As mentioned in Part One, this series is about sifting through the endless pile of names in the NFL draft pool and finding rusty gold that the other scouts miss. Much like picking, scouting has a lot to do with finding gems buried in junk. It's like rummaging through the old crap in your grandpa's barn and finding a rare coin in a trunk. The draft equivalent would be the L.A. Rams taking the great Deacon Jones in the 14th round in 1961. it's the kind of thing that can make or break a scout. Today, we examine a couple positions that have a history of late round and undrafted steals: tight end and wide receiver.
Nick Kasa/TE (Colorado)
6'6", 269. 40 Time: 4.71.
Kasa isn't necessarily an unknown, but despite being a good tight end class, there aren't a ton of sleepers people haven't heard of. Kasa, though, is a mid to late round guy who I could easily see starting at the pro level someday. He converted from defensive end to tight end for the 2012 season and stuck out on a Buffs teams that struggled. He has a big body suitable for blocking, but the athleticism and hand-eye coordination suitable for making catches. His issue will be the lack of experience at the position, but NFL coaching could turn him into a star.
Projected Round: 4th-6th
Here's some highlights of him in two Pac 12 matchups:
Nick Kasa vs Washington State & Arizona State (2012) (via Josh DB)
Zach Sudfeld/TE (Nevada)
6'7", 253. 40 Time: 4.79
There is a slew of 6th-7th round tight ends, so it is hard to find which ones will make the biggest splash on their new teams. Sudfeld is one who sticks out to me after watching a few Nevada games this season. He is the epitome of a reliable tight end target that makes a quarterback more comfortable. He has great hands and athleticism, but coming from the zany spread offense of Nevada where blocking was not his first priority, he will need to improve his strength. Overall, in an NFL training program, I think Sudfeld is a guy with tons of potential.
Projected Round: 6th-UFA
Here's a video someone put together of Sudfeld after his Mackey Award nomination.
Zach Sudfeld, All-American Candidate and John Mackey Award Semifinalist (via WolfPackAthletics)
Sam McGuffie/WR/RB/KR (Rice)
5'10", 200. 40 Time: 4.41.
If this name sounds familiar to you, you're probably right. McGuffie has had a winding path over the last few years. He was the high school kid from Texas who went viral on Youtube after being filmed insanely jumping over defender after defender with ease, helping re-popularize the open field vault move. He earned a scholarship to Michigan and got playing time as a freshman, then transferred to Rice to be closer to home. Despite being quiet, McGuffie and his versatility played a big role in helping to rejuvenate the wild Rice offense. After playing his primary position of running back, he was switched to slot receiver. His senior year, he caught 53 balls for 603 yards and played roles in the running and kick returns game as well. McGuffie is extremely versatile and athletic, and could turn into a huge steal for a team late or undrafted. Consider him a poor man's Tavon Austin for this draft.
Projected round: 7th-UFA
Here's his game film in his bowl game against Air Force, in which he had 5 catches for 80 yards.
Sam McGuffie vs Air Force (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Brandon Kaufman/WR (Eastern Washington)
6'5", 216. 40 Time: 4.60.
Kaufman is no stranger here, as I have written about him in a previous mock as a late option for the Rams. Kaufman is a huge, strong receiver with leaping ability and great hands. While he does not have elite speed, he can create enough separation that it evens out with his leaping ability. He had over 1,800 receiving yards in 2012. Entering the draft early was not the wisest decision for him, but all teams covet a receiver with his size in today's game. He reminds me very much of a guy like Marques Colston.
Projected Round: 5th-7th
Here are some highlights from his junior season:
Brandon Kaufman, WR, Eastern Washington University (via FosterAndEasley)
Courtney Gardner/WR (Sierra College)
6'3", 215. 40 Time: 4.4
Garnder is also not new to TST; someone made a fanpost on him recently, but he's worth repeating. His big frame is coupled by impressive speed (in track, he ran the 100 meter in 10.7 seconds). He has extremely quick feet and good hands as well. For these reasons, he has attracted significant buzz as a sleeper at wide receiver. If he's so talented, then why is he playing for Sierra Community College. Therein lies the rub. He was supposed to play at Oklahoma (and I believe maybe LSU at one point), but has had minor legal issues, and more prominently, really struggles in the classroom. His grade problems kept him from playing for the Sooners in the first place. He was supposed to play for them finally in 2013, but said the hell with it and opted to enter the draft. He may or may not get drafted, but with a team that likes to take chances on questionable characters, he could develop into a star.
Projected round: 6th-UFA.
The quality of the highlight reel is awful, but some of the things Gardner does to these poor CC defenders are just criminal.
Courtney Gardner (via courtney gardner)
Russell Shepard/WR (LSU)
6'1", 196. 40 Time: 4.46.
LSU players don't often qualify as sleepers, but I don't really know what to do with Russell Shepard, and it seems like most scouts don't either. Shepard was a highly touted quarterback recruit coming out of high school, but everyone knew he would have to change to receiver to play in the upper levels. Shepard is extremely physically gifted and has the versatility to do a ton of different things (he lined up in multiple positions on offense and played special teams as well as spot defense). His problem has always been, first of all, that he hasn't shown to particularly excel at any of them. He can run well, shake defenders well, catch well, and run routes fine, but isn't really excellent at any of them. On a stacked roster at LSU, it always seemed like there wa someone a little better than him on the depth chart, and he never got a ton of playing time. After the BCS loss to Alabama, he hinted at a transfer after seeing only 3 snaps, but Les Miles talked him into returning. Similarly, at his pro day, he did everything pretty well, but nothing was there to wow anyone. Still, with good coaching, I think the right team could get production out of him, whether it's at slot receiver or just special teams. With a low risk pick or a UFA signing, I think Shepard could be a nice little project for someone.
Projected round: 7th-UFA
Here's a highlight reel of some of Shepard's career:
Russell Shepard LSU Career Highlight (via LSUTigersFB .)
Jason Thompson/WR (New Haven)
6'3", 190. 40 Time: 4.55.
Playing at Division II New Haven, Thompson obviously hasn't gotten much press. However, over his four-year career, he has been lightning in a bottle for the Chargers. Tall and lanky but with good speed and hands, Thompson victimizes opposing defensive backs. He doesn't make it look painful like a Courtney Gardner, but his ability compared to the competition is made clear. In 2011, he caught 43 balls for 1,046 yards, averaging a ridiculous 24.3 YPC. He din't disappoint in 2012, catching 44 for 881, averaging 20 YPC once again. Hi catch totals would be higher, but he covers most of the field every time so often when he has the ball in his hands. The obvious question around a guy like Thompson is whether his film is an illusion due to level of competition. While that plays into it, I see a ton of potential in Thompson. His body control and the way he utilizes his superior size are rare for a guy in Division II. He will need to bulk up some to go up against NFL corners and safeties. He screams one of those guys who will probably not get drafted but can surprise in camp and find a home on a roster. At the very least, he could be valuable in red zone situations.
Projected Round: UFA.
Here is a nice highlight of his accomplished career.
Jason Thompson College Highlights (via 25reppindafork)
Thanks for the read, and hopefully you will continue to read this series. Part 3 will be coming in a couple days, where I will outline offensive and defensive linemen. Comments and discussion are always welcome.