I love each and every round of the NFL Draft, from Round 1 to Round 7. Each round has its format and style, and not a year goes by where something out of the ordinary happens during the three-day event. While Day 3 of the draft does not get much publicity compared to the early rounds, its importance cannot be ignored.
In this annual two-part series, I highlight my favorite sleepers in the draft, familiarizing their profiles to the reader and giving the reader a reason to have a rooting interest in the later rounds. As always, be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and tell us about your own sleepers as well!
Let’s dive in!
Aidan O’Connell | Purdue
It would not shock me if O’Connell goes higher than expected, as he has quietly put together an impressive pre-draft process. He’s not going to take off and run that often, but he is extremely poised inside the pocket, and he delivers accurate balls to every portion of the field. His interception numbers were high this past season, but that was primarily due to an insane 499 passing attempts. Overall, he is a deadly accurate quarterback with good footwork inside the pocket, a solid arm strength, and enough athleticism to escape the pocket when it breaks down. I’ll take a guy with those traits on Day 3 of any draft.
Lindsey Scott | Incarnate Word
The Steelers have stated they are looking for mobility at the quarterback position, so perhaps a player like Scott will tickle their fancy in the later rounds. Scott was not tested against strong competition, but he lit up the FCS, passing for over 4,500 yards, 60 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions in 2022. He also added 712 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. His lack of height puts him at a disadvantage, but I have a hard time believing that no team will bring this guy in as a camp arm. If given the chance to prove himself, I expect Scott to make some highlight-reel plays at the very least.
Lew Nichols III | Central Michigan
Nichols is still a little rough around the edges, but I love watching his tape, and I cannot help but think he will be a starting running back in short order. A true one-cut runner, Nichols displays decent acceleration getting upfield for a bigger back, and he does have a second gear once he hits the second level. However, he is going to make his money in between the tackles as a physical runner who will wear down defenses as the game goes on. Scouts will also appreciate his willingness to assist in pass protection.
Nagging leg injuries capped Nichols’ success in 2022, but it would take one stubborn person to not think his 2021 tape was enough to prove his value. When fully healthy, he is every bit of the running back we saw eclipse 2,100 scrimmage yards and average over 5 yards per carry just one year ago.
Mohamed Ibrahim | Minnesota
I did not like Ibrahim earlier in the process, but the lower he got ranked by scouts and pundits, the more I liked the potential value. Here is the BTSC Big Board scouting report for Ibrahim, written by Ryland B.:
Ryland B.: Injury history and the tread on the tires are valid concerns – Ibrahim played five seasons at Minnesota – but if he can stay healthy at the NFL level, he could be a steal. Ibrahim’s long speed and acceleration don’t exactly stand out, but he is a smooth runner with great vision and physicality. Ibrahim is the type of running back who’s always falling forward to create extra yardage, whether it’s through his excellent contact balance or just pure determination. He’s surprisingly shifty as well. Ibrahim hasn’t shown much as a receiver, but it’s largely due to Minnesota’s scheme rather than ability. Again, the injury history is a concern, as is the lack of a particularly high ceiling, but Ibrahim is an experienced and technically sound back who could be a very good RB2 in the right NFL offense.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton | West Virginia
Bryce Ford-Wheaton is my favorite receiver nobody is talking about. You can complain about the drops all you want to, but at the end of the day, the quarterback play was putrid. Yes, some of the drops were easy catches that should have been made, and I am not dismissing that area of his game and considering it polished. However, the inconsistency at quarterback was evident in just about every game, which forced BFW to constantly readjust. I do believe this was part of the problem, and it is fair to assume it will be less of an issue in the NFL.
As it pertains to the rest of his game, how could you not fall in love with the player? This man has been gifted with incredible athletic traits, from speed, to size, to physicality, and much more. Even his route-running is impressive for a receiver his size. He runs his routes with correct depth, and he can change direction relatively quickly, which is not normal for a 6’4”, 222 pound receiver with 4.38 speed. He has the ceiling of former Steeler Martavis Bryant athletically, and his off-the-field resume is much better than Bryant’s. If he is there in Round 4, the Steelers should run their card to the podium.
Shedric Jackson | Auburn
Jackson may not have the production of some of these other receivers, but his combination of solid size and elite speed are difficult to contain. The poor quarterback play at Auburn likely had a part in his lack of production, but recording only 1 career interception is definitely concerning. He does not run the most diverse route tree, but he is wise beyond his ears in that he knows when to come back to the football to make a catch. His speed is off the charts, and he is typically sure-handed. Ultimately, his success in the NFL will be determined by how much his route-running and physicality can improve. He has all the tools you could ever ask for.
Tucker Kraft | South Dakota State
If not for injury, Kraft would likely be a lock to go in the first two rounds. However, that is not the case, and there are rumors he could slide all the way to Day 3.
One thing I really appreciate about Kraft is his feistiness as a run blocker. He does not have the greatest blocking technique or refinement, but he never gives up on a play, even if it looks as if he is beat. He has active hands, good leg drive, and the necessary awareness to both diagnose and follow through as a blocker. Although you will see an occasional drop on tape, Kraft is typically a sure-handed receiving weapon who can beat slower linebackers with his athleticism and beat the average defensive back with his size. Kraft was limited to an average of only 3 receptions per game in 2022, but after losing quarterback Chris Oladokun to the NFL, a fallback in production can only be expected. He will most likely be selected relatively early on Day 2.
Davis Allen | Clemson
Allen was one of my favorite pre-combine prospects at the tight end position. The Clemson product may have limitations as a route-runner, but he is a better athlete than his 40 time may suggest. Allen is a decent linear athlete who displays great ability as an in-line blocker. He has also earned high praise from head coach Dabo Swinney, who has stated that Allen may be the best NFL tight end prospect he has had during his tenure at Clemson. One of the biggest boxes NFL teams want a tight end prospect to check, however, is that of consistency. Fortunately, Allen has been the epitome of such, always displaying a willingness to get his hands dirty and do whatever is asked of him.
Jake Andrews | C | Troy
Andrews may not have the best length or elite athleticism, but I absolutely love his tape. He has quietly put together a nice offseason, displaying great hustle and will at both the Senior Bowl and the combine. Andrews embraces the title of an offensive lineman. He simply loves playing in the trenches and pushing people around. On shorter passes near the line of scrimmage, Andrews knows how to get upfield, never giving up on a rep and always moving on to the next block. Don’t let his lack of length and size foot you, because he is as strong as any center in this class at the point of attack. His strong hands and wide base allow him to hold up against even the strongest of defensive linemen.
McClendon Curtis | G | Chattanooga
Just one year ago, we saw a Chattanooga lineman taken in Round 1 of the draft in Cole Strange. After a strong rookie campaign from Strange, the bar has been set high for his former teammate, who is likely to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft. Curtis is a semi-athletic guard with outstanding length and exceptional hand usage.
What I appreciate about his game is his awareness. Whenever freed up, he is always assisting other linemen and seeing who he can help out. He also has a sky-high ceiling as a run blocker if he can learn to keep the pads low and strengthen his upper half. Best case scenario, he is a more athletic version of former Steelers lineman Ramon Foster. He isn’t the flashiest player, but he will get the job done consistently.
Others to Watch
Matt Landers | WR | Arkansas
Jake Witt | OT | Northern Michigan
Joey Fisher | OL | Shepherd
Nick Broeker | OL | Ole Miss
Olusegun Oluwatimi | C | Michigan
Andrew Vorhees | G | USC
Chandler Zavala | G | North Carolina State
Kyle Patterson | TE | Air Force
Eric Gray | RB | Oklahoma
What are your thoughts on the aforementioned sleepers? Do any of them make sense for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!
This was also a topic of conversation on the latest Steelers Fix podcast. Check it out in the player below: