Richner: Draft Sleepers

Last Updated: 1/18/2015 8:58 PM ET
Utilizing our unique, objective approach to player projections and development, PredictionMachine.com presents its 2014 NFL Draft content, including a Seven Round Mock Draft, Position-by-Position Reports, Statistical Breakdowns and Future Projections for all prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. New this year is the NFL Draft Machine for customizable mock drafts and comprehensive draft evaluation. All NFL Draft Content is FREE from PredictionMachine.com's Paul Bessire and John Ewing as well as NFL Draft Expert Matt Richner.

The teams that win consistently and continue to develop well-built and deep rosters are the teams that are able to select players in the later rounds that other teams miss. Most of these players are overlooked because they lack some physical quality such as being too small, not fast enough or they don't have the one physical trait that will separate themselves from the other players in their own position group. Most players who are drafted in the later rounds who go on to have successful pro careers were actually pretty dominant players in college.

The ability to find valuable and consistent performers in the later rounds of the NFL Draft can be the reason a team goes from an underperforming team who misses the playoffs, to a championship caliber franchise.

The Seattle Seahawks, this past year's Super Bowl winner, had 23 undrafted free agents on their roster, which proved that value can be found in the later rounds and immediately following the draft with priority free agent signings.

Below is a short profile on some players who haven't gotten the publicity that they should, but could turn out to be the hidden gems that your favorite franchise needs to help them win a Super Bowl

Storm Johnson (RB, University of Central Florida): Johnson's former teammate, Blake Bortles, has been getting a lot of
pre-draft publicity with talk of him being the top overall pick. Johnson was one of the main reasons for Central Florida's success last season. A bigger back at 6'0” and 209 pounds, he runs with an upright running style, similar to a Jamaal Charles. Going into last season, he only had 626 career rushing yards. In 2013 he rushed for 1,139 yards on 213 carries, an average of 5.4 YPC, and 14 TDs.

Ball security can be an issue for Storm Johnson. He had six fumbles last season, a rate of 2.8 percent of his total touches. As a late round prospect, he will most likely find a spot on a team's roster and he has the potential to develop into a quality starting tailback in the NFL.

James White (RB, Wisconsin): James White, while surrounded by exceptional talent, has the skill set to be a difference-maker in the NFL. He has phenomenal speed and the ability to quickly get to the corner and upfield into the second level.
He finished his career ranked fourth all-time at Wisconsin with 4,015 rushing yards on 643 carries, an average of 6.2 YPC, and 45 rushing touchdowns. White's smaller stature, at 5'9” and 204 pounds, allows him to hide behind his line making it difficult for defenders to find him.

David Fales (QB, San Jose State): The fifth ranked quarterback on my draft board who has precision accuracy and the ability to drop the ball into severely tight windows, Fales had a completion rate of 68.1 percent. He is not afraid to go down the field with the football and came in second amongst all draft-eligible quarterbacks with an 8.94 yards-per-attempt average.
He is suited to play in a West Coast offense, similar to Alex Smith who has excelled in recent years in that style of offense. Fales could be a real steal for the right team if someone is able to spend the time and effort it takes to groom him.

Crockett Gillmore (TE, Colorado State): Limited to only 37 games at the tight end position, Gillmore, who started his career as a defensive end, has the size and speed to be a nice developmental type prospect for most NFL teams. At 6'6” and 260 pounds, he has the strength to line up inline and become a valuable blocking tight.

For his career, Gillmore had 111 receptions, 1,308 yards, 11.8 YPC, 8 TD, and 57 first downs. While he might be limited in terms of route running ability, he could be a nice red zone target. Last season the Detroit Lions were able to get a steal when they signed Joseph Fauria as an undrafted free agent. Fauria was one of quarterback Matthew Stafford's favorite red zone targets and finished his rookie season with seven touchdown receptions. Gillmore has the ability to be a producer on special teams and in the red zone.

Jeff Janis (WR, Saginaw Valley State): A bigger wideout with impressive measurables, Janis is 6'3” and 220 pounds and is the type of large frame wideout that can quickly be any quarterback's best friend. Playing for a Division II school, Janis performed at a remarkably high level throughout his college career.

For his career he had 246 receptions, 4,305 receiving yards, 17.5 YPC, and 46 TD. He averaged a touchdown once every 5.4 receptions. Can his small school success translate to the NFL? Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz have shown that Division II and below wideouts can be successful in the NFL. Scouts have come away impressed with Janis' work ethic and attention to detail. He might take a season or two of development, but over time he has the abilities to develop into a solid wideout in the NFL.

Larry Webster (DE, Bloomsburg): Webster only played football for the past two seasons. Before that, he played basketball for three seasons at Bloomsburg. In his first season playing college football, he set the school record with 13.5 sacks. At 6'6” and 252 pounds, he has the frame most teams are looking for in an outside pass rusher and was one of the overall top performers from the defensive end positions at the NFL Combine.

For his career, he had 67.5 tackles, 31 TFL, 26 sacks, I INT, 4 PB, and 2 FF. Webster finished with the fourth highest average for rated impact plays per game in this year's draft class. He had a total of 64 career impact plays, an average of 2.67 impact plays per game.

He is still a raw player with only two seasons of experience, but the athletic ability and production are what you like to see out of a late round sleeper. In a couple of years, he could develop into a rotational pass rusher in the NFL.

James Morris (ILB, Iowa): The fifth rated linebacker on my board, Morris is a tackling machine who will add instant value to any club's special teams. He is an old school, run stuffing, physical presence whose play is rooted in being a fundamentally sound player.
While some scouts lament that he doesn't have the speed and will bite on fakes, Morris is a sound tackler and he only missed four tackles last season in 830 snaps. He was a team leader last season and led a defensive unit that ranked sixth in the country in overall team defense.

An impact player from day one, Morris can add tremendous depth to any team's linebacker unit and become a special teams mainstay for years to come. If he drops to the later rounds, he will be one of the better selections whenever he comes off the board.

Taylor Hart (DE/DT, Oregon): A tweener, Hart is bigger and a tad slower than ideal for the outside defensive in a 4-3 scheme, but not stout enough and/or strong enough to play inside at the defensive tackle position. He is best suited for the 3-4 defensive end position where he can utilize his massive frame at 6'6” and 281 pounds. He has length to hold blockers and can occupy space which will allow his teammates to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Athletically he is similar to current Denver Broncos defensive end, Derek Wolfe, who was also a bit of a tweener coming out a couple of seasons ago. Hart doesn't have the production that Wolfe had, but they are similar to each other athletically.
Hart had the fifth highest career total of 10 pass deflections amongst all draft eligible defensive ends in this year's draft class. While he won't become the pass rushing force of a J.J. Watt or Greg Hardy, Hart has the tools and ability to develop into a quality five-technique defensive end.

Pierre Desir (CB, Lindenwood): A small school defensive back, Pierre Desir is the type of athlete who has competed and dominated in just about every level of play during his entire college career. A bigger, physical defensive back, Desir showed that while he played at a smaller school, he was just as good as anyone else on that field during the Senior Bowl.
At 6'1” and 198 pounds, Desir was one of the top performers at the NFL Combine amongst defensive backs. Physically he compares to Richard Sherman and Aqib Talib. With his sheer size and athletic ability, he can match up with just about anyone.
Desir had 34 pass deflections and 13 interceptions during his career at Lindenwood. With a total of 83.5 impact plays and an average of 2.98 impact plays per game, it makes you wonder why opposing quarterbacks would even throw in his direction.

He is a long and lanky defensive back who can cover ground and press at the line and who will be in hot demand if he falls to the third day of the draft. If a team will give him a chance, they will be rewarded with the next shutdown corner.
Most of these players are going to be mid to late round draft selections, a few could even slide out of the draft all together. The successful teams can overlook a player who is a half inch too short or a tenth of a second too slow in his forty-time. The best indicator of future success is past performance. All of these players have shown the consistent ability to be productive over an extended period of time during their college careers.

They might not steal the headlines following the draft, but in time, a few late round draft picks and priority free agents will eventually become starters and key contributors across the NFL.