Published April 9, 2013
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
There have been a lot of questions over the past few weeks about who are my sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft class. A sleeper prospect is basically a player who gets drafted after the first round and proves to be a steal.
In 2009, my favorite prospect was Ole Miss wide receiver Mike Wallace. He went late in the third round to the Steelers and now is one of the best receivers in the NFL. My sleeper prospect for 2010 to go after the first round was Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. He's a good player for New England.
My favorite sleeper in the 2012 NFL Draft was Cincinnati defensive tackle/end Derek Wolfe. He had a solid debut for the Broncos after going in the second round.
Here is a breakdown of a sleeper prospect at each offensive position for the 2013 NFL Draft. All the players will be prospects who are going on the second or third day of the draft.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
The 2013 quarterback class has had a lot of criticism for lacking talent and it is justified. While teams and the media have pushed up various players like Florida State's E.J. Manuel, N.C. State's Mike Glennon or Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Bray has gone largely under the radar. Bray (6-6, 232) has big size with a cannon for an arm. 2012 was a bit of a disappointing season, but the junior still produced by completing 59 percent of his passes for 3,612 yards with 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Tennessee receivers had a lot of dropped passes that hurt the signal-caller as well.
Still, Bray needs to work on his fundamentals to improve his accuracy. He also needs to get more mature off the field. However, Bray hails from a pro-style offense and has a great physical skill set with upside to develop. He could be a better value in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft than the quarterbacks who are going to be selected ahead of him.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
My favorite back in the 2013 NFL Draft is North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, but he isn't a sleeper considering he's in the running to be the first back selected. It was a tough call to choose between Taylor, Texas A&M's Christine Michael and Florida's Mike Gillislee. Michael and Gillislee are both underrated players with three-down starting potential in the NFL. However, Taylor was my choice based off his body of work at Stanford.
The 5-foot-9, 216-pounder is a physical runner who churns out tough yards. Taylor doesn't time well, but he had a burst as a runner in college. The senior averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2012, having collected 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 41 receptions for 287 yards with two scores through the air, too.
The underappreciated back averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2011, rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor had his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, racking up 1,137 yards on the ground (5.1 average) and 15 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 266 yards and a score.
On top of being a well-balanced runner and receiver, Taylor is excellent in pass protection. He is smart about picking up the right defenders and is a strong blocker. At worst, Taylor could be a third-down back in the NFL. It wouldn't surprise me if he is a mid-round steal who becomes a starter or good contributor as a rotational back in the NFL.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder is a gamer. The past two seasons he was the best receiver at Texas A&M and a play-maker for Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel. Swope replaced Jeff Fuller in 2011 as the Aggies No. 1 receiver and made a big impact. The junior produced some long touchdown receptions while totaling 89 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Aggies' offense changed in 2012 as Manziel ran with the ball more and spread it around to a variety of players. Still, Swope had massive games against Auburn (6-140), Mississippi State (9-121) and Alabama (11-111). The Crimson Tide defense, including the 2013 NFL Draft's top cornerback Dee Milliner, really struggled to defend him downfield. Swope finished his career with a good outing against Oklahoma (8-104). The senior totaled 72 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012.
Swope shocked many when he blazed a 4.34-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but for the NFL, he looks like he could be a play-maker as a slot receiver as well as lining up on the outside. I think there is a serious chance that Swope could be a second-day steal.
Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
This was one of the harder positions to pick a sleeper for because there are a lot of good tight end values on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft and in the mid-rounds. I think Colorado's Nick Kasa and San Jose State's Ryan Otten will be really good values after Round 1. I chose Reed because of how presented mismatches against the top competition in the nation.
Reed is a fast and fluid athlete who could be a downfield weapon. In 2012, he led the Gators with 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns. The team could have gotten more out of Reed, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was inconsistent.
Reed presents a mismatch in coverage against linebackers and safeties. The 6-foot-3, 236-pounder needs to improve his blocking ability, but he could turn into a good starting tight end. Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that they believe Reed could be another Owen Daniels and staff with the Gators have said Reed was maybe the best athlete on the team including the likes of Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy - the latter two are 2014 potential first-rounders. Reed could be an impact receiving tight end in the NFL.
Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
This was the hardest position to pick a sleeper because it is an extremely deep group. However, Armstead demonstrated that he is an elite athlete at the Combine. Armstead ran the 40-yard dash in at a blistering time of 4.71 seconds. That was the fastest of any offensive linemen. He also did well on the bench press (31 reps) and in the field drills.
Armstead proved at the Senior that he isn't just a workout wonder as he really did well against a better level of competition. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder doesn't have long arms (33 5/8), so his body type might cause some teams to move inside to guard. Still, he could continue the trend of some smaller school offensive linemen turning into good pros.
Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Warford is my favorite sleeper of all the positions on both sides of the ball. He is a powerful road grader as a run-blocker. Warford can blast open running lanes and hit blocks on the second level. He is extremely powerful and blocks with a mean streak. The 6-foot-3, 333-pounder has surprising speed and athleticism. He moves well against speed-rushers and has no issue stonewalling a bull rush. Warford neutralized three first-round defensive tackles in 2012 including Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, Florida's Shariff Floyd and Georgia's John Jenkins.
Warford had an excellent week of practice at the Senior Bowl that illustrated he can handle power tackles and speedy gap-shooters. He was the only offensive linemen who could consistently block Jenkins. Warford blasted open running holes in practice, and the offense had a lot of success running behind him in the team scrimmage.
Warford has a complete skill set and is a great fit in a power man-blocking scheme. In the NFL, he looks like a plug-and-play candidate. If I had to pick one player to be the best value pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, I would go with Warford. I think he could quickly become a pro bowl-caliber guard.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
While Warford is my top sleeper for the 2013 NFL Draft, Jones comes in a close second. Over the past four years, he was the link between all three of Alabama's National Championships. Jones was a great run-blocker for the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Jones was phenomenal in pass protection, too. As a left tackle in 2011, he shut down some of the best pass-rushers in the SEC.
Jones' ability to play guard, center and tackle makes him extremely valuable on game days. While some say that he lacks elite strength or athleticism, he is a pure football player who just gets the job done. Four years of good tape at Alabama is all the proof one should need.
On top his production, Jones has great intangibles. He is extremely smart and loves the preparation part of football - many NFL players hate it. Jones crunches a lot of tape and will be a real asset setting blocking-protection schemes as a starting center. He is a hard worker and is determined to prove that he can be a stand out in the NFL. Jones is being underestimated around the league, and I think he's going to be a good starting center for a long time.