You know what a sleeper is. Look across NFL rosters and you’ll find dozens of players who weren’t drafted but have ended up making major contributions, anyway.
The Seattle Seahawks boast eight undrafted players who contributed to its roster in 2013, including wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
Scouting and evaluating, lest we forget, are inexact sciences.
Still, the Q has identified a couple of super sleepers — players that clearly have a chance to make an impact, even though you likely haven’t heard their names mentioned this week.
Players had to meet the following criteria to be included on our list:
- They were not invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis
- Players did not participate in the primary all-star games, the Reese’s Senior Bowl or the Shrine game.
- They are unlikely to be drafted.
- Players have the talent to eventually contribute at the NFL level.
Here are the five players the Q identified as this year’s crop of super sleepers.
Casey Pachall, QB TCU
Remember him? It wasn’t long ago that Pachall was considered one of the top quarterbacks in college football after he replaced Andy Dalton at TCU.
During the 2011 season, the TCU Horned Frogs finished 11-2 with Pachall leading the way. Pachall, a sophomore at the time, completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards, 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Pachall also got off to a hot start to the 2012 season. Through four games, he was leading the college football with an 180 QB rating. Everything then fell apart.
Pachall was arrested for DUI in Oct. that year. He left the team and spent time in a drug and alcohol treatment facility. Pachall was reinstated by TCU in January, 2013.
Pachall never fully regained his starting spot and, instead, shared time behind center with Trevone Boykin. Once Pachall finally started to receive the bulk of the snaps late in the season, he didn’t play well. In those final four games, he threw for 1,154 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Despite his previous personal problems and struggles on the field late in his career, Pachall still has all the physical tools teams can develop. He is 6-5 and 230 pounds, and is nimble in the pocket. He proved early in his career that he can be an efficient and even creative presence in the pocket.
Dalton may have been selected in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals, but Pachall was considered a better athlete with a bigger arm by TCU head coach Gary Patterson.
D.J. Adams, RB Portland State
Sometimes a change of scenery is needed for a player to realize his full potential.
Adams, a four-star and ESPN 150 recruit in 2009, originally committed to the Maryland Terrapins. During his red-shirt freshman campaign, Adams was second in the ACC and set a Maryland freshman record with 11 rushing touchdowns.
After a coaching change, Adams became disgruntled and transferred to Portland State. In his two years with the Vikings, Adams blossomed into one of the best running backs at the FCS level. Adams ran for 2,567 yards and 31 touchdowns.
At 5-9 and 210 pounds with 4.57-second 40-yard dash speed, Adams is a compact and natural runner that is particularly strong in short-yardage situations. He’ll need to continue his development as a blocker and receiver on third down.
Erik Swoope, TE Miami
Due to the success of Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, NFL teams are scouring basketball courts for the next great tight end. Swoope is this year’s candidate.
Swoope declared for the NFL draft in April despite not playing football at the college or high school level.
The NFL is simply looking for a certain body type and high level of athleticism. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Swoope was a rotational player for the Hurricanes’ hoops squad. When he was on the court, he was known for his ability to finish around the rim.
The Denver Broncos have shown interest in Swoope, which would give him the opportunity to learn under Thomas.
Brian Clarke, OG Bloomsburg
Sometimes a small-school sleeper can even be overlooked on his own team despite dominating at a lower level.
Clarke is one of four players from Bloomsburg expected to be on NFL rosters after the draft. Defensive end Larry Webster is expected to be chosen on the third day of the draft. RB Franklyn Quiteh won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player at the Division II level after he ran for 2,195 yards in 2013. And OT Matt Feiler was invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Of the four, Clarke was the most dominant player on the Huskies this past season. He is a nasty run blocker that plays with leverage and violently finishes blocks. His play was reminiscent of former Husky, and current member of New Orleans Saints, Jahri Evans. However, Clarke isn’t as big as Evans, who measured 6-4 and 319 pounds. According to his trainer, Brian Martin, Clarke currently weighs 305 pounds and runs a 5.10-second 40-yard dash.
Jamie Meder, DT Ashland
In four seasons with the Ashland Eagles, Meder manhandled the competition. After a year at Cuyahoga Community College, Meder chose to attend Ashland and quickly developed into the GLIAC Freshman of the Year. Meder became a four-year starter and was named the GLIAC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year twice. In 2013, Meder tied for the team lead in total tackles with 88.
At 6-2 and 306 pounds, Meder is a thickly built lineman best suited to play defensive tackle after playing defensive end for the Eagles. Some teams may even project Meder as a 5-technique (defensive end) in some 3-4 defensive schemes.
Meder simply overpowered blockers at the Div. II level. He sheds blocks well and consistently gives effort. The biggest concern is developing his technique after easily throwing linemen around his entire career.
Meder is also a monster in the weight room with a 515-pound bench press, but he decided to forego pre-draft preparation to finish his schooling and attend to his girlfriend, who was receiving cancer treatments.