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Draft Sleepers Who can Make an Impact Offensively as 2015 NFL Rookies

Updated on January 22, 2015

NFL Draft 2015

Donte Moncrief has been an impact rookie for the Colts recently after being drafted in the third round.
Donte Moncrief has been an impact rookie for the Colts recently after being drafted in the third round. | Source

Tight end's go unnoticed with great receiver class

In an upcoming draft class that does feature some significant offensive line talent, the focus of NFL fans will be on the impact offensive talent that is taken from the 2015 draft. The 2014 NFL draft class featured a great class of wide receivers where impact talent was taken in the latter half of the draft. The 2015 draft class again should produce significant impact talent at the wide receiver position, but impact talent from other skill positions may be the story of this draft class. The running back class presents teams with an interesting opportunity to add impact talent since teams are no longer prioritizing the running back position in the first round. The tight ends that have declared for this draft are the most intriguing class of players however, even though it is just the top tier that could make a significant impact. A look at what at the various different players who may be available to teams after the first round, will present a better idea of the impact talent that teams may be able to acquire at a bargain rate in this year's NFL draft.

Impact players in the red zone

In a league where offense has the advantage, the only point on the field where defense regains the advantage is in the red zone. Teams will be looking to get to that next level offensively by bringing in players who allow them to have success even when the defense has less space that they have to defend. This draft class features multiple players who can get the job done in the red zone at the tight end position, all of which are not projected to get drafted in the first round. All of the tight ends in this draft class are average to below average height, but great leaping ability and athleticism should allow them to become big red zone threats for their NFL teams in 2015.

Maxx Williams - Minnesota Gophers

Position: Tight End

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 250 lbs.

Maxx Williams is the top tight end prospect in the draft class, but early indications are that he is not likely to be picked in the first round. Williams possesses above average speed for the tight end position, that should allow him to give linebackers trouble in coverage at the next level. Even with average height at the tight end position, Williams has the size and leaping ability to go up and attack the football when being covered downfield by a safety. His quickness in and out of cuts allows him to create separation in the middle of the field when he runs a route that breaks off a vertical stem. Williams is not likely to be the next Gronkowski, Antonio Gates or Julius Thomas, but his talent should allow him to be an impact player at the tight end position. His blocking ability, mobility and athleticism should allow his ceiling to be close to what Jason Witten was able to produce as a red zone threat in his prime years. Below is a highlight video from the Gophers bowl game that shows Williams' talent put on display all in one play.

NFL Draft 2015

Will Maxx Williams be an impact player in the 2015 NFL season?

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Clive Walford - Miami Hurricanes

Position: Tight End

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 258 lbs.

As a player that is similar in size and speed to Maxx Williams, Clive Walford possesses some similar characteristics that make him one of the top tight ends in the 2015 draft class. Despite some issues with catching the football, Walford's height and length allow him to make some extremely difficult catches. If Walford continues to progress to the point where his skills are sharp enough to make all the routine catches, he could become a star at the next level due to his ability to make tough catches. Walford's length makes him a fantastic red zone target even though he is only average height in the NFL at the tight end position. His speed will allow him to create separation on deep routes in the middle of the field, but his route running underneath is still somewhat of a work in progress. Walford's exceptional strength allows him to outmuscle defenders for the football when he is targeted on a jump ball near the linebacker level of an opposing secondary. This attribute also helps him gain yardage after the catch, as he packs enough of a punch on contact to consistently gain extra yardage after first contact. As a former high school basketball player, Walford will always be compared to Julius Thomas and Antonio Gates at the NFL level. That is probably the best case scenario for the senior out of Miami, who could make an impact in his first year in the NFL even though there are areas of his game that he could still improve.

Devin Funchess - Michigan Wolverines

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 230 lbs.

Playing without a quarterback who fits a pro style offense for all of his career at Michigan, may have hurt Funchess's production at the wide receiver position. The lack of eye popping numbers at University of Michigan may be just what teams need in order to be able to select Funchess as a sleeper pick after the first round. With a forty yard dash time unofficially at a 4.33 seconds, Funchess has all the tools to be a great player at the next level. This big wide receiver is a fantastic red zone threat with the speed to beat defenders out of his break, and the ability to go up and attack the football at the highest possible point. Funchess has the strength and physicality to fight through press coverage, along with athleticism to make plays on poorly thrown passes. As a big target who is a deep threat, Funchess possesses a rare combination of skills that should make him a huge asset to whatever NFL team decides to draft him. The former tight end is very familiar with blocking in the running game and quick screen games, so he is a player that can be on the field every down for his offense. Below is a short highlight reel that puts on display all of the skills that Funchess was able to demonstrate in his three years as a wide receiver for Michigan.

Other impact skill players

With the draft sleepers among the players who project to be significant red zone targets already being highlighted, the focus shifts to a different category of impact player. These players also project as every down players who can make an impact offensively early on for the teams that draft them. Some of these players may become number one receivers and featured running backs at the next level, but limitations in size or development currently have them under the radar. With the tight end position being the focus of the previous segment, the focus now shifts most to the running back and wide receivers who are among the players eligible for the upcoming draft. With teams now realizing that featured running backs have a much shorter playing career than most other skill positions, the draft priority has shifted to the point where most running backs are selected after the second round. This means there are some significant sleeper players available at the running back position for teams in need of bolstering their running games.

Source

T.J. Yeldon - Alabama Crimson Tide

Position: Running Back

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 221 lbs.

Yeldon is a pretty well known player to NCAA football fans after being a star player for Alabama the past three seasons. As a big back with solid speed and the ability to change direction quickly, he is a player who would be welcomed by many teams as a feature back in their offenses. As the best player among the second tier of running backs in this draft, Yeldon is not likely to be selected before the third round of the draft. This provides teams with very good value as they will look for him to either be their primary back or a complementary running back who gets significant playing time in his rookie season. Yeldon's development as a pass protector and pass catcher in the screen game allow him to be an every down back in the NFL. Whatever Yeldon's role is as a rookie in the NFL, he will be able to carry the load in between the tackles. He also has skills that should translate into make you miss ability on the perimeter at the next level.

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Karlos Williams

Position: Running Back

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 225 lbs.

Karlos Williams possesses many of the same skills that T.J. Yeldon has put on display in college, but that was not enough to prevent him from losing his job to freshmen Dalvin Cook in 2014. For this reason and the lack of overall playing time that Williams saw at Florida State, makes him a prospect that is likely to be taken in the final three rounds of the NFL draft. Teams will be getting a bargain in Karlos Williams, as he is an effective pass catcher who also runs the ball hard in between the tackles. Above average speed allows Williams to explode into the secondary whenever he finds a crease, and he uses his size to gain yardage after contact on a regular basis. While Williams is not likely to earn a starting job in the NFL as a rookie, he should display enough talent to earn the touches that will allow him to make an impact. After scoring 11 touchdowns in both seasons that he played for Florida State, he has proven to be a great short yardage option. Teams may not know it yet, but Karlos Williams has the opportunity to become the running back of the future for one lucky NFL franchise.

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Tyler Lockett

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 5'11"

Weight: 175 lbs.

Tyler Lockett has been one of the most productive receivers in NCAA football over the last two seasons, as a big play threat who welcomes the role of moving the chains with third down targets. Lockett possesses above average speed to make him a downfield pass catching threat, but he is not likely to blow the top off a defense consistently. Lockett has shown versatility as a punter return in his college career, which makes him even more valuable to whichever team decides to draft him. As a consistent player who takes pride in his route running, there will always be room for players like him in the NFL. Lockett regularly demonstrates a willingness to go get the football, and the body control to make catches on back shoulder throws. For a player without a significantly large catch radius, Lockett finds a way to haul in a high percentage of the passes thrown his way.

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Phillip Dorsett

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 5'10"

Weight: 195 lbs.

Dorsett fits the mold of the typical deep threat receiver that some NFL teams really covet. Dorsett's game is all about his speed, with his forty yard dash time rumored to be at 4.21 seconds. He has some experience returning punts and is a decent route runner, but it is his elite speed that will make a place for him on NFL rosters. Unlike other small and quick receivers that have come before him, Dorsett has some size at 195 pounds. This allows him to break tackles in the open field when he is able to leverage them into glancing blows. Throughout his career with the Miami Hurricanes, Dorsett was able to create huge plays once he had the ball in his hands. This will not change at the NFL level where Dorsett's speed is unlikely to go into a slump. As a player who could be picked in the fourth round or later, Dorsett should provide some NFL team with huge value when they draft him.

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Jamison Crowder

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 5'9"

Weight: 175 lbs.

Crowder has a chance to be the biggest steal of the upcoming draft with his size pushing his likely draft status to the fifth or sixth round. As one of the most productive receivers in NCAA football each of the past three seasons, Jamison Crowder has proved that he can make plays with the best of them. There is a precedent for receivers his size having success in the NFL, as T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts has seen his career get off to a flying start at almost the same exact height and weight as Crowder. Crowder possesses above average speed that makes him a legitimate deep threat entering the NFL draft. He also does a great job of adjusting to and catching the passes thrown his way despite his lack of height. Crowder regularly puts on display the quickness in and out of cuts needed to create separation at the NFL level. His quickness and work ethic have allowed him to become a polished route runner who should be ready to contribute in his rookie season regardless of what round he is drafted.

Conclusion

Featured here are a list of players who have put spectacular talent on display, but most of them are viewed as not good enough to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams is the most likely of the above mentioned players to have his draft status elevated into the first round with a good showing at the combine. However, based on what teams choose to prioritize, tight ends may have to wait until the middle rounds to come off the board. This list of players gives a strong preview of what the upcoming draft could add to your favorite NFL teams even after the biggest names have come off the board. The past two years have shown that there are plenty of impact skill players to be found after the first round is complete, and the 2015 NFL draft will not prove to be an exception to that recent trend.

Feel free to comment about these players or any other offensive playmakers that you think could be huge value picks in the 2015 NFL draft.

NFL Draft 2015

Which of the above mentioned players will have the best rookie season in 2015?

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Comment Section

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    • profile image

      Tom Brady 19 months ago

      I think Phillip Dorsett stinks

    • Ty Tayzlor profile image

      TT 2 years ago from Anywhere

      I love the ability of Jamison Crowder. He reminds me a little bit of Antonio Brown. His versatility could be huge if the right team gets him

    • Josh Ruga profile image
      Author

      Joshua Ruga 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Completely agree. He does not have the catching radius of some of the other guys in this draft class, but he is absolutely dynamite in the open field. He runs great routes as well.

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