Happy New Year, NFL Draft fans! The NFL playoffs are upon us and the draft slots are filling in quickly. We know the possibilities in the first round, but there are many sleepers that have proven they are worthy of a draft pick.
As a New Years’ gift to you, I’m going to give you three 2014 NFL Draft sleepers to look out for this draft season. With all of the excitement of the New Year, let’s take a look at some new players to keep an eye on for the next 4+ months.
James White, Running Back, Wisconsin
Although much attention gets turned to Melvin Gordon in the Badgers’ backfield, James White is a force in the running game. He’ll get overlooked and won’t go until later in the draft, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team jump as high as the 3rd round.
White isn’t a bruiser and won’t be a 3-down back, but he is used very effectively in space. Wisconsin has used him all over in college and there’s no doubt that the team that picks him will get him in space as much as possible. He has lit up the stat-sheet with his incredible plays off the edge. Once he hits the corner, White can be an unstoppable force.
Look for a team like the Seahawks to take a shot at White. They drafted Christine Michael last year, but I don’t see him being much of a compliment to Marshawn Lynch. I like what I see from the Wisconsin back.
Andrew Jackson, Inside Linebacker, Western Kentucky
No, this isn’t the president, but this Andrew Jackson plays with fire, speed, and energy at the middle linebacker position. Not to mention he’s undersized… dare we say Ray Lewis?
Okay, he isn’t at the caliber Lewis was coming out of Miami, but Jackson is going to get some good looks by scouts. Last year, Quanterus Smith was the Western Kentucky draft pick. This year brings us Andrew Jackson, a prospect likely to have a shot at making a team in August.
What I like about Jackson is his energy and quickness on the field. He brings a different look to any scheme and I think he’ll be able to keep up with the speed of NFL offenses. He’ll need some tuning up and will have to get used to playing elite offensive players, but I like what Jackson has to bring.
I give Jackson a solid 5th round grade with the potential to jump up to the end of the 4th if the opportunity is there.
Matt Hazel, Wide Receiver, Coastal Carolina
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see Hazel live at Coastal and I have to say, I love what I see. He’s clearly the most athletic player on the field and his hands are impressive.
Hazel has a very good catch radius and good size. His route running is average, but I see room for improvement—something that scouts like. With some NFL coaching, I think Hazel will become a bubble player in training camp. He has incredible upside as a possession/slot receiver. From what I have been able to see, Hazel has a great passion for the game and should not carry the ego that some receivers do.
I see him as a 7th round pick and someone that could thrive incredibly with NFL coaching. Watch out for Hazel at the end of the draft and keep an eye on him in mini-camps.