NFL Draft 2016 Sleepers: Defense

cyrus jones bama

Defensive End: Bronson Kaufusi (BYU), Yannick Ngakoue (Maryland)

Two sleepers? Yes. Why? Because defensive ends are a high premium for NFL teams after seeing the Denver Broncos dominate a great Carolina Panthers team at the line of scrimmage. Teams are looking for defensive ends to harass NFL quarterbacks.

kaufusi byu

Kaufusi is 6’6”, weighs 285 and will probably be drafted in the third to fourth round. Why? His stats aren’t too shabby: Bronson had 64 tackles, 20 of which were for a loss, 11 sacks, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles. He has good size and speed and could be a valuable third-down pass-rush asset for NFL defenses. But, a big question mark is getting off blocks. (Disclaimer: I am a BYU graduate).


Ngakoue (pronounced En-Gah-kway) is a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end and played against Big Ten offensive line talent. He is 6’2” and weighs 252 pounds. He could go as high as the 2nd round, but I’d think he’d fall maybe to the 3rd round. He wreaked havoc last season, with 13.5 sacks, 38 total tackles (15 tackles for a loss), with 1 fumble and 1 pass break-up. He is long, he has speed, and he has the stats and tape to back it up. As WalterFootball pointed out, he owned Brandon Scherff, who was the 5th-overall pick for the Washington Redskins last year, when they faced each other in 2014. (Second disclaimer: I’m also a Maryland fan :D)

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Defensive Tackle: Jonathan Bullard, Florida

6’3”, 285 pounds.

Bullard was one of the best SEC run defenders in 2015, according to WalterFootball. One of my favorite NFL analysts, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, is high on him and pointed out how Bullard dominated SEC offensive linemen. But, he is smaller than NFL teams would like, which is why he could end up going (at the latest) in the 2nd round. He had 17.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 2 batted passes, with 66 total tackles. He needs to add weight, but his track record in the SEC speaks for itself.

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Cornerback: Cyrus Jones, Alabama

5’9”, 196 pounds. 4.49 40-time.

Jones is better known for his special teams plays and special package plays on defense, where he played in corner-heavy packages (nickel or dime). His speed is out of this world on the field and he showed up a lot in big games, for better and for worse. Height is a large concern because of bigger tight ends and wide receivers. He did have 2 interceptions last season as a senior, and 3 as a junior.

But, I believe could be a Devon Hester-type player, where his best talent is on special teams, then he learns the position as time goes on. Yes, wide receiver is slightly easier to learn, as it is more proactive than reactive, but if Jones is one of those solid Alabama Crimson Tide players that the school boasts about, he’ll learn and develop to be a solid nickel corner in a pass-happy NFL. Jones will probably go between the 4th to 6th round and will be a steal if he develops well.

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Linebacker: Blake Martinez, Stanford

6’0”, 233 pounds.

Stanford churns out NFL talent, maybe not top-end talent, but consistent talent. Martinez is one of those blue-collar linebacking types, like former Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy (who is transitioning from linebacker to defensive line this year for the Washington Redskins). Martinez was a tackle machine, with 141 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, 1 interception, 1.5 sacks, 6 pass break-ups. He is a steady Eddie, as the saying goes, and will get the job done.

Martinez is no Luke Kuechly, but is that stout, inside linebacker that will make the right plays. Also, Stanford coach David Shaw doesn’t coach idiots. Martinez is projected to go between the third and fifth round of the draft.


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Safety: Sean Davis, Maryland

6’1”, 201 pounds, 4.46 40-time.

Davis shifted around in Maryland’s defense from corner to safety and at times, a small linebacker. He had 88 tackles last year on a so-so football team in a tough Big Ten division (facing the likes of Ohio State) and had 3 interceptions. Not an impressive resume, per se, but he is athletic, he can cover and stay in the box to guard against the run. Although, his versatility impresses NFL scouts.

Major concerns are whether he can keep up with top speed talent in the NFL and read the quarterback’s eyes correctly. Some scouting reports point out that he is often beat on double moves, and is inconsistent in covering receivers as he is more of a hard-hitting safety. A lot of scouts are hyping him up, but remember, his ceiling is maybe the 3rd round and floor is the 5th round.



NFL Draft 2016 Sleepers: Offense

usc kessler

Quarterback: Cody Kessler, USC

6’1”, 220 pounds.

A lot of people love Brandon Allen out of Arkansas, who is pro-ready and a gutsy QB from the SEC. But, Cody is a three-year starter out of the PAC12 and he works in a pro-style offense, albeit more of a West Coast offense (i.e. short passes and not too many deep balls). Per, Kessler threw for 3,536 yards with a 66.8 completion percentage in 2015 and he is not turnover-prone (Cody threw 39 touchdowns, five interceptions in 2014; 29 TD, 7 INT in 2015). Not too many college QBs can put that on their resume.

However, he lacks deep ball arm strength and struggles throwing while moving out of the pocket. But, the kid can play, he played through a cloud of sanctions and won games. He’ll be a round 5 draft pick and will be a short project of 1-2 years, if not sooner.

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Running Back: Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

5’10”, 219 pounds, projected 40 time 4.58 (was injured, didn’t participate much at combines or pro day). said the following about Williams, which has been echoed by the likes of draft gurus Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks (both former NFL scouts now working at NFL Network):

“As a runner, Williams has tremendous balance and an impressive ability to pick up yards after contact. He has a good body lean and runs with power. Sources from some teams are targeting Williams in the mid-rounds and think he could be a steal because of his injury. Williams also has drawn rave reviews off the field, and his teammates have gushed about him in team interviews.”

Williams would be the feature back at most schools, but he’s the backup for Arkansas. He still ran for 1,190 yards (5.6 average) and 12 touchdowns on only 211 carries in 2014 while Alex Collins was the lead back. Williams also had 11 receptions for 65 yards and two scores. He is a physical runner who could enter the NFL with fresh legs.”

Enough said; he’ll be a steal between rounds 3-5 at the draft.

michael thomas wr catch

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Southern Miss (Southern Mississippi)

6’1”, 186 pounds, 4.54 40-time.

Thomas is a sleeper because he went to a non-Power 5 school, but he increased his production from 2014 to 2015 (from Pride of Detroit):

michael thomas wr southern miss stats.png

Plus, his yards-after-catch (known as YAC) is one of the best among a weak WR crop this draft year:

He has some issues catching the ball, but he’s athletic and can take the top off the defense and stretch the field vertically. He’ll be a round 5 or round 6 pick and could develop very well.

thomas duarte ucla

Tight End: Thomas Duarte

6’2”, 231 pounds, 4.72 40-time.

The Mexican-Japanese-American tight end out of UCLA impressed some scouts with not only his play on the field, but his heritage. He joked that he got the best food of both worlds in an interview with Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman. But, he is a pass-catching tight end that produced at the famous Mater Dei High School (which has produced the likes of Matt Leinart) and at UCLA. As a freshman, had 16 catches for 214 yards and 4 TDs, and then as a sophomore, caught 28 passes for 540 yards and 4 TDs. With Josh Rosen as his signal-caller, he caught 53 balls for 872 yards (a 16.5-yards-per-catch average) and 10 TDs.

Scouts have compared him to Jordan Reed. He can’t block, but he can get out in space, run routes and wreak havoc on opposing defenses. That’s not a bad comparison. He’ll be picked anywhere between the mid-to-low 3rd round to the 5th round and has to bulk up, learn how to block a little bit, and he’ll be a longtime NFL tight end.

le raven clark texas tech

image via screenshot from CFB Film Room on YouTube.

Offensive Line: Le-Raven Clark, Texas Tech, offensive tackle

6’5”, 316 pounds.

Not a deep offensive line class, outside of Tunsil and Conklin, but Clark is an athletic specimen on the field. Yes, he’ll be gone by the third round, which begs the question, is he really a sleeper? But, this is a thin offensive line class and he could become a future offensive line anchor sooner rather than later.

Consensus among scouts is that his technique is not perfect, but he does have quick feet. A big part of being a tackle is how he bends, and he is a good ‘bender’ to deal with the faster defensive ends who can get low to the ground. But, there are few mentions of how good his hands are at the point of attack, which worries me. You need good hands to keep up with all the moves by defensive linemen and linebackers these days. Ever see a JJ Watt spin move or a quick bend speed rush by Von Miller? Clark be mincemeat if he faces them without improving his hands. That aside, he’ll be a good pick with a lot of upside and potential.

Name that WR

I’m having too much fun with this stats game, but I hope you’re enjoying it as well. This time, we’re looking at 3 great WR’s in the league.

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Catches — receiving yards — yards per game — yards per catch — TDs

WR 1: 66 — 1,084 — 83.4 — 16.4 — 12

WR 2: 61 — 860 — 66.2 — 14.1 — 11

WR 3: 96 — 1,088 — 83.7 — 11.3 — 7



WR 1 is one of two receivers with a first name of Allen on his team in Florida, a yearly bottom-feeder in the AFC South division. He is a second-year pro and whose alma mater was Penn State.

WR 2 has been with the same team since his professional debut in 2011 after heading to the draft from Stanford. He’s having a breakout season with Russell Wilson at the helm of his team.

WR 3 is probably a future Hall of Fame WR and has played for the same team for his entire career in Arizona. He’s made one Super Bowl appearance and is widely known as a top receiver who can catch any ball thrown in his direction.






Allen Robinson, Doug Baldwin, Larry Fitzgerald

Name that RB

Stats don’t lie! Let’s take a look at 3 starting RB’s numbers this 2015 season and have fun with this.

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Rushing yards — yards per game — yards per carry — TDs

RB 1: 1,023 — 85.2 — 4.9 — 9

RB 2: 951 — 73.2 — 4.1 — 7

RB 3: 773 — 59.5 — 4.7 — 8



RB 1 is a rookie and was a first-round draft pick in the last draft. In college, he played for the University of Georgia and was injured in the season before he went pro.

RB 2 is a hard-nosed RB that plays in the Big Apple. An undrafted free agent when he came into the league in 2010, he’s the feature running back for an AFC East team that wears green and white.

RB 3 is a veteran RB who is playing well for an AFC North team, trying to replace the team’s starting RB who was lost to injury earlier this year. He played at Memphis in his college days and had only played for one team in Carolina until this season.






Todd Gurley, Chris Ivory, DeAngelo Williams

Name That QB

One of my favorite drills is to look at statistics, but to guess whose stats is whose. So let’s take a look at 3 starting NFL QB’s and see who is surprisingly good this 2015 NFL season.

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Completion % — Yards — Yards per game — TDs/INTs — Sacks

QB 1: 65.8% — 3,705 — 285 — 17/14 — 26

QB 2: 57.5% — 3,524 — 271.1 — 30/13 — 39

QB 3: 62.6% — 3,027 — 252.2 — 16/7 — 19




QB 1 is often heralded as a great regular season quarterback, but just can’t do it in the postseason and plays in a dome for home games. He came into the league from Boston College and for a couple years, played with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. He plays in the NFC South division.

QB 2 was considered a project when he was drafted in the top five in his draft class and was a late bloomer at a smaller Power 5 school in Florida. His numbers have exploded this year for his yearly cellar-dwelling team in Florida in the AFC South division.

QB 3 is the prototypical gunslinger, often criticized by both fans and media for his laid-back attitude. He played at Vanderbilt before being drafted by Denver (not his current team). He plays in the NFC North division and is married to a former reality TV star.

Answers? Any guesses?



Matt Ryan, Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler



Has BYU Peaked as an 8-Win Team?

A couple of thoughts after BYU’s humiliation at the hands of the Jim Harbaugh-led Michigan Wolverines…

But first, this Hail Mary play vs. Nebraska was amazing.

byu hail mary vs nebraska

3 consecutive 8-5 seasons: Is that good enough for BYU fans?

  • The last double-digit win season was 4 seasons ago in 2011 with 10 wins.
  • If BYU is to be considered a top team, it has to consistently win in the double digits and suffer maybe 2 losses maximum (see: Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Baylor, TCU, Michigan State).
  • Counterpoint: BYU sports is an extension of the academic mission of BYU, so it won’t receive the same amount as investment as say, Alabama football.
  • Many programs would do almost anything to reach 8 wins and be bowl-eligible every year AND have the independent schedule and contract with ESPN.

Independent schedule has tougher road games, easier home schedule

  • 2015 at Michigan: LOSS 31-0
  • 2015 at UCLA: LOSS 24-23
  • 2015 at Nebraska: WIN 33-28
  • 2014 at Wisconsin: LOSS 27-17
  • 2014 at Notre Dame: LOSS 23-17
  • 2014 at Texas: WIN 41-7
  • Home schedule was not challenging, featured the likes of Nevada, Savannah State, UNLV (2014) and Middle Tennessee State and Idaho State (2013).

Injuries have crippled and ended promising seasons

  • Taysom Hill’s injuries ended promising seasons and he was a dark horse Heisman candidate.
  • However, injuries don’t solely target BYU.
    • Example: University of Maryland’s 2012 season where 4 QBs went down with injuries and they started a backup LB as their QB in Shawn Petty. Cry me a river, BYU fans.

Robert Anae’s play-calling

  • Where do you start? Run instead of passing, passing instead of running the ball?
    • But I see some consistencies over the years at BYU and with their offensive line.
  • What do I see? Bad offensive line splits with huge gaps between offensive linemen. It helps with pass protection, but it inhibits the run game by requiring linemen to move more laterally. BYU’s offensive linemen aren’t exactly the fleetest of foot.
    • Also, lack of big, tall WRs and TEs who will go and “high point” the ball. Or, in other words, no receiver who will go up and get the 50-50 ball in the air. There isn’t another Cody Hoffman-type big guy who can consistently grab red zone TD passes thrown toward him.

Well, if you do push Bronco out at BYU (which is almost a 0% chance), who do you replace him with?

  • Beware of up-and-coming NFL coordinators like Gary Crowton (h/t Paul Sabin).
  • My choice? Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
    • Why? Everyone remembers that one play in the Super Bowl, but he’s made 2 Super Bowls and won one of them.
      • Pete Carroll backed Bevell up, said he wanted to preserve the clock as they were out of timeouts and shied away from a run call for that reason.
      • Malcolm Butler made a play of the year in jumping that pick route and timed it perfectly.
      • Also, Marshawn Lynch struggled on short-yardage situations in the red zone, although Sporting News still blasts Bevell’s play call.
    • He’s run an efficient, run-heavy offense in the NFL.
    • He’s developed Russell Wilson, a third-round QB draft pick and who was undersized, into a franchise QB. Wilson, by the way, just signed an offseason deal worth $87 million over 4 years.

Honor Code and Recruiting

  • Honor Code inhibits recruiting with abstinence from premarital sex and use of alcohol and drugs. This will continue to be BYU’s policy and it is non-negotiable.
  • Bronco relies a lot on JUCO transfers and it can be hard to develop JUCO talent at times.
  • The mission effect: Older athletes may have lost a step or two as conditioning is not a top priority for some missionaries.

Why not shift to the spread?

  • Even Nick Saban doesn’t like the spread as a defensive genius and it is hard to stop, as TCU, Baylor, and Texas Tech have shown with their prolific offenses.
    • Saban was quoted as saying, “is this what we want football to be?” by
    • He hired offensive genius Lane Kiffin a year ago to open up the Alabama offense and put more spread-type plays into the playbook.
  • Baylor and other inferior teams succeed with short, quick passes, less hits on the QB and can beat teams with tempo. Lower-tiered teams like Bowling Green has successfully adopted the spread offense. BYU can succeed and go back to the offensive masterpieces of old and hide their inferior talent and lack of depth.

Any thoughts? Reactions?

What to Watch For: Five NCAA QB’s to Track in 2015

Sorry, been a long time since I’ve blogged. But, now that the desolate summer sports season has subsided, and football around the corner, let’s take a look at FIVE college quarterbacks to track this year.

ohio state qb

  1. JT Barrett/Cardale Jones, Ohio State

Right now, we’re not sure who will start at Ohio State when the season starts at Virginia Tech on September 7th. Ohio State has suspended several players, but losing top defensive end Joey Bosa to suspension could cost them their season opener.

Back to the QB’s: Urban Meyer is mum on who is leading the QB race, and analysts and scouts have been frank about who would win the job. Cardale Jones has a NFL-ready big arm with his deep ball, as his four-game stretch showed. But, JT Barrett has had more time learning the Meyer offense (he’s a sophomore) and is more mobile than Cardale. Here’s the stats for JT in his lone starting season:

2014 203 314 2834 64.7 9.03 80 34 10

Here’s a highlight reel for JT:

Echoing back to Meyer’s previous star QB’s at Florida and Utah, Barrett is probably the likely choice because of his mobility. Alex Smith ran for 631 yards and 10 TDs while throwing for 2,952 yards and 32 TD’s (only 4 picks) before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers’ top pick and has had a steady career in the NFL. Chris Leak and Tim Tebow were mobile QB’s, although Tebow was more of a power runner and Leak the more elusive athlete who had touch on his throws. You’d think that Meyer’s past history with mobile QB’s would sway his opinion, but Cardale’s numbers in his short stint as the starter speak for themselves:

2014 56 92 860 60.9 9.35 50 7 2

Can’t forget about the game tape/highlight reel:

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel, in their podcast “The Audible” (which I highly recommend listening to), brought up how Cardale’s big personality is fun during the offseason, but what happens if he gets benched in favor of JT? That is something to watch for.

2. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Zaire’s rise up the depth chart validated the scouting rankings for him coming out of high school, and it pushed 2013 national championship game starter Everett Golston to transfer to Florida State. Feldman talked about how Golston was more reserved, but Zaire’s charisma and chatty nature wins over the Notre Dame locker room. It reminds me of Jameis Winston, legal issues aside, and how a charismatic and confident leader can carry a team that has injuries and flaws. Here’s what Zaire did last year, but mind you, it’s one blowout loss and the other is a blowout win in a bowl game:

2014 21 35 266 60.0 7.60 49 1 0 1

The guy has great potential:

3. Jeff Rosen, UCLA

Rosen is another highly-touted recruit and became the starter this past week. But, he wasn’t a five-star recruit for nothing based on his passing numbers alone:

Year GP C Att Yds C% Avg Y/G C/G TD TD/G Int Lng QB Rate
Varsity Totals 43 525 840 8473 .625 16.1 197.0 12.2 90 2.1 20 95 122.0

He’s expected to produce a lot this year at UCLA, but he has to fill the shoes of Brett Hundley, who is sitting behind Aaron Rodgers in the NFL. Here’s a highlight reel from high school:

4. Jared Goff, Cal

Bleacher Report recently published an article asking whether Goff is the second coming of Aaron Rodgers, a Super Bowl-winning QB with the Green Bay Packers. Goff’s numbers were pretty good, but it is yet to be seen whether he can carry Cal to the top of the PAC-12. I doubt that because it is a deep conference with a lot of unknowns, such as Oregon’s QB situation, UCLA’s freshman QB taking the reins, and if Stanford will punish everyone with their bruising, ball-control style.

What does Goff have to offer? Check out some highlights from last season:

Here’s what Goff produced in his two years as a starter (an overall record of 6-18, but his first year in 2013 the team went 1-11):

2014 316 509 3973 62.1 7.81 92 35 7 26 147.6 71.5 76.3
2013 320 531 3508 60.3 6.61 89 18 10 32 123.2 48.0 55.8

He definitely picked up the pace last year, and NFL scouting guru Mel Kiper said he’s better than Hackenburg and other underclassmen QB’s who may declare for the NFL draft in 2016.

5. Taysom Hill, BYU

He is a dark horse for the Heisman trophy, according to some, but he is just as dangerous as Tim Tebow was at Florida. Before a season-ending and gruesome injury at Utah State, Hill wowed college football fans and scouts with his running style and numbers (although many project him as a running back-type player in the NFL if he chooses to play/is drafted:

2014 88 132 975 66.7 7.39 56 7 3 14 141.7 78.3 86.5
2013 236 438 2938 53.9 6.71 60 19 14 37 118.2 61.5 70.3
2012 42 71 425 59.2 5.99 28 4 2 6 122.4 70.6 76.4

I mean, he did run rampant in the 2013 game against Texas and even hurdled a defender on a touchdown run last year:

He’s coming back from tearing his knee, so no one is too sure if he’ll be the same. But, BYU’s independent schedule is intriguing and if they do well, it’ll be because of Taysom Hill. Everyone loves an underdog (see: Boise State).

Here are some other QB’s that will be fun to watch this season (in no particular order):

  • Cody Kessler, USC
  • Christian Hackenburg, Penn State
  • Greyson Lambert, Georgia
  • Whoever wins the Alabama starting job: ex-FSU QB Jake Coker, David Cornwell or Cooper Bateman
  • Brandon Harris, LSU
  • Vernon Adams, transfer to Oregon