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2022 NFL Draft: Biggest Day 3 Sleepers at each position (Defense)

Who should the Steelers be targeting on day three of the draft? Here are some late-round NFL Draft prospects you need to know about.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 16 Kentucky at Georgia Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I do many different draft-related articles here at BTSC, but outside of my mock drafts, my favorite articles each year are my articles focused on the biggest sleepers in the draft. First-round picks and quarterbacks get talked about by the national draft pundits at nauseum, and we generally become familiarized with our favorite prospects that may be available on day two of the draft, but very rarely are the day-three prospects even mentioned when talking about the draft. Today, we are going to shed some light on the best late-round draft prospects you may not have heard about.

Just like last year, we will split the sleeper series into two parts: offense and defense. Today, we will take a closer look at the defensive side of the ball. In case you missed last year’s defensive sleeper article, one of the sleepers I mentioned was Illinois corner Nate Hobbs, who started 9 games for the Raiders and recorded 74 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended, and 1 interception.

This year, there will be a plethora of talented prospects available in the later rounds as well, some of which we will discuss today. If you want a full rundown of the day-three prospects in this draft, make sure you check out the final BTSC Big Board, which will be released the week of the draft. It will include in-depth breakdowns for the top 250+ prospects in this year’s draft, and just like last year, we will have a printable PDF of the Big Board rankings that you can use as a source and guide on draft weekend.

If you have any thoughts on the players mentioned in this article, be sure to share them in the comment section below. Do not forget to share your own list of steals as well!

Let’s get to the sleepers!


Defensive Line

Glen Logan | NT | LSU

There are not any day-three defensive line prospects that blow me away, but Logan definitely has me intrigued if he slips to round 6 or 7. As a sophomore defensive end in 2018, Logan had his most productive season as a pass rusher, recording 4 sacks and 5 tackles for loss in 12 games. If he can enjoy good health in the NFL, he has a chance to stick around for a while. Here is my scouting report on Logan for the BTSC Big Board.

Andrew Wilbar: Glen Logan brings some intrigue on day three. He lacked consistency as a pass rusher, but there are times when you watch him on tape and think that he could potentially become a 3-down nose tackle. He has suffered some foot injuries, however, and foot injuries can be a nagging issue for big linemen. Those injuries cost him a handful of games throughout his collegiate career. He does not close on ball-carriers quickly, but he takes up a good chunk of space in the middle of the defense, While I see him as nothing greater than a day-three prospect, I do believe there is a bit of untapped potential here.

Other Sleepers: Eyioma Uwazurike (Iowa State), Noah Elliss (Idaho), Chris Hinton (Michigan)


EDGE Rushers

Adam Anderson | EDGE | Georgia

One of the most polarizing prospects in this draft, Anderson brings a wealth of talent to the table at outside linebacker. He still need to fill out his frame, but he has the length to do so. His pad level needs to become a little more consistent, but that is also a fixable issue. With elite quickness and explosiveness coming off the edge, Anderson should have plenty of suitors on day three. Here is my scouting report on him for the BTSC Big Board.

If not for off-field concerns, Anderson would be a top-50 pick hands down. His frame is on the lighter side, but he is quick, bendy, feisty, and instinctual. I expect him to add additional weight once he gets with a strength-and-conditioning program in the NFL, which should ease concerns about functional strength. The problem lies in his character, or lack thereof. In November of 2021, Georgia suspended Anderson after he was accused of rape. He was released on bond not long after, but a second allegation quickly followed. If his legal situation clears up and he stays clean from here on out, he could be a tremendous steal on day three, but it is a major risk to invest high draft capital in him.

Jesse Luketa | EDGE | Penn State

Luketa did not play an overabundance on the edge, but that is where I believe he projects best at the NFL level. He may not have tested well at the combine, but he is a sound tackler, and he closes on opposing ball handlers in a hurry. Here is what I had to say about Luketa on the BTSC Big Board.

Luketa is one of my favorite day-three prospects in the draft. While his athletic testing was unbelievably poor, he put out impressive tape in 2021 for scouts to look at. The numbers are not going to jump off the page, buthe began playing a snap at outside linebacker here and there as the season went on. He was primarily a middle linebacker at Penn State, but to me, it was as clear as day that he was playing out of position. When aligned at outside linebacker, he simply displayed a better feel for the game. He timed his jumps off the line of scrimmage almost perfectly, and he looked incredibly smooth coming around the edge, displaying a natural feel for rushing the passer. While his straight-line speed may not be elite, he has excellent closing speed, and he rarely misses a tackle once he closes on the ball-carrier. If the Steelers can grab him late on day three, it would be one of the best value picks in the entire draft.

Other Sleepers: Owen Carney, Jr. (Illinois), Big Kat Bryant (UCF)


Inside Linebackers

D’Marco Jackson | ILB | Appalachian State

Jackson may not be the biggest linebacker, but he plays a downhill, hardnosed style of football Steelers fans would love. Jackson raised eyebrows with his 4.55 40 at the combine, but what is more impressive is his production. During the 2021 season, the Appalachian State linebacker recorded 119 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Here is my full report on Jackson from the BTSC Big Board.

Jackson’s play speed and physicality is impressive when you watch him on tape. Despite his lack of elite size, Jackson has a nasty streak in him, delivering big hits on opposing ball-carriers consistently. I also came away impressed with Jackson’s ability to close holes quickly. The instincts to predict which hole the runner is going to go through is evident on tape as well, as he is quick to shoot gaps and plug holes in the run game. While I do have concerns about his change-of-direction skills and fluidity in coverage, I do like his ability as a blitzer. He is incredibly lethal on delayed blitzes, displaying fantastic closing speed. Size and agility are the potential downsides here, but once we get to day three, there will be plenty of teams who are willing to take a risk on him.

Other Sleepers: Malcolm Rodriguez (Oklahoma State), Tariq Carpenter (LB/S —Georgia Tech)


Cornerback

Jack Jones | CB | Arizona State

Jones dealt with some off-field issues early in his collegiate career, but he seems to have gotten his head screwed on correctly, receiving academic accolades as well as football accolades since then. With the Steelers currently in need of a nickel cornerback, I have payed close attention to Jones and consider him to be an excellent value pick on day three. Here is what I had to say about Jones on the BTSC Big Board.

Jones was a five-star athlete coming out of high school who had committed to USC. After a breakout 2017 season, Jones’ was declared ineligible to participate in football for academic reasons. It did not end there, however. During the summer of 2018, Jones was arrested for burglary, and his football career was in jeopardy. To make a long story short, Jones transferred to Arizona State, got his life into some sort of order, and actually made the Dean’s List for the 2020 spring semester. He has matured greatly during his time at Arizona State and has now regained his footage as a draft prospect. After a year of solid production followed by an impressive combine performance, he is more than worthy of a mid-round selection. He would provide schematic versatility to any team in need of a slot corner.

Darrell Baker, Jr. | CB | Georgia Southern

Baker may be the most exciting of the sleepers at cornerback, as he is an athletic specimen who displays tremendous confidence in his physical abilities. Just a couple years ago, there was a corner coming out of Georgia Southern by the name of Kindle Vildor, who is now playing a prominent role in the Chicago Bears secondary. Only time will tell as to whether or not Baker can find the same success, but he possesses every physical trait you look for in a corner. Here is my scouting report on him from the BTSC Big Board:

Baker is relatively new to the position, but he looks the part of an NFL cornerback. Not only does he have adequate size, but at his pro day, he recorded a 4.43 in the 40, a 41 ½” vertical, a 135” broad jump, and a 7.07 in the 3-cone drill. The athleticism is off the charts, and it is evident when you watch him on the field. He has incredible explosiveness in hips, and his fluidity when moving laterally is second to none for someone as new to the position as he is. The turnover production has not yet arrived, but Baker does have the ability to create splash plays, having played receiver in high school.

Jeremy Betz and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the Steelers Draft Fix, and we both came away impressed with his confidence and demeanor. You can check out the full interview below.

Gregory Junior | CB | Ouachita Baptist

Junior is in a similar boat to Baker in that neither prospect has been given many opportunities to face high-end competition at the collegiate level. However, just like Baker, Junior has dominated the level of competition he has faced. We have not seen much production from him when it comes to creating turnovers, but in all fairness, his opportunities to create them have been few and far between. Here is my full scouting report on Junior from the BTSC Big Board.

Junior is a good athlete who provided lockdown coverage capabilities for a low-level college team. At 5’11 7/10”, 203, Junior recorded a 4.46 40, 18 bench reps, 39.5” vertical, 4.17 short shuttle, and 6.97 in the 3-cone drill. He has the versatility to play inside or out, and when it’s all said and done, he may actually be best suited for an outside role. He has some feistiness in him, has active hands at the LOS, and bumps receivers off their route. I would like to see him take better tackling angles, but he looks the part of an NFL corner. The only issue is that his success came against poor competition.

Other Sleepers: Damarri Mathis (Pittsburgh), Isaac Taylor-Stuart (USC), Tre Avery (Rutgers), Tony Adams (Illinois)


Safety

Isaiah Pola-Mao | S | USC

Both safeties I am mentioning today have family ties to the Steelers. Pola-Mao, the cousin of Steelers legend Troy Polamalu, is an intriguing prospect oozing with upside. While he is not the same freak of an athlete that Troy was, Isaiah displays solid athleticism and physicality. With Karl Joseph and Miles Killebrew being the only legitimate depth options behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers could be in play for a safety on day three. If they indeed pull the trigger in the later rounds, Pola-Mao would make a ton of sense. Here is my scouting report on him from the BTSC Big Board.

In case you were wondering, Pola-Mao is the cousin of Steelers legend Troy Polamalu. It is surprising that he has flown under the radar, as there is a ton of untapped potential here. He is a physical safety who is not afraid to lower his shoulder and blast opposing receivers and running backs. Do not let his physical play style fool you though, as he displays plenty of range in coverage as well. I just feel as if USC failed to put him in position to create splash plays in 2021, and I also feel as if he was playing out of position, aligning primarily at free safety for the Trojans. At 6’3”, I think the best scenario would be for him to add a few pounds and move to strong safety, where his physicality and blitzing ability would be utilized in a better way. Pola-Mao is more than likely not the next Troy, but he could be a nice toy for Teryl Austin in the secondary. If you would like to look into Pola-Mao’s game more extensively, check out this film breakdown by former BTSC contributor and current Pro Football Network analyst Nick Farabaugh.

Quentin Lake | S | UCLA

Another safety who could logically end up with the Steelers, Lake is an instinctually sound player who displays excellent fluidity. He lacks have top-end speed, but for a safety of his play style, he has enough speed to get by. Here is my scouting report on Lake for the BTSC Big Board.

Quentin, the son of former Steeler Carnell Lake, was one of my day three sleepers in the 2021 draft class, but he decided to return to school in an attempt to improve his draft stock. He is primarily a free safety who brings solid athleticism and great instincts to the table. He has become much stronger against the run, and his tackling angles have also improved. He has also become unafraid to lower his shoulder, get dirty, and lower the boom on an opposing receiver. Overall, there is not much to complain about with Lake, especially when you consider that you will only be spending a late-round pick on him. Playing in a weak conference and playing games late at night may partially be why he is getting hyped so little, but don’t overthink it. Lake is a good football player who should definitely make an impact in the NFL, whether it be as a starter, backup, or special teamer.

Jeremy and I had the pleasure of interviewing Lake, who came across as a smart, friendly, and funny individual who enjoys playing an old-school style of football. You can check out the full interview below.

Other Sleepers: Markquese Bell (Florida A&M), D’Anthony Bell (West Florida), Nolan Turner (Clemson)


Those are my favorite defensive sleepers, but who are yours? Do you see any of late-round prospects in this draft that could be potential steals? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!