One of the biggest keys to building a successful franchise is getting the picks right late in the draft. You really have to know your stuff to land the right players for your football team in the bottom half of the draft. Some people throw the term “Sleeper Pick” around so loosely, referring to players that could go as high as the second or third round of the draft, but I’m more conventional. I think a sleeper is a guy that either A) is heavily underrated, or B) comes from a smaller school with less exposure and perhaps lesser competition with which to judge him by. In this article I’ll look at six potential sleepers who could fit right in with what the Oakland Raiders are building.
Jarvis Jenkins DT Clemson
Jenkins is currently ranked around the 12th best defensive tackle available this year, but it didn’t take long for him to grow on me. This guy is a monster in the middle of the Clemson defensive line. I love how he keeps his eyes on the backfield at all times, hardly ever regarding the blocker assigned to him. He uses his hands so well, has excellent awareness, and is super powerful. He is a prototypical 4-3 DT who calls his assigned gaps Cell Block 99 because he wore number 99 at Clemson and his holes are on lockdown. He reminds me a lot of another 99 that plays for the Raiders, defensive end Lamarr Houston.
Bilal Powell RB Louisville
Powell is an extraordinary downhill running back with excellent top end speed. Although he posted a slow 40 time of 4.58, once he gets up to top speed, not many people are going to catch him, as he is deceivingly fast. He has a bulky upper and lower body and will run people over. He excels in misdirection like counters and halfback stutter step plays. He is currently projected to go in the 5th to 6th round area of the draft and could bring great value to a team willing to take a shot. He’s got decent hands out of the backfield and makes it difficult for smaller defenders to tackle him.
Greg McElroy QB Alabama
McElroy is the 10th best quarterback in the draft according to the “experts.” A large part of the reason for that is he was surrounded by talent like Julio Jones and Mark Ingram which is causing his physical tools to be overlooked. McElroy doesn’t have the most powerful arm, but has a big league arm nonetheless. He can throw the ball with excellent touch when needed, is very accurate, and has deceiving quickness when he tucks it and runs. McElroy is a very intelligent player who makes the proper reads and delivers the ball to the right guy more often than not. That led to a high touchdown-to-interception ratio in college and led him to a state championship in high school as well as a National Championship in college.
Taiwan Jones RB Eastern Washington
If you want an explosive runner, look no farther than Taiwan Jones. He is blazing fast and surprisingly powerful for his size. His top speed alone makes him an intriguing prospect with a mid 4.3 forty time. Jones thinks he is a first round talent running back and he could very well be right about that. The Raiders and running back coach Kelly Skipper have shown a very strong interest in this prospect and he fits the scat back role that the Raiders backfield is currently missing. There is no doubt in my mind that he won’t make it any farther than the Raiders pick in the fourth round.
David Mims OT Virginia Union
Mims most likely will not be drafted until the seventh round of the draft but at 6’8” 331 pounds, he is one of the bigger offensive linemen in the draft – big but not fat. With that frame comes a lot of strength and he is known for just absolutely burying some of his competition. With a little technique work, Mims has the potential to become a steal for a team that possesses a good coaching staff along the offensive line. Mims is at the top of the list when you are talking about the linemen coming out of Division II football. At Virginia Union, he made a good impression with excellent pass protection and solid cut blocking for a man his size. Mims is inspiring comparisons to the Minnesota Vikings’ OT Phil Loadholt.
Josh Gatlin CB North Dakota State
Another guy who is pushing the tape as far as possibly not being drafted at all, Gatlin has Raiders size and speed with his 6’1” 196 pound frame and 4.39 forty time. Gatlin is the cousin of Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin, and we all know how Al Davis loves his track stars. He stood out at the NDSU Pro Day catching the eye of a few NFL scouts. He didn’t participate in the combine, but he had an impressive showing in the Texas vs. the Nation game, posting three tackles and an interception. Gatlin ended the year with five interceptions for the Bisons.
Some guys who could be sleeping on the Raiders undrafted free agent wire: Colin Cochart TE South Dakota State, Joe Morgan WR Walsh, Mana Silva DB Hawaii, Marc Schiechl LB and Blaine Sumner NT from Colorado School of Mines.