2011 NFL combine sleepers

I’ve been watching a lot more combine coverage than I ever have in previous years. I found myself really trying to scour the “under the radar” talent at the events. I get the feeling everybody knows about A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Cam Newton, and Mark Ingram. It’s more the ones who aren’t real head turners that I want to see perform. I’ve always considered myself a pretty wise talent evaluator and I like to be able to say I told you so about guys that I had my eye on in college. 

Sometimes you can just tell that a guy has it. Doesn’t matter what team he may end up playing for because he has the skills, determination, and sometimes that chip on the shoulder to compete at a high level. Since Thoughts from the Dark Side is (almost) strictly a Silver and Black website, here is a list of guys who fit the Raiders and what round they could be had in during April’s draft.

Quarterback — Jerrod Johnson — Texas Tech

In my opinion, Johnson is the guy in this year’s draft class who I want to come in and learn from Hue Jackson and behind Jason Campbell. He’s a real good athlete at the quarterback position and definitely has the type of skills that can take him to the next level, however he’s not ready to be thrown into the fire just yet. Johnson needs to improve his footwork before he finds his way onto an NFL field. I like his fluidity and the calm he shows under the pressure of throwing in front of NFL coaches and scouts. With his 6’5″ 251 pound frame and impressive mobility, he will turn a few NFL heads.

He wasn’t a top performer in anything for the quarterbacks today, but this guy has a rocket for an arm and has above average accuracy. He’s most likely a late fourth to early sixth rounder in this QB class, so whoever takes him isn’t taking that big of a risk.

Wide Receiver — Edmond Gates — Abilene Christian 

This guy has the natural hands and quickness out of his breaks that NFL scouts love to see from a smaller receiver. He was a top performer in the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, and the board jump today. The thing I really like about him is that he knows how to control his speed. In other words, he knows how to accelerate quickly and stop on a dime. He also does a good job with his footwork in route running. Perhaps this kid can’t run all the routes the coaches would like to see, but he does have the ability to learn them and do a decent job. 

Gates is a good project wide receiver. The Raiders don’t really need a wideout in the draft, but if they are looking to get another gem like Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford in round four this year, Edmond Gates could certainly be that type of player for a team that’s willing to take a chance.

Tight End — Lee Smith — Marshall      

I’m a real big fan of Virgil Green from Nevada in this year’s class of tight ends. If he’s off the board when the Raiders are ready to go tight end in this draft, then I hope USC’s Jordan Cameron can come in and fill that third tight end role for the Raiders. But if they wait until late in the draft, as they did recently for Brandon Myers, then they might be surprised what they can get from Lee Smith of Marshall. He’ll likely fall into that 6th round, 7th round, possibly undrafted portion of the draft.

He’s almost the stereotypical third tight end. He’s got the strength and grit you look for in a good blocker, but also has the natural hands of an underneath/outlet type of tight end for the offense. He won’t be lighting up any scoreboards or taking any big gainers to the house for touchdowns, but at times all you need is a first down and I think Smith can give that to a team.

Offensive Lineman — Ryan Bartholomew — Syracuse

I can’t leave this conversation without talking about this year’s workout warrior on the offensive line. Bartholomew ran a 4.89 forty and racked up 34 bench press reps. He is not even projected to be a top ten center in this draft, but he surely got Al Davis’ attention with his stats.
   

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