There are seven rounds of the NFL Draft and 256 total picks. Most of the attention goes towards the early picks and rightfully so as they will most likely become stars and have significant roles in the NFL. However, each year there are a few prospects that get overlooked and get drafted later than they should. Here are my NFL Draft sleepers that you should keep in eye on this year.
Tyler Ervin HB San Jose St. – Houston Texans
Tyler Ervin reminds me of Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles because of his versatility. Ervin will be a headache for NFL defenses because he can run, catch, and return kicks.
In the 4th round (119th overall), The Houston Texans selected Ervin to help make their offense more explosive. Ervin has an opportunity to maximize his talent in Houston as he is behind an injury prone running back in Lamar Miller and he will be competing for the starting kick returner and punt returner job.
Ervin is a smart runner with great instincts, which will translate to the NFL nicely. Although he is only 5’9”, 192 pounds, he runs fearlessly and will be hard to tackle. If Lamar Miller struggles or gets injured, watch out.
Kenny Lawler WR California – Seattle Seahawks
Kenny Lawler is my favorite prospect in the entire draft. Simply put, this dude is a human highlight reel. It baffles me that he fell to the 7th round (243rd overall). Lawler has the best hands in the entire draft and has the ball skills to become a star. He was easily Jared Goff’s favorite target as he caught 13 touchdowns in his junior year at Cal.
Lawler looks like an NFL Wide Receiver with his 6’2” and 203 pound frame. He also has 33-inch arms and 10 and a half-inch hands. To put that into perspective, Odell Beckham Jr. has 32-inch arms and 10-inch hands. This means that Lawler has a slightly bigger hands than Odell Beckham Jr….. let that sink in
The biggest weakness that Lawler has is his below average speed. Lawler ran a 4.63 40 time at the combine and ran a 7.03 3-cone drill. These times put him close to dead last compared to other wide receivers and this hurt his draft stock significantly. If Lawler can become faster and more explosive, then the Seahawks got the steal of the draft.
KJ Dillon S West Virginia – Houston Texans
Another Texan on my list and they selected KJ Dillon in the 5th round (159th overall). NFL scouts most likely discovered Dillon when scouting former teammate Karl Joseph, who went in the 1st round. Dillon is an athletic, rangy safety who can line up in man coverage and take slot receivers completely out of the play with both his hand strength and footwork. However, he is very inconsistent because he takes a lot of chances. For every splash play he has with his interceptions and big hits behind the line of scrimmage, he also has serious head scratchers that take away from those highlights with his mental lapses in both coverage and run support.
Despite these mental lapses, Dillon has the potential to be a very good starting safety in this league. He has a good mix of size and speed with his 6’0 height and 4.5 40 time and he is a very aggressive safety which I like.
It’s all mental when it comes to Dillon because he has the physical abilities to become successful. He shows flashes of what he could become but then he ruins it with the temporary mental lapses in his game.
Jatavis Brown LB/SS Akron – San Diego Chargers
There is one word that describes Jatavis Brown, Freak. The San Diego Chargers selected Brown in the 5th round (175th overall).
Brown is a natural and gifted athlete and was very productive during his 4 years at Akron. Brown had 340 tackles and 40.5 tackles for loss. He is a “quick-twitch” defender and has really good instincts. He is also fast for the linebacker position with his 4.44 speed.
The knock on Brown is his size. Brown is only 5’11” and 227 pounds. This is the reason he fell all the way to the 5th round. Despite his lack of size, the modern NFL Linebacker is changing. Look at Telvin Smith and Deone Bucannon. These players were two of the most productive linebackers in all of the NFL and they weigh around the same as Brown. Bucannon is a former safety and is only 211 pounds and Smith is 223 pounds. Brown fits the mold of these two players and is competing for the starting outside linebacker position in San Diego.
Brown will be a big time steal and will be a staple in the Chargers defense for many years to come.
Jaydon Mickens WR Washington – Oakland Raiders
I wanted so badly for my Cincinnati Bengals to select Mickens in the later rounds of the draft and was disappointed that his name wasn’t called at all. I thought Brandon Tate’s days in Cincy would be over… but thats another story.
Mickens was overlooked coming out of college, as he did not receive an invitation to the NFL Combine. He had to display his skills at his pro day and he had some ups and downs. Mickens didn’t drop a single pass and showed great burst through his cuts. He had an impressive 3-cone drill, which was 6.58 seconds. This would have been the 2nd fastest time if he were invited to the combine. The 3-cone drill tests agility and acceleration, which is Mickens’ biggest strength. Watching his highlight tape, I was in awe with his speed in and out of cuts. He could stop on a dime and change direction in a blink of an eye.
Mickens’ 40 time was a 4.4 which is not too bad, but scouts most likely wanted it to be faster for his height. Mickens was listed at 5’11” but he looks more 5’8” or 5’9” to me. Mickens plays faster than his time suggests and his size and 40 time should not be an issue going forward.
I believe Mickens has a chip on his shoulder for being undrafted and will become a very productive slot WR and an elite return man in the NFL. He has the potential to develop into a Tavon Austin like player, which intrigues me a lot. Mickens has the chance to thrive in Oakland and will be competing for snaps in the slot.