5 NFL Draft Sleepers for 2016
NFL Draft Contributor: Damon Bail @Raideradvocate
With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books I targeted five non-first round picks that nobody should sleep on. These are some under the radar values for where they were chosen, that very well could emerge on the scene and make an impact in 2016.
Mackensie Alexander (Cornerback) Clemson. HT 5’10- WT 190- 40 Time DNP.
54th overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the Minnesota Vikings
- Anyone who thinks Alexander is worried about his 5’10; 190lb frame doesn’t know Mackensie Alexander. The kid is not lacking in confidence or toughness. He was a state track guy as well as a wrestler in the 160lb weight class. Kid is tough as nails and while I know the nay-sayers are going to say “why he didn’t have any interceptions while at Clemson?” I would tell you I am erring on the side that he wasn’t challenged like he will be in the NFL. Those moment of truth plays I am gambling on will be a strength for the former High School wide receiver.
- Speed is a trait that won’t jump off the screen when evaluating Alexander but what stood out most to me is that he was able to stick stride by stride with Kermit Whitfield of Florida State and Will Fuller of Notre Dame. Those are some of the fastest, take the top off the secondary wide receivers in college football and he didn’t back down and was in their hip most of the day. So while he didn’t time as a 4.3 guy, check off any issue you may have with his speed, because he can turn and flip his hips with anybody.
- Speaking of covering speedy guys, put the tape on against Sterling Shepard of Oklahoma and he covered him all across the field that day (great tape for Alexander).
- Footwork opportunities are masked by great instincts and anticipation of the play. He will need to tidy up the footwork quickly in his pro career so he doesn’t take any ill-advised steps. This got much better though as the season went on for Mackensie Alexander.
- He is basically a shadow for a wide receiver who won’t back down from anyone. The kid has the necessary make up speed especially within the first 15 yards on anything coming back to the Line Of Scrimmage. Quick feet, he is quicker more than fast, won’t be that blazing corner type guy. That’s not him but all the best corners in the league aren’t sub 4.35 guys, they are all technicians who are physical with great cover capability and hips.
- He is one of my favorite players in the draft and a better prospect than Trae Wayne’s who was taken in the 1st round of 2015, Mackensie Alexander was taken a whole round later.
- Terrance Newman is the slated starter opposite of Xavier Rhodes this year, but he is 38. Alexander has the movement skills to develop into a quality starter within defensive coordinator George Edwards’ heavy man principle scheme.
Darian Thompson (S) Boise ST. HT 6’2- WT 208lb- 40 Time 4.69.
71st overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the New York Giants
- All DT does is makes plays- see his career high 19 interceptions and 242 career tackles.
- Good angles when pursuing plays at the LOS, long angular frame, and kid is a gamer who loves to play and his passion for it is felt each snap.
- With that being said, what is the one thing when you’re watching games you can’t stand for a safety to do? Let receivers get behind you deep, above all else this has to be strength. Unfortunately Darian is so hung-up on making plays he occasionally will allow receivers to get behind him in coverage, it’s too frequent and an NFL team bringing him into the field should have that as the top priority to have him work on from Organized Team Activities to camp.
- Giants are hoping someone emerges from the young trio of Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson to start opposite Landon Collins, but there is no reason not to involve Darian Thompson in the competition as well.
- The issue could ultimately be fit, with both Collins and the rookie doing their best work near the line of scrimmage. New York tried using Collins in more of a free safety role last season, and it did not go well. They need to find a true center fielder to free up Collins to play his natural position, can Darian make the transition?
Austin Johnson (DT) Penn State. HT 6’4 – WT 314lb – 40 Time 5.32.
43rd overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the Tennessee Titans
- In his last season in Happy Valley, AJ racked up 78 tackles, 15 for loss, and 6.5 sacks while defending two passes and recovering a fumble.
- I like Austin and see a ton of quality traits that will translate well to the NFL, but then I have nightmares of feeling the same way about former Nittany Lion, Jimmy Kennedy. That’s right the same Jimmy Kennedy who was a 1st round pick, who could squat semi-trucks, move the world, and take up a guard and center on all downs. But when he got to the NFL he wasn’t motivated and was out of the league eight years later.
- AJ is best known for his hand placement, tactical part of the warfare and activity working up and down the DL.
- Even when not making the tackle, Johnson’s ability to move laterally and cut off holes for running backs shows up on the tape a lot.
- Johnson moves very well for someone his size, but he does need to keep his pad level down as do most Defensive Tackles over 6’2, but with that said he is supremely strong at the point of attack.
- I am erring on the side of what I see on tape not the easy comparison that is right in front of me (I reserve the right to change my mind) . Austin is perfect as a 4-3 DT and can kick down as a nose on obvious passing downs.
- The Titans have a starting trio on the defensive line they seem happy with: DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey at ends and Al Woods at nose tackle. Though they should rotate a lot, will Johnson break into that group?
- Nick Eason worked as an assistant to Giff Smith on the defensive line for the past two seasons. As Mike Mularkey shaped his staff, Smith went to San Diego and Mularkey promoted Eason, who played nine years with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Arizona. Now he’s got a guy in Johnson he’s starting from scratch with. Johnson will be reliant on Eason to develop him quickly into an NFL contributor.
Noah Spence (DE) E.Kentucky. HT 6’2- WT 251lb- 40 Time 4.80.
39th overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- One of the biggest enigma’s of the draft. Spence transferred to E.Kentucky after being banned from the big ten (Multiple infractions for ecstasy).
- Hearing this kid during the interview process in Indy he sounds like a smart young guy, very well spoken who put it out there that he got caught up in the college scene and put his career in jeopardy.
- Put me in the category that this guy has learned his lesson and is taking the correct steps to maximize his talent. He has rare knee/back bending ability similar to a Von Miller or Khalil Mack type (not as big as Mack).
- He shows a natural burst off the line from the three-point stance, and the ability to stop and read a play when in the backfield. His reading and burst ability allow him to get behind the line before the QB/RB can do anything about it, and his reading instincts allow him to react to the play and chase down whoever has the ball.
- Spence makes the most effort possible to deflect passes. (Incompletions are obviously good.) His pass rushing is more speed related, making him a natural sack artist. He changes his moves to fit whomever he is lining up against. His sacks tend to be legal in the modern NFL, so he shouldn’t be a litter bug (Penalty monger) and he has a partly cloudy to mostly sunny attitude on most days.
- Special closing burst and great in hand to hand combat with the Offensive Tackle (almost 11’ hands). Where he needs work like most 250lb DE/OLB is in the run game he must do a better job of disengaging from the Offensive Tackle and making a play, this will be a weak point for him initially.
- The Bucs benefited from believing in Jameis Winston last year despite the ample questions related to the former Heisman Trophy winner’s off-the-field character.
- The Bucs’ situation at defensive end has been questionable at best in recent years. The last Tampa Bay player to earn 10 sacks or more in a season was Simeon Rice with 14 in 2005. Gerald McCoy, a defensive tackle, led the Bucs in the category with 8.5 last season. Spence will have a chance to make an impact right away.
- Keep a close watch next fall as Spence becomes the latest in pewter and red to chase the elusive 10-sack mark.
Kyler Fackrell (LB) Utah ST. HT 6’5- WT 245lb- 40 Time 4.72.
88th overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the Green Bay Packers
- Big time high school career as a QB who also was a star in Volleyball and Basketball prior to making the switch to DE/OLD his freshman year with the Aggies.
- Had an ACL that nuked his Jr year, but bounced back as a Sr with 82 tackles while pitching camp in the backfield with 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and five which Kyler recovered.
- Rangy, athletic with heavy hands, ability to drop into space and won’t be outworked, kid has a relentless motor. Fackrell should be able to stay on the field for all three downs, lined up all over the field for state, but does need help with more counter moves when his first move is stymied, lower body needs development as well.
- This is an investment for the future. Julius Peppers is likely entering his final season in Green Bay, and Nick Perry is once again a free agent at the end of 2015. Fackrell can be groomed into a replacement.
- Kyler Fackrell will be a good to great player in this league, so long as his knee allows him to be. A guy with a great motor and the ability to use his athleticism and size to his advantage will find a place on anybody’s team.
- Although you don’t find too many players at 6’5 with the ability to cover in the open field, Fackrell has a chance to be a complete player in the correct scheme.”
- This is a smart pick by the Packers. Fackrell was considered by many as a second-round option, so the value is great here. The defense needed another pass rusher, and after missing out on the likes of Noah Spence and Kamalei Correa early on day two, they went and got their man in Fackrell.
- With all that being said is a Swiss Army Knife for any defense that shouldn’t come off field; #Valuable
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