick Vigil but all he did the last two seasons was record 267 tackles, rack up 10 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss. Vigil showed scouts how productive he was and then he showed off his athleticism by testing extremely well at the Combine. He measured in at 6' 2" 239 lbs. and ran a 4.72 forty yard dash. He also ran the fastest 3 cone drill and 20 yard short shuttle of all the linebackers to show his great change of direction ability. Vigil is a really instinctive player who does a nice job vs both the pass and the run. Vigil would be an immediate special team’s contributor and in a few years could work his way into a starting lineup.

Other sleeper inside linebackers: Antonio Morrison, Florida; Nick Kwiatkkoski, West Virginia; Travis Feeney, Washington

Safety:

Justin Simmons, S, Boston College- This may be pushing it as far as a "sleeper" but most analysts see an early day 3 selection of Justin Simmons. Simmons had a terrific senior season at Boston College. He recorded 5 interceptions and 67 tackles. Simmons has displayed the range to play deep but also the willingness to tackle when playing the box. Simmons impressed at the East West Shrine game and then went on to test incredibly well at the Combine. Justin Simmons ran the fastest 20 yard short shuttle of any safety over the last 11 years and was also the fastest of any secondary player this year on the 3 cone drill. Simmons has the ability to start right away if needed too but with just a little seasoning he can develop into a very good starter. 

Other sleeper safeties: T.J. Green, Clemson; AJ Stamps, Kentucky; Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee

Cornerback:

Deiondre Hall, CB, Northern Iowa- Deiondre Hall made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl this year right away at the weigh-ins. Teams cove tall corners and Hall measured in at 6'2" and 34 3/8" long arms. Hall was the MVFC defensive player of the year racking up 82 tackles, 6 interceptions (2 for touchdowns) and 3 forced fumbles. Hall isn't afraid to mix it up in the run game and with his length gets his hands on a lot of footballs. He doesn't have ideal long speed, clocking in a 4.68 4 yard dash, but makes up for it showing a good jam at the line of scrimmage. Hall has played safety, corner and some linebacker at his time at Northern Iowa so an NFL team is going to have to see where he fits best. You can't teach length and Hall has it in spades, he should hear his name called relatively early on day 3.

Other sleeper cornerbacks: James Bradberry, Samford; Maurice Canady, Virginia; Deandre Elliot, Colorado St.

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Comments (12)

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croatpackfan's picture

March 09, 2016 at 04:33 pm

Very nice overview... Thank you, Cody!

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Handsback's picture

March 09, 2016 at 04:38 pm

Good list, as you say some of these guys aren't sleepers and will probably find their way on the Packer's roster.

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WKUPackFan's picture

March 09, 2016 at 05:07 pm

Outstanding work Cody! Please publish more draft coverage like this CHTV!

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Amanofthenorth's picture

March 09, 2016 at 09:06 pm

While most NFL teams and websites are losing their heads and wallets over free agency, CheeseheadTV has a top post on "Sleepers in the Draft" . I for one am very happy to be a fan of a draft and develop organization and this site for understanding it.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 10, 2016 at 06:27 am

I will admit its fun seeing who is signing where. But all the money these teams are spending, I just don't get it.

Yesterday Jason Wilde posted on Twitter some pretty telling stats:

'Per @ESPNStatsInfo, 10 of 15 teams ranked in top 3 in FA guaranteed spending since '11 did not improve win total. Only 2 of 15 made playoffs'

'Via @ESPNStatsInfo: Win % of teams spending most FA gtd money since 2011:
1. Dolphins .438
2. Colts .538
3. Buccaneers .287
4. Jaguars .238'

'Via @ESPNStatsInfo: Win % of tms spending least FA gtd money since '11:
29. Cowboys .500
30. Bengals .656
31. Packers .706
32. Steelers .613'

Draft and develop is what works. Teams that do it well, don't need to go into free agency and spend a lot of money.

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JerseyAl's picture

March 10, 2016 at 09:40 am

thanks for posting that here.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 10, 2016 at 01:16 pm

Thanks, RC for posting those stats. Very interesting. The stats do seem to have some correlation between low FA spending and high wins. Is it dispositive? Much as I love stats, context is needed. I can't really do that with this information, but I'll throw out a few notions.

A) The 4 teams with the lowest FA spending all have franchise QBs or a reasonable facsimile. 2 of the 4 teams with the highest spending had garbage at QB for most of the time btw 2011 to 2015. The two with decent W/L records were Indy, who had Luck (career QB rating of 85) and Tannenhill (also with a career rating of 85.2). Perhaps QB rating corresponds better to W/L?

B) The records of 2 of the 4 teams with the most FA spending aren't that bad.

C) Rankings are always suspect, imo. The difference in FA spending in actual dollar amounts btw. 4th place & 16th might be insignificant. Dallas was 29th, but it signed CB Brandon Carr in 2012 with $25 million fully guaranteed. That's one guy: I'd guess that is 3 times what TT gave in guaranteed money to all of his FA signings combined during that time frame, and that is due to Peppers and his $7.5 million guaranteed amount. I know Dallas gave Kyle Orton a $5 million signing bonus in 2012, maybe there was more guaranteed money. I've found at least $30 million in guaranteed money spent on FAs by Dallas between 2011 and 2015. There probably are other Cowboys who got guaranteed money that I did not find. The diff btw. GB's guaranteed $ and Dallas' is probably a factor of 4!!!

D) Timing of the numbers might be a factor. Miami might be up there based on the Suh contract alone given his $60 million guaranteed contract, and signing Suh did not help Miami with their W/L record in 2011, '12, 13,'14 (tho apparently signing Suh didn't help much last year either). I am sure the contracts given to Wallace ($30 million guaranteed) and Ellerbe ($14.5 million guaranteed) in 2013 contributed as well to Miami's ranking. Now, by removing the transition tag from Vernon (that $ wouldn't count in the above statistics had they kept the tag or re-signed him, I assume), and bringing in Mario Williams after guaranteeing him $11.985 million, that will count in this statistic. Sounds like a dumb move, but if Mario equals Vernon's production, it skews the stats.

E) While I approve of using guaranteed money as the standard, yet note that Dallas gave Greg Hardy an incentive laden $11.3 million contract, but none of it technically was guaranteed. Dallas ended up paying Hardy $8.8 but that does not count in these stats.

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CallingIt's picture

March 10, 2016 at 01:00 pm

I like the Utah kid and could be available to us in day 3. I think by the end of the 4th, we should be looking good.

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tm_inter's picture

March 10, 2016 at 04:32 pm

Good article, Cody.

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sonomaca's picture

March 10, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Wendall Williams, Cumberland (NAIA). Ran 4.32 official at regional combine (4.19 hand-timed). 45" vert, which is insane. He's 5' 10". A freak of nature.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S6Nhafevmk

Surprisingly soft hands. Kick returner, punt returner, running back, slot.

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Rustyweezee's picture

March 12, 2016 at 08:38 pm

I'm probably in the minority, but I'd like to have an alternative to Micah Hyde's pass coverage. A backup free safety who can cover receivers is perhaps a luxury, but I consider Hyde a liability in that role, and I think Justin Simmons is my favorite prospect for th that role with the Packers. The 3rd round may be a little rich, but I'm not sure he's there for the Packers in the 4th, and besides, if he pans out really well, it could save them spending more than they'd like to when Burnett's contract is up. I wouldn't mind if either A.J. Stamps or Kevin Byard made it to the Packers, either.

Temarrick Hemingway is a 6-5, 244 tight end who ran a 6.88 3 cone drill at the combine. That's quick, and if he can use that quickness effectively running routes, there's your big guy getting open over the middle, coach.

One running back not on the list that I'd like to hear more about is Arizona State's D.J. Foster. Smaller guy at 5-10, 193, but he's a former wide receiver, so it goes without saying he's a real receiving threat out of the backfield. In his last 2 years at ASU, he caught 62 passes for 688 yards as a junior and 59 for 584 yards last season.

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Turophile's picture

March 19, 2016 at 04:04 am

Since TEs are a real need for the Packers, I'd add to your sleeper list Harvard's Ben Braunecker. Only 6'3", but a solid 250lb with 4.73 40 speed, soft hands, fierce blocker (and coming from Harvard you can assume he is pretty smart), He was a top performer in every single measured drill in the combine. Current predictions for him are a 5th or 6th rounder. A bargain price player, with a heap of potential, at a position of need.

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