There are five names who might be the biggest Sleepers/Hidden Gems in the 2019 NFL Draft. Some may leave you scratching your head when your team drafts them. But, 3 years from now you might say as a fan from a team who didn’t select them, “man, we should have drafted this kid!”
My name is not Mel Kiper or Todd McShay. But, I have worked on shows covering the Draft for ESPN and FOX Sports Radio. What I can do is read and watch videos to see who stands out and assess what scouts or coaches have said about a prospect. I use a combination of information from Todd McShay, Chris Landry, and my favorite, the Ourlads Guide to find the steals of the draft. The draft is scattered with uncertainties because you can’t judge a guys heart and aptitude to adjust to the professional game.
Instead of going over the million mock drafts from either Mel Kiper Jr. or Joe the Grocer from Ralphs, let’s look for the next Tom Brady. Who are some of the NFL Sleeper Picks and Hidden Gems of the 2019 NFL Draft that will get a scout a raise in pay?
There have been so many late round draft picks that go on to be NFL stars. I also want to add that some of the guys I’m going to present could go undrafted, which never stopped the likes of Wes Welker, Nate Newton, Tony Romo, Joe Jacoby, Warren Moon, John Randle, Dick Lane, and Kurt Warner. If you have heart and determination, draft position or being an undrafted free agent can only add to that chip on a shoulder toward greatness.
NFL Draft 2019 Sleeper Picks
TYREE JACKSON, QB Buffalo 6’7 250
(Projected 3rd – 5th Round Talent)
College Stats (6,999 Yards 49 TD’s 24 INT 55.8 Comp%, 129.3 Rating)
Strengths: Big, Strong, Mobile, Terrific Arm Strength, Improvises well
Weaknesses: Footwork, Touch, Completion percentage becomes inaccurate.
Comparison: Josh Freeman
Footwork and mechanics need to improve and his decision-making ability questionable, but with proper coaching, this guy has all the tools to be a difference maker. I like Tyree Jackson a lot, and he is a forgotten man in the QB Shuffle that is being dominated by Murray and Haskins. This kid needs time to develop learning ideally from a veteran like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Joe Flacco.
He has the athletic ability with some people wondering about a possible position change. This kid is someone three years from now who could be leading a team to success. To compare him with Josh Freeman is unfair in that Tyree is a lot more mobile. Josh had a few solid years at the NFL level, but he lost all confidence (battled addictions) and was out of football at 28 years of age. Of the NFL Sleeper Picks and Hidden Gems for the 2019 NFL Draft, Tyree Jackson is my favorite pick.
Ideal Fit: Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans, New England, Green Bay.
Other Hidden Gem at QB: Easton Stick – North Dakota State. Watch his tape; you will love this kid. He replaced Carson Wentz and didn’t miss a beat. High completion ratio, who can run and make plays outside of the pocket. What people like most about Easton is his leadership skills. He does not have ideal size nor blessed with a huge arm, but this is the type of guy Bill Belichick drafts who becomes a solid contributor in multiple roles.
Bryce Love, RB Stanford 5’9 210
(Projected 5th or 6th Round)
College Stats (3,865 Yards 6.8 Avg. 30 TD’s)
Strengths: Speed, Production, Shiftiness, Confidence, Character, Toughness ability to play in pain.
Weaknesses: Knee, Size, System back better at zone schemes rather than gap cuts, Blocking took a huge step back last year, Fluidity.
NFL Comparison: Dion Lewis
Ideal fit: Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, and Minnesota Vikings
Okay, this is not a hidden gem (Heisman Finalist two years ago). He might have stayed in College one year too many, and injuries held him back last year, but this kid is a difference maker. Due to the lack of discussion about Love, he is now in the hidden gem class. He is smart, elusive, can return kicks and certainly be a pass catcher out of the backfield. He has a red flag: a knee injury that will require patience from the team that drafts him. Bryce is the perfect stocking stuffer who will be like having a first round talent in the 20-21 season.
The stiffness in the knee will see Bryce plummet in the draft, but with a year to fully recover he could be a Sproles or Dion Lewis instant trouble and mismatch for a defense. His track speed (clocked at 4.4 when healthy) and shiftiness in the open field gives a QB an excellent weapon to have in the fold. He ideally will go to a team that will not use him right away and let him heal. Bryce is that change of pace 3rd down back that could grow into a feature back in time. I also like a guy who writes a letter to all the NFL General Managers and calls himself the best back in this years draft.
Other Hidden Gem at RB: Remember this name, RB Craig Reynolds, Kutztown University. He’s got good speed (4.5 in the 40) and is instinctual when cutting. He does everything (WR/PR/KR) and will help any special teams. Craig is 5’10 and 210 pounds of multi-talent at the RB position. He finished with over 1,500 yards receiving and is also an excellent blocker.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR/TE Texas 6’4 220
(6th – 7th Round Grade)
College Stats (1,622 Yards 10 TD’s)
Strengths: Big, Good hands, Solid after the catch, Good Footwork, Character, Leaping, Elusive.
Weakness: Poor Speed, Route Running-specific, Tough times with press coverage.
NFL Comparison: Evan Moore
Ideal Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals.
For a hidden gem let’s go with Longhorn WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey who had to deal with sub-par Quarterbacking and still had a solid year. He is not fast (4.75 40 time) but might have the best ball skills in this draft. He is a tall 6’4 with a solid 210-pound frame. He’s got long arms which makes him a mismatch in the slot and a nightmare for secondary people to bring down.
Might be transitioned into a pass-catching tight end role. You watch the tape, and you wonder how this guy is late-round fodder. Very productive and his level of competition was high. Better to start as a third or fourth WR option utilized as a mismatch guy to start.
I want to state that I had JJ Arcega-Whiteside from Stanford who was my hidden gem guy until I saw over the past two months his stock climb as high as a 2nd round pick. We might only see one or two wide receivers (D.K. Metcalf or Hakeem Butler selected in the first round so if JJ is considered a 2nd round guy he has moved up the list a lot. Just for the record, I think he will be the best WR in this year’s draft.
Other Hidden Gem at WR: Michael Walker WR Boston College. He is as raw as they come, but I see a Wes Welker in this kid. His immediate impact will be returning kicks (Averaged 25.5 yards on kick returns and had a punt return for a TD in his senior year). He makes things happen when he gets a chance but was never a featured player at Boston College. Very shifty and will be a terrific undrafted rookie pick-up and will help on special teams immediately.
The best year for Michael was his sophomore year where he caught 33 passes for 420 yards. He needs time to develop receiving abilities, route running but could be a diamond in the rough and is one of the best returners in this year’s draft. This kid screams Patriots and Bill Belichick. I also like Keelan Doss from UC Davis. A pure route-running WR who will make his QB happy with his precise placement on the field.
Carl Granderson, DE Wyoming 6’5 250
(Projected 4th Round Pick)
Strengths: Long, fast off the edge, good at recognizing plays, good at being in position, athletic, tremendous at running stunts, good at dropping into coverage.
Weakness: Tweener, Not stout in the running game, needs to add bulk, gets neutralized to quickly. Better in the 4-3 base then a 3-4 set thought he looks like a Linebacker type. Carl has some off the field concerns.
NFL Comparison: Jabaal Sheard
Ideal Fit: New England, Kansas City, San Diego, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay.
I love watching the tape of this kid. I remember people saying Vikings DE Danielle Hunter couldn’t get at the QB when he played at LSU. He might get drafted a lot higher than I have him based on projection much the same way Hunter was with the Vikings. Carl struggled last year with only three sacks, which is why his stock is so low. You look at him, and you see the perfect 3rd Down DE. Carl Granderson is a smart football player, and many a defensive coach would love to mold this kid into a professional.
Michael Jackson, CB Miami 6’0 210
(Projected 5th Round)
NFL Comparison: Siran Neal
Ideal Fits: Any team that specializes in a zone defense that can be patient and work on completing his skill set. Could be moved to a safety position utilizing his tackling ability.
Strengths: Size, Speed, Strong Tackler, Long Arms, Good on Special Teams.
Weaknesses: Feet Fluidity, Gets lost in coverage at times, does not turn head enough to locate the football.
Go ahead play Thriller or Billie Jean as you read this. I’m in all honesty wondering why I’m putting this guy here because his tape doesn’t help him out much. Michael is a projection pick in the hopes he gets selected by a team that can mold him into a complete player. The athleticism has yet to transfer into on-field production. He flashes ability as he did two years ago but didn’t produce the way many hoped last year. He has the size, speed, ability to be a solid zone coverage guy.
Michael is the type of player that a Mike Zimmer can mold into something at the next level. The problem is many have doubts about his ability to play outside of a zone/cover two defense. Just watching the tape, he looks so ominous you wonder how the athletic ability has not produced into more significant numbers. He is the type of guy with good coaching develops into a player at the next level and in the later rounds of the NFL Draft a wanted commodity.
So what do you think of my NFL Sleeper Picks and Hidden Gems for the 2019 NFL Draft! Who do you have as guys that have impressed you? The draft nears, just hours away, you have 5 Sleeper Picks/Hidden Gems Tyree Jackson, Bryce Love, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Carl Granderson, and Michael Jackson. Each has the talent that could make your NFL team much better. Here is a quick look back at some late round picks from last year that had an impact in the National Football League. Enjoy the draft everyone.