After last season two of my sleepers from the 2019 draft put touchdowns on a Sunday, Sleeper item is back! Six under-radar players who should be a late-draft pick – or never – and ready to disrupt the NFL.
NFL Draft 2022: Thresholds and Late Round Diamonds in Raw
Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir-Rhyne
A physically impressive recipient. Young tested in the draft process with a height of 6’2 and 224 pounds – nevertheless he ran the 40 yards in 4.44 seconds, had good agility and very good explosive values. Prior to the season, Young landed on Bruce Feldman’s infamous “Freaks List” with bigger hands than DeAndre Hopkins’ and the same arm’s length as Davante Adams.
Just as important to Young, he shone against competition at the East-West Shrine Bowl – as one of the few Division 2 players at this year’s event. And maybe he was a little more on the radar for scouts after Lenoir-Rhyne Safety Kyle Dugger was drafted in the second round by the Patriots in 2020.
He can block, Young moves well despite his physique, turns quickly after a catch, and has a large catch radius, not least in the red zone. He has the speed to turn a jet-sweep into a great spectacle.
Young had his breakout season in 2019 – and he had already considered going to the draft in 2021. But that would have been after the season, which was canceled due to Corona and after a knee injury with a three-month rehabilitation course. However, he refused a transfer to a larger school.
Only ten Division 2 players have been drafted since 2019. Three – Zach Davidson (No. 186 pick / Vikings), Mike Strachan (229 / Colts) and Chris Garrett (252 / Rams) – were there last year. Young, whose enormous physical potential could be unleashed much better under NFL training conditions, has a chance to get on that list.
Jason Poe, OG, Mercer
A player who could fall below some teams’ size limits and who was traded to Mercer to qualify for the Southern Conference at a major college after excelling at Lenoir-Rhyne needs exceptional athletic tools to have at all a chance to hear his name late in the draft.
Poe has these athletic tools.
With just over six feet and 300 pounds, Poe will fall short of some teams’ guard profiles, and his arm length is also below average. But the athletic profile is extremely impressive; in fact, so impressive that some teams auditioned for him as a back in the drafting process.
Poe was in all tests – above the 90th percentile, sometimes clear. And for those who question power due to size and length, Poe did 34 reps on bench press, two more than Zion Johnson, who is likely to be selected for first guard.
Poe is a great pull blocker, he has not least shown against Alabama. Yes, lack of height and arm length can be a problem, at least in some situations. But an athlete like Poe, who is as versatile as a blocker in space, should get a shot on day 3 and ideally land on a misdemeanor that makes her linemen move a lot.
Deven Thompkins, WR, Utah State
Deven Thompkins is shorter than Rondale Moore and had the most deep catches (at least 20 yards down the field) in college football last season – 24 of them in total PFF. In addition, he had 88 slot catches (4th place), 1,523 slot yards (2nd place) and captured 22 screens.
With his speed and above all his acceleration – he had elite values in high and long jump as well as in 10-yard split – Thompkins is a dangerous weapon at Screens. His 3.18 yards per route last season is absurd. Thompkins had 102 catches for 1,704 (!) Yards and ten touchdowns in 14 games last season.
Thompkins wins with small body fakes, with very good agility that briefly makes the cornerback step forward or to the side, and then he turns on the turbo. His explosiveness is clearly visible there. Despite his size, he attacks the ball extremely well in the air and has won more controversial catches than I had expected. Also had a few drops in college and playing at the catch site without fear
Thompkins could get a direct role as a gadget player and has the benefit of becoming a vertical slot receiver in the NFL. From round 6 onwards, this is a player whose upside is absolutely betable.
Daniel Hardy, Edge, Montana State
16 sacks, 24 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, nine quarterback hits – Hardy, whose Montana State career started primarily on the specialty team, certainly has the stats that small school prospects need to get on the radar for the upcoming majors team. 2021 was also his first season as a winger, before which he primarily played off-ball linebacker.
The other thing that Hardy ticks is athletics: He’s clearly on the easy – and small – side of an edge-rusher, but also tested beyond the 96th percentile in the 10-yard split, in the High Jump, Long Jump and 3-cone.
And it carries over into his game: Hardy has a good rejection, he comes in quickly and tightly on the outside of the tackle and can quickly put pressure on the quarterback from the outside.
Hardy will need significantly more power in his game if he wants to compete at Edge in the NFL – and in the end, I do not see him there either. But I could see him in a role similar to Haason Reddicks, whose athletic profile he copies almost exactly.
Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls State
Extremely productive. Had 2021 and 2019 – 2020, the season was shortened due to Corona and took place in the spring of 2021 – over 1,000 yards each and at least seven touchdowns in all four seasons at Nicholls State. Hans 3.1 (!) Yards pr. route that was run last season is excellent.
Dixon has good long speed, although he did not test well in the pre-draft process. On the other hand, he shows a speed in his routes that is unexpected for his size and can win with quick body tricks, and can also quickly get away from the scrimmage line. Tough at Catch Point, had 14 controversial catches last season, the 11th best result in college football according to PFF.
At Nicholls State, of course, he was dealing with manageable competition, and that certainly calls into question his projection against the NFL. Can he beat the press coverage in the NFL? Can he develop as a route runner? How does he score if he is not so dominant athletically and physically?
Dixon can win deep, shows good body control at the catch point and has the potential to work his way up.
Alex Wright, Edge, UAB
Extremely consistent pass-rusher for the UAB Blazers last season. Had a completely absurd 23.8 percent pass rush win rate and over 50 quarterback pressure with only 276 pass rush snaps. Wright has long arms that allow him to build strength, but he generally moves well for his size
Wright can blink past the guard with quick inward motions and then quickly enter the backfield. Unfortunately, this speed does not pass on his departure, here Wright sometimes seems a bit sluggish – which may to some extent be explained by his weight of over 270 pounds.
I can well imagine Wright as a 3-4 end, though he will probably have to pack more power into his frame to do so. But the production and the potential are there.