Sleepers are just as important to the success of a team as top picks are. The 2014 NFL draft should have it’s fair share of diamonds in the rough too.
Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
He’s been slowly climbing up boards for the past couple of months. For the longest time teams were worried about the overall lack of pass rushers who could fit a 4-3 defense in the draft next year. It seems Jadeveon Clowney is no longer the only one of a first round caliber. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy finished off a highly productive season with arguably his best performance. In the Cotton Bowl when his team needed him most, he responded with six tackles, a pass deflection and two sacks. The performance validated his ability and should only help his stock.
Andre Hal – CB – Vanderbilt
The best cornerbacks always seem to find the football. Andre Hal probably gets overlooked because he plays at Vanderbilt, a program until recently that wasn’t known for defensive talent. Hal meanwhile has the look of a pro corner at 6’1″ with long arms that have helped deflect 11 passes on the season and intercept three, including a big one in the Compass Bowl against Houston. As yet he hasn’t drawn much attention, but that frame and nose for the football won’t hide forever.
James White – RB – Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon is the man at running back in Wisconsin but that doesn’t mean he’s the only one. The Badgers, notorious for churning out runners like a factory, seem to have another one with potential in senior James White. Against a tough South Carolina defense he flashed his speed and shiftiness, running for over 100 yards on just 12 carries. He’s also developing his receiving out of the backfield and in pass protection As great as Gordon is, White may prove to be the steal based on the emphasis offenses place on speed these day.
Tyler Lockett – WR – Kansas State
With such a strong receiver group expected in the 2014 NFL draft, it’s easy to overlook somebody like Tyler Lockett who stands a modest 5’11”. However, there is nothing modest about how he plays for KansasState. The junior has been the ace for his team all season, topping the 200 yards mark twice, once against Texas and the other Oklahoma. He saved one of his best games for last too, dissecting Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for 116 yards and three decisive touchdowns. Locket may not be in the first round conversation but he will make some pro team very happy if he decides to come out early.
Stephone Anthony – LB – Clemson
Vic Beasley is the primary defender scouts have been eyeing at Clemson but they may want to re-evaluate that since it wasn’t Beasley making the big plays in the Orange Bowl. That honor goes to linebacker Stephone Anthony who not only made eight tackles in the game but produced the interception that gave his team the victory. On the season he has done a little of everything from 86 tackles to 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The kid makes plays in big situations. Somebody is bound to recognize that.