Sleepers in Seat…. ummm… Philadelphia

We’ve all heard about the Garretts and McCaffreys of this year’s Draft, but what about the sleepers who, based on my observation, could represent incredible value for teams in Rounds 2 to 7?

Here I lay out three projections based on specific traits that I have seen on film but, despite that, please remember this is just an opinion. At the very least it’s a list of players whose college game is worth watching purely from a clear potential standpoint. And in terms of entertainment value, worth your time regardless.
So, without further a do, lets start with the most important position of all…
Nathan Peterman
QB – Pitt
Peterman appears to have gotten lost in the shuffle here, and as a result someone might just get a steal.
He is a prototypical size and weight for the game and clearly has good, if not elite, arm talent so two obvious boxes are immediately checked there. But what stands out about Peterman is that he demonstrates well developed pocket awareness, quick feet, AND a quick compact delivery. He also demonstrates a truly elite standard of play-fakes and pump-fakes that create huge windows of seperation at times for his receivers. These are nuts and bolts characteristics that some rookies don’t get to refine until their first NFL Camp, if at all.
Peterman has also played in a wide variety of offenses in the last few years and has demonstrated that he can quickly transition to a new scheme easily, especially since his transfer from Tennessee. He moved from a spread and option based system to a more pro style game with more vertical elements at Pitt in almost seamless fashion and with better results.
A look at stats implies that his accuracy is a slight issue for him at times, however one big takeaway from many of his games is the amount of focus-based drops his receivers will make on even routine throws. That’s not to say he doesn’t need to refine his ball placement, just that the story goes deeper than the numbers.
Peterman also clearly demonstrates the ability to make adjustments at the line, and to manufacture yards that actually get points. ( he puts actual drives together people! ).
Admittedly he does have a tendency to take a few chances with the ball downfield, and I dont think you will ever completely fix some of his tendencies to force “hero” throws. Comparatively speaking he is also not perceived to be an athletic QB; he does however keenly grasp when to run and executes well. The thing that holds him back is his accuracy and ball placement which can be streaky especially when he tries to make something heroic happen, but if you watch enough of Peterman you begin to see the makings of a guy who could certainly develop farther than most people might think. Couple that with the fact that he has played in a variety of systems so early on and is the only QB in the class with an MBA and there’s no question he certainly has the mental acuity to learn quickly.
Personally if he goes to the right system, I think he has a chance to be a starter by year two. In my opinion if you take him any lower than round 2 you get great potential value. Also watch him vs Clemson last year, a clutch performance to defeat Mr Clutch (DeSean Watson) as time expires. Then you will see why I say “Doubt him at your peril.”
Dede Westbrook
WR – Oklahoma
Lets get the obvious negative out of the way here. Westbrook is really really skinny. At 6’0 and 175lbs in his senior year he was. considered undersized, and the perception of him going into the draft is that he is about 25lbs too light for the pro’s. He didn’t test at the combine either meaning there is a lack of recent measurables for him. The thing that Westbrook also has to overcome in some peoples’ eyes is that he beat up on some very average opponents. Also people allude to a murky early past in regard to unsubstantiated accusations of Domestic Violence so there is also a potential for red flags there.
There is an upside here though – a big one. Westbrook is explosive. In fact, for me, he is as explosive a receiver as there is in the entire draft.
That might be a bit rich for some people but Westbrook has an incredible burst and change of speed in short spaces. The kind of short area quickness that dislocates DB’s ankles and puts safeties on their backsides. It gives him elite change of direction ability. Or to put it in simpler terms what I call “Antonio Brown feet”. Westbrook is a good route runner who excels at getting seperation at the top of a route (trust me, on a deep post he is lethal) and he catches the ball cleanly with solid fundamental ball skills. It is also of note that for a shorter smaller receiver has won more than his fair share of contested balls with elite timing and a surprising vertical jump.
I am under no illusions here. Realistically Westbrook is probably too small to win on the boundary at the next level in spite of some decent hand fight skills. But what he may transition to is a highly explosive slot threat who can torment cover 2 defenses down the seam or catch a 7-yard slant and pile up yardage after the catch. I am a believer in Westbrook, regardless. He is similar to Travis Benjamin or Tyler Gabriel in many ways but displays a better route running ability than either did coming out of college. Plus in the open field he is just as good as anyone in the draft. If he drops to the 3rd he is a bargain, particularly for a team like San Francisco or Washington and their specific styles of offense.
Tim Williams
Edge – Alabama
Blazing speed? Check!
Power? Check!
Track record of consistent production as a pass rusher? Check!
First round lock?….err no, ‘fraid not.
The Tim Williams quandary is one that quite a few GMs will be mulling over come Round 2. Put simply Williams is a “natural” when it comes to rushing the passer. He is lightning fast off of the edge, flexible enough to dip and bend around tackles, has a variety of pass rush “moves” and executes outside pass rush to a standard that the other edge defenders in the class simply cannot. Williams looks terrifying on tape and regularly humiliated tackles in 2015 and 2016. As a pure pass rusher he is hands down a Top 20 talent. And a wonderful athletic specimen.
Sounds amazing doesn’t he?
Well, cool your heels, because there are a few caveats with Tim Williams. Firstly, Williams missed an awful lot of playing time in 2013 and 2014 due to multiple failed drug tests, and in 2015 got a misdemeanour for firearms offences. This alone would be enough for a few teams to leave well alone in spite of the talent. Couple that with a few perceived “limitations” and Williams could easily slide to Round 3 or 4.
“Limitations?” you ask. “Surely he is an elite pass rusher?”. Yes, but it appears that that is all that he is. Williams is not a sound presence as an outside Linebacker when it comes to setting the edge on run plays or covering backs or Tight Ends. Williams is very much perceived as a one trick pony. Also Williams is 6’3″ and 244lbs which limits him in terms of transition because he is limited to being a 3-4 outside Linebacker by his weight and relative strength in addition to the limits to the breadth of his skills. That is why he is going to fall.
Trust me though, he can do the second most valuable thing a team can do (the first being throw the ball). He can get consistent pressure off of the edge to a very high standard that can pretty much immediately translate at the next level.
The perception is that he is a one trick pony, but if that trick is getting double digit sacks every year then I would tear your arm off to take him somewhere like Kansas City where as a change of pace edge rusher he could dominate as an understudy to that elite team of pass rushers.
If he delivers in the NFL a late 2nd or early 3rd might feel like a steal.
Anyway, these are my 3 potential steals this year. Hopefully I get at least one right!!
See you on the other side of the draft.