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#pounditSunday, January 24, 2021

10 late-round NFL Draft sleepers to watch for on Day 3

Bryce Love

The first two legs (rounds 1-3) of the 2019 NFL Draft are in the books and over 100 players have been selected. Even though many of the best players from the college ranks are already gone, that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent left entering Day 3. Teams will be picking during the 4th-7th rounds looking to hit a home run. Some of these guys could step in and start for their teams, and a few might even develop into Pro Bowlers or better.

The draft becomes a bit of a craps shoot at a certain point, but there are definitely sleepers littered throughout. We will do our best to identify them.

Here’s a look at 10 late-round sleepers.

10. Cameron Smith, LB, USC

Smith caught the attention of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick this offseason for his high football IQ and all-around smarts. That savvy nature has been what defined Smith for a long time and will go a long way for him at the next level. However, there are some question about his physical traits, and his film didn’t exactly blow the doors off of anyone. Still, having a keen eye and a quick mental process at the inside linebacker position is a luxury, and someone is going to look at Smith as a low-risk, high-reward sort of project.

9. Ryan Pope, OT, San Diego State

At 6-foot-7, 315 pounds with 35 1/4-inch arms, Pope is a massive human being who should catch everyone’s eye, both figuratively and literally. Perhaps more than that, he’s a viciously mean offensive tackle who prefers to bury his opponents — something that will appeal to old school coaches and coordinators. And while Pope does need quite a bit of developmental work, his size and ability to play both tackle positions is going to intrigue more than a handful.

8. Donald Parham, TE, Stetson

Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez set the pace for basketball players turned tight ends, and the NFL has been obsessed with recreating their success ever since. Enter another basketball convert, Donald Parham. At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds with length and athleticism, Parham has the structure NFL teams and their scouts are looking for. However, like most converts, he’s as raw as it comes and needs quite a bit of development — perhaps a few years. That’s a tall order for any team, especially with roster space at a premium, but the potential upside will be too much for someone to resist.

7. Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington

Burr-Kirven lacks size, athleticism and length, but makes up for it with heart, desire and deceptive speed. His 4.56 40-yard time wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye in comparison to this year’s crop of linebackers, but it was still in the 88th percentile of combine linebackers over the past 20 years. Above all else, Burr-Kirven a Rudy-esque player who refuses to be told no and you can see it on the field. He would fit in with a heavy nickel defense where he’s able to make plays in space.

6. Ulysees Gilbert III, LB, Akron

Gilbert belongs on this list for his name alone. But beyond that, he’s a sub-4.50 linebacker with top-tier instincts who recorded 353 tackles and 28.5 tackles for loss in 50 career games. The problem? He’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and 229 pounds, which would have killed any chance he had at the NFL a decade ago. Luckily for Gilbert however, the game is evolving and as offenses become more open and speed-based, defenses are forced to adjust with speed at the linebacker position.

5. Justin Hollins, EDGE, Oregon

Hollins has continued his development at Oregon and shows obvious signs of being an ascending player. He’s big, fast, athletic and has tremendous football instincts. He sports a non-stop motor and solid ups when necessary. The downside? Hollins has no defined role entering the NFL and projects out to anything from a SAM linebacker to a strict third-down pass rush specialist. That’s what makes him a sleeper — there’s just a lot left to be determined. But at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and with all of the aforementioned skills, he’s going to find an opportunity to continue his development somewhere.

4. Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern

Clayton Thorson’s father was a sleeper of Mel Kiper Jr. in the 1990 NFL Draft, and here his son is being listed on my sleepers list. Those two things are obviousl impressive. Thorson had a breakout campaign in 2016 but hasn’t been able to recreate that magic since, which is why he has wide-ranging draft projections. However, he does sport good size and fundamentals, and is very capable of going through his reads cleanly and quickly. With a good frame and at least some film that shows him at his best, some team will take a flier on Thorson and hope to recreate his previous success.

3. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Love is an intriguing prospect with a good skill set, but his draft value has been all over the board. As recently as last September, some across the football landscape wondered if he was in line to be a Round 1 pick. However, after tearing his ACL in Stanford’s final regular season, he’s slipped down the boards in a hurry. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Love lit up college football in 2017, rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Love could serve as a change-of-pace back at the next level at the very least.

2. Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Morgan is an interesting prospect. He feels like a player who deserves much more early-round consideration than he’s been given, but that’s before you realize he doesn’t even have any late-round hype. He’s improved his production over each year of his college career, finishing the 2018 season with 70 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Most impressively, Morgan is fearless over the middle and will go up for contested balls even if a big hit is coming. Coupled with his skill, that sort of mindset will sell at least one decision-maker.

1. Hjalte Froholdt, OL, Arkansas

At 6-foot-5 and 306 pounds, Froholdt is a bit light to play along the offensive interior, which is one of the reasons why he makes a Day 3 sleeper list. That, of course, can be easily corrected in the NFL’s strength and conditioning program. Coupled with his impressive athleticism, the potential to add size makes Froholdt a intriguing potential prospect, especially when considering most 53-man rosters carry between eight and nine offensive linemen. And if you need to be further sold on Froholdt, go watch the game film from his Quinnen Williams matchup this past season.

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