We are shifting gears a little bit now and as previously mentioned Downtown Rams will be covering the NFL Draft all season long as well as fantasy football on top of the obvious Los Angeles Rams. In this piece, Jake brings you his sleeper draft prospects you may or may not already know, but you need to make sure you watch during the college football season this year.
Quarterback: Luke Falk, Washington State
First off, you may have already heard of this kid, but believe it or not, he would be considered a sleeper. He’s my number two overall QB prospect going into this season only behind Sam Darnold, but I may only know one other person that shares the opinion with me. If you didn’t know before Falk the Washington State Cougars have had a record of 56-82 dating back to 2004. With Falk though, the Cougars have been competitive with a 21-18 record and a preseason top 25 ranking. Clearly, this program had been disastrous for awhile until number four came to town and his 10,888 yards passing plus his 89 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions in just three years. If that doesn’t get you excited for this guy perhaps his comeback story of being a walk-on and working hard enough to be a starter might.
Falk still has this upcoming season which will be his last year. At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds he has the size to easily see over the line and make impressive plays on the field. Falk is in my opinion outstanding with his accuracy. He doesn’t just give his receiver a chance to make a play, no he makes sure the ball is going only where the receiver can get it. What often gets overlooked though besides Falk’s arm strength which is, in all honesty, NFL-ready, is his mobility. Sure, Falk may not run some crazy 40-time at the combine, but one thing I love his mobility inside the pocket. This kid will orchestrate himself to bounce around all over the pocket and roll outside as long as it can be used to help extend a play.
Falk threw 38 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, but it’s time to get excited. No one talks about him in the Heisman race, but Falk could be in for a serious season. So while Darnold, Rosen and Allen are the names talked about, go be the one to bring up Falk in a discussion. Listen to how many people say “who?” because this kid is going to be the real deal and is going to prove the doubters wrong.
Running back: L.J. Scott, Michigan State
Michigan State has groomed running backs along the lines of Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Langford to name a couple recent ones. Now, it’s time for the country to be welcomed (if you haven’t already) to their next back L.J. Scott. The 6-foot-1, 231 pound back is going into his junior season with a career total of 330 carries for 1,693 and 17 touchdowns. It wasn’t what he was expecting last season as the Spartans had a rough time every getting off the ground. They appeared stuck in neutral at times, but Scott continued to truck along as the Mack truck he is and push out an almost 1,000-yard season in his sophomore year.
Now, Scott could seriously be eyeing the NFL draft after this upcoming season and there is no reason to see why he wouldn’t. Scott is likely a sleeper based on the fact all we hear are the names, Guice and Barkley. However, Scott runs with a hammer mentality, patience, and athleticism to make us ponder for a second whether or not we could be looking at the next Le’Veon Bell. Crazy I know, but the patience, the power and the athleticism make him look like a possible future Bell.
If Scott wasn’t already on your list of players to watch this season, he definitely should be now.
Wide receiver: Dante Pettis, Washington
John Ross has left the University of Washington so that means a likely bigger role for Dante Pettis. Pettis is the son of Gary Pettis who played professional baseball and the cousin of former Rams WR Austin Pettis. Dante is a 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver that is coached by the same coach that his cousin Austin had, Chris Petersen. Dante is set to become the number one receiver for young star QB Jake Browning as the Washington Huskies venture for a back-to-back college football playoff appearance.
What Pettis seems to bring to the table is versatility in his usage whether he’s a big play go route type of guy, quick slant over the middle, bubble screen or even an end zone back shoulder fade he does it all. Pettis in a sense reminds me a bit of new Rams WR Josh Reynolds. Despite the fact Reynolds is bigger though, I do feel as though Pettis brings more to the table and isn’t just going to be a red zone guy. We will see where the NFL scouts have him on the board, but for now, Pettis is definitely a player to watch this season.
Tight end: Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Mike Gesicki really made his presence known for me during the extraordinary Rose Bowl game versus USC when he showed off his size (6-foot-6, 252 pounds), speed and overall athleticism in a big way. Gesicki leads the Big 10 among returning tight ends in yards per route run according to Pro Football Focus. With receiver Chris Godwin now in the NFL, Gesicki could have an extended role.
It’s uncertain if Gesicki will ever learn how to block at an above average clip because if he does he’s likely the top tight end in this class. He made the smart decision to pass on jumping head first into the 2017 draft. He clearly could use another year to refine his skills as a receiver and acquire skills as a blocker. Regardless, Gesicki is going to be a fun watch for college football fans and definitely one to hone in on besides the obvious star at Penn State, Saquan Barkley.
Offensive lineman: Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
Perhaps this time last year you wouldn’t be calling a possible first round tackle a sleeper, but ever since the former true freshman went down with a foot injury he’s been virtually non-existent on draft boards and lists. His name is Tyrell Crosby and he’s looking to show his team he can be a leader and show the NFL the same too moving forward.
Crosby has the skill and size to succeed at the next level. The key with Crosby is proving he’s not an injury concern and he can be a model of consistency. Next time you turn on Royce Freeman tape or just the Oregon game to watch Freeman. Make sure you give No.73 a look. It seems stupid to buy into a guy coming off a season ending injury, but I believe Crosby could be a really good tackle moving forward.
Interior lineman: Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Michigan football is littered with talent every year it seems. Last year we saw Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley all have production for the Wolverines and move onto the NFL. Now, we have Rashan Gary who was a true freshman last year and someone who is ready to become an absolute star in college football. However, there is a trend here and for the most part, it happens everywhere. What is that you ask? Well, when you have too much talent on your roster players are often times overlooked and forgotten. That may have been the case with Maurice Hurst on the defensive line. All of that talent made No.73 hidden and will likely continue with the continued emergence of the star in the making, Rashan Gary.
Maurice Hurst is a very good football player and is the perfect sleeper prospect to get behind and start rooting for. Hurst is a 22-year old senior set to finally get his chance to really shine. Sure, Gary will get the majority of the publicity, but Hurst and his quick-footed and explosive nature will likely get his fair share of the wealth. The problem overall with Hurst is that many scouts are likely going to overlook him because of his small “undersized” defensive tackle stature. At 6-foot-2, 282 pounds Hurst is going to get overlooked. Yes, teams are still overlooking shorter players and have not yet learned their lesson with Aaron Donald and Russell Wilson.
Hurst is extremely intelligent with his maneuvers on the football field and it jumps out at you on tape. He makes sure to handle double teams the right way by turning his back to them since that’s what he dealt with a lot last year. In the same instance, Hurst encourages double teams to give his teammates one-on-one opportunities while he does all of the dirty work. Hurst because of this shows off ownership, leadership and toughness on top of the money other traits he possesses. So next time you turn on the Michigan Wolverines game key in on number 73.
EDGE rusher: Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
Before I get into why he’s still my sleeper I need to address the elephant in the room. Yes, Dorance Armstrong is finally getting recognition and with that the recognition he deserves. But, he’s still the first sleeper I had long before this new year. I have seen plenty of Kansas games to know they may have a hard time winning football games, but their coach David Beaty has them on the right track recruiting wise. Armstrong is the cream of the crop, a likely first round pick and yet the CBS Sports’ of the world are still sleeping on him. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report might have been the first to agree with me on Armstrong being a top edge rusher.
Going into this season Armstrong is a junior ready to break out more than ever. At the size of 6-foot-4, 246 pounds Armstrong might need to put on some more weight for the NFL, but make no mistake he’s going places. This might be the last year he’s playing for Kansas over an NFL team, but Armstrong is going to lay it all on the line. His impressive blend of speed, quickness and strength is set to terrorize the big 12 conference after 10 sacks in his sophomore year. Armstrong might not be from Texas A&M, but his coach is and he could very well be the next Myles Garrett.
Linebacker: Micah Kiser, Virginia
He’s not a top notch athlete by any means, but Micah Kiser is the exact guy you want in the middle of your football team’s defense. The senior stands at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and is considered another tackling machine. He’s a student of the game and you can see the passion and intelligence right away when you turn on the tape. He is a stout run stuffer who shows some serious physicality.
Kiser is one of those players who isn’t the fastest, strongest, biggest name or the most impressive on the field, but it’s the little things he does that make such a huge difference. This player is instinctive and is able to dissect what is going on. Again, Kiser isn’t the greatest linebacker in the world and still struggles a bit in pass coverage, but overall he’s fun to watch and is a player that will likely be pushing towards a day two pick in the NFL draft.
Cornerback: Kareem Orr, Chattanooga
Yes, I know the cornerback is wearing a Sun Devils jersey and it says Chattanooga up top. Unfortunately, I am not crazy and Kareem Orr has transferred to Chattanooga for personal reasons and to mainly come back to his home state of Tennessee. You may not want to turn on ESPN3 and watch Chattanooga, but I recommend giving them a watch since Orr is the type of talent that is worth even tuning into a game of theirs.
The game breaking explosive talent is a little shorter than the majority of the top corners at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. He offers serious speed and the hands to pick off passes and take anyone of them to the house. Orr is a real dynamic player that the Sun Devils fans will miss instantly.
Safety: Cole Reyes, North Dakota
Remember what I said above about ESPN3. Cole Reyes has the size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and the speed to really play safety at the next level. He is likely going to get forgotten about and turn into an ultimate value selection for the smart team that sticks with him during the draft process. Reyes’ tape is covered in dynamic plays in which make you ask yourself if you are watching a highlight reel and instead you realize you are not. Reyes’ disruption does not go unnoticed whether it’s showing off his vertical jumping ability making a play on the ball, his acceleration to chase down the ball carrier and make the tackle or even his quickness to creep up and stuff the run behind the line of scrimmage.
Reyes is going to be a great prospect going into next year’s draft. All that goes against him is his level of competition. There is a chance this will be the first of many time’s you hear this man’s name before draft day.
Those are my sleeper prospects going into the 2017 college football season. What are yours? Leave us some comments on your thoughts on my sleepers and give us some of yours. As always keep it right here for all the latest NFL Draft coverage all year long.