Don’t Call Them Sleepers (Part Two)

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: April 24, 2009

NFL Draft PHILADELPHIA — Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2008 NFL Draft over 70% of the players selected were from the six BCS Conferences — everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.

Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “Superstar in waiting” from a smaller school.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process. Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you. Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos on YouTube.

Some offensive “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft are:

DE/OLB Larry Sidbury, Richmond - The NFL is always looking for finishers on the defensive line and smaller schools have produced some of the NFL’s best (Richard Dent, Hugh Douglas, Robert Mathis and others). The small school speed rusher to watch in the 2009 NFL Draft is Larry Sidbury (6-foot-2, 265). A FCS All-American, Sidbury was a dominant pass rusher at FCS level and was practically unstoppable the past two seasons (seven 1/2 sacks in 2008 despite constant double teams). A high-motor speedy player, who reminds me of Eagles sackman Trent Cole. In the Spiders’ national championship victory over Montana, Sidbury was everywhere producing four sacks. 31 NFL teams attended Richmond’s Pro Day in person just to see this pass rushing specialist (bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times and jump 35 inches vertically). Sidbury produced a 4.57 in the forty at the NFL Scouting Combine.

DE/OLB Greg Miller, Villanova — A Philly suburbs native, who I have been following since high school. Miller (6-foot-3, 250) was a FCS second-team All-American and was a co-captain of the 2008 Wildcat squad that went 10-3 overall and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs. An intense outside linebacker/pass rusher, who can run plus hold up at the point of attack. In 13 games, Miller tallied 49 total tackles, a team-high 15 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles. Has a great burst off the edge and has a nose for the quarterback. Had his best game versus Richmond recording eight tackles, 2.5 quarterback sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

DE David Veikune, Hawaii — A high-motor defensive end, who knows how to finish once he gets to the quarterback. Veikune (6-foot-2, 257) will not quit against bigger players and will hustle until the whistle (25 tackles for loss and 16 sacks over the last two years). Had a solid Senior Bowl week, where he shined against bigger name competition in drills and in practice. Was solid at the NFL Combine showing good speed (4.79 in the forty) and strength (35 reps) while looking like a future pass-rushing specialist. Veikune is a versatile (lined-up at DE, DT, and OLB in college) and hard-worker type player, so some team will find a spot for him on special teams and on third downs rushing the passer.

DB Domonique Johnson, Jackson State — An extremely fast corner, who has the size and instincts to play safety in the NFL too. Johnson (6-foot-2, 200) maybe this year’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Arizona Cardinals) as he has been clocked at 4.40 in the forty. The All-SWAC performer originally played for Missouri, leaving for undisclosed reasons after the 2006 season. One of the best defensive backs in the upcoming NFL draft, Johnson finished his senior year with a team high four interceptions (returned one for a touchdown) and a league high 13 pass break-ups. Played in the 2009 Senior Bowl and also participated in the 2009 NFL Combine.

DB Gregory Toler, Saint Paul’s – Another candidate competing to be this year’s Rodgers-Cromartie. Toler is a big, fast, and physical corner who was a 2008 All-CIAA selection. Participated in the East Coast All Star game, Cactus Bowl, and NFL Combine after leading the CIAA with 6 INTs (ranked third in NCAA DII) and 19 passes defended. Toler (6-foot, 191, Sr.) has 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash and had 14 career interceptions in college. At Richmond’s Pro Day, Toler ran a 4.45 in the 40, jumped 33½-inch vertically, ran a 6.95 three-cone drill and did 13 bench press reps of 225 pounds.

DB Jabir Perkins, Texas A&M Kingsville – Perkins (6-foot, 200) is a combination safety, who is getting looks at SS and FS at the next level. Solidly built with an ability to excel in coverage and in run support. Though not invited to the bigger All Star-games or the NFL Combine, Perkins made the most of the Division IIA standout from the 2009 Cactus Bowl. At that games practices, Perkins flashed as he showed incredible speed (4.3 range) running downhill into plays. The LSC conference Defensive Back of the Year after recording five INTs, 61 TKLs, 2 FFs and a sack. Also will be able to help a team on special teams in the return game as he returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2008.

DB D.J. Clark, Idaho State — A second-team All-Big Sky Conference performer, who finished with 15 career interceptions (third in school history). Clark (6-foot-1, 200) had five interceptions in 2008 and was impressive at his school’s Pro Day running 4.52 in the forty, jumping 36 inches and 10-7 broad jumping.

DB E.J. Biggers, Western Michigan – Another surprising player who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. However scouts have started taking notice of Biggers (6-foot, 180) during visits with teams like the Chargers and Texans. A bigger cover corner, who reminds me some of Carolina Panthers DB Richard Marshall. Very good at jamming a receiver, turning, and running with them. Ran a 4.35 in the forty at his Pro Day Workout.

Utility player Dan Skuta, Grand Valley State – A player who does not have a “true” position, but he definitely is a very intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators. Skuta has been auditioning as a linebacker, fullback and tailback for teams around the NFL. With his size (6-foot-3, 252) and speed (4.72), I will project him as a pro outside linebacker. A tenacious player, who has a “Can Do” attitude and will really excel on special teams. At his Pro Day, registered a 4.72 in the 40, jumped 35 inches in the vertical, and produced 20 reps of 225 pounds.