April 27, 2017
Last year, the Eagles selected an FCS player named Carson Wentz with the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft. And at least so far, that seems to be working out great for everyone involved – save for the Cleveland Browns (and maybe Sam Bradford).
So when I got the chance to talk to ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., I wanted to take the opportunity to ask him about some some sleepers, specifically FCS guys, who may be of interest to the Eagles.
And he didn't disappoint.
“Sleeper guys that I like? Let’s go through the list because there are a lot of those that I like," Kiper said. "I love the under-the-radar guys. I’m going to go with the guys who are not 1-A [FBS] players, like Adam Shaheen, a tight end at Ashland. He’s not even a sleeper now so don’t even count him. I think a guy that’s under the radar, even though he was at Florida Atlantic and that’s a 1-A program, is Trey Hendrickson, the defensive end. I like him.”
Then, without missing a beat, Kiper rattled off 15 names of FCS players that could stick in the NFL. I'm happy to report that I watched a grand total of zero minutes of these guys during the season – and odds are you didn't either. But, hey, at least I've heard of one of them (Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon) before talking to Kiper.
Here are the players he mentioned, in the same order he listed them for me:
KIPER: "A guy I think has has a chance to go maybe in the third round."
Langley is a "size-speed" prospect who could be taken much earlier than his Senior Bowl tape might dictate. Langley displays issues with his mirror and match footwork from press coverage and might be better suited in off-man or zone coverage where he can read quarterbacks and utilize his ball skills with the play in front of him. Langley has NFL backup potential. [NFL.com]
KIPER: "Could be in the third-round discussion."
Motor-based edge rusher with some tightness in his hips who used efficient hands and consistent effort to whip the competition in front of him. Rivers may lack the length and agility to be a consistent, stand-up rusher on the next level, but he has the talent to find a spot as a backup who could work his way into a more prominent role with time. [NFL.com]
KIPER: "Another guy who could be in the third-round discussion."
While he has the length, size and athleticism that is the foundation of what teams look for along their defensive front, his issues with contact balance and body control might not be easily remedied. Kpassagnon lacks natural pass rush talent and may need to strengthen his lower body so he can lock in as a two-gapping, edge-setting base end who can reduce inside on rush downs. [NFL.com]
Henderson is built low to the ground with the balance and power in his lower half to fight forward for additional yardage after contact. His courage, burst, and one-cut ability should appeal to zone-scheme teams while his pass catching and willingness to block gives him a chance to compete for a role on third downs. Henderson had prolific production throughout high school and college and plays with the mindset and confidence of a future pro. He's undersized but has the skill to compete for a spot on an NFL roster right away. [NFL.com]
Heavily targeted and highly productive against a lower level of competition. Williams has decent size and ball skills, but looks slow on tape with very disjointed route work. He needs to run well at his workout, but even if he does, he's a developmental prospect rather than an early helper. [NFL.com]
Dunker is an excellent athlete, but he is extremely raw and may not have enough core strength to consistently hold up against NFL power. His best chance is with a zone-oriented rushing team, but he will still need time to improve his technique and strength before he could become a factor on the depth chart. [NFL.com]
Davis is well built with adequate power at the point of attack and outstanding college production, but he may lack the twitch and fluidity in space to make his mark as an edge player. He has some play traits that could make him an upfield three-technique if he could pile on enough weight, but he doesn't appear to have a clean position fit. He does, however, have enough ability to find his way onto a roster if a team has a plan for him. [NFL.com]
While he's not the biggest or fastest safety, he does not back down from the physicality of the position and he has a second gear when he's chasing after the ball. NFL teams love instinctive safeties who take the ball away and Jerome is working on a Master's Degree in both categories. Teams will have to decide how he best fits inside their defense, but Jerome's ability to return kicks and his ability to take the ball away should help him find the field fairly quickly. [NFL.com]
Raw tackle lacking in technique but long on physical traits. Has been able to dominate against lower level of competition and his step up in competition during pre-draft workouts will either throw a wet blanket over his draft grade or send his stock soaring. Despite a lack of technique, his traits will have teams willing to draft and wait for him as a project. He will be a work in progress and might be forced to move to the right side. [NFL.com]
Robinson has adequate height and length for the position and he's posted good ball production over the last couple of seasons. Robinson has enough athleticism to make even more plays on the ball, however, his lackadaisical field demeanor prevents it. Robinson's lack of competitiveness and toughness as a tackler will be an immediate turnoff for many teams. [NFL.com]
Four-year starter at left tackle who was able to physically overwhelm much smaller opponents across from him. Morgan is a good athlete with the nastiness as a run blocker that is necessary to transition inside to guard, but he could be headed for early struggles mirroring NFL rushers in pass protection. Morgan could become a solid NFL backup with eventual starter potential if he improves his balance and stops lunging. [NFL.com]
Stewart's girth, power and potential could lead a team to take him on the third day as a developmental run-stuffer capable of playing on the nose or at three-technique. Stewart is still very raw, but additional technique work could unleash a much more capable interior defender as he has the traits. The jump in competition will take some time to adjust to, but like other small school interior defenders before him, Stewart has the potential to work himself into a more prominent role within the first two or three years. [NFL.com]
Packs some power in his compact frame and plays with good lateral quickness and quick feet. Herdman simply falls below the size and length requirements teams look for from the linebacker position. He will likely have to prove himself as an undrafted weakside linebacker prospect. [NFL.com]
Theaker has the necessary physical dimensions to move from tackle to guard, but his lack of bend and inability to play with leverage and hip torque could derail his chances of sticking on a roster. [NFL.com]
Cohen uses a bounding, bouncing approach to the line of scrimmage reminiscent of Le'Veon Bell, but he's far less likely to finish downhill and instead looks to break it wide and out-race defenders. He's an electric playmaker who needs touches, but he's too small and unpredictable to handle much of an NFL carry count. Cohen gets easy separation as a receiver out of the backfield or from the slot and he will likely be used as an updated version of Darren Sproles 2.0. [NFL.com]
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