The NFL Draft is filled with sleepers and value. This is one of the better draft classes that I have scouted, especially at WR, RB, CB, OL, and QB. Not only is the top-level talent some of the best in the past few years, but the depth at each position is some of the best that we’ve seen in 10+ years.
While I could choose 10+ players to put on my list, I chose these two because I simply do not believe that they are talked about enough. Each one of these guys can be ridiculously good values, especially if they go to the right coaching staff. While I am not going to guarantee these guys as stars in the NFL, they have some of the best potentials out of the real “sleepers” that are going under the radar in this year’s draft class.
Patrick Jones II
EDGE – Pittsburgh
Patrick Jones is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end, coming out of Pittsburgh. He was a redshirt senior who sits at 6’4 261 pounds. I fell in love watching Patrick Jones’ tape because he did so many things that you want to see out of your 4-3 end in college.
First of all, the negatives, the big knocks on him are consistently the fact that he needs more counter moves, more explosiveness, and better hands. I can agree with the last point about his hand fighting, and this is something that a good coach will be able to teach Jones and really turn him into a starter. However, while his counter-moves could improve, I do not think that he is behind many of the guys projected to go in front of him in terms of that ability. Nor do I believe that his explosiveness at the point of attack is an issue at all.
Patrick Jones did a fantastic job of setting the edge, and watching games in the 2020 season you could see that teams literally would just not run to his side of the ball. If they did, it was an attempted trick play or a double team coming Jones’ way. I think that Jones, at times, tried to get fancy and do too much because he wanted to help his team out as the offense would always run away from him. However, when the ball came to his side, he did everything I wanted to see in terms of power and setting the edge.
Yes, his pass rush moves could get better, but Patrick Jones recorded 9.0 sacks in 11 games and had many, many near sacks. I charted 3 near sacks in his game against Miami, two of which could have been fumbles. If anything, I think that Jones needs to work on finishing the pressure and wrapping up that QB.
With the right coach, Patrick Jones could be a top-15 4-3 defensive end by the end of 2022, no question. I would absolutely love Jones to go to my Vikings, where Andre Patterson could coach him up. We have seen Patterson turn guys like Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter into absolute stars when they lasted until the 3rd and 4th rounds in the NFL draft. Patrick Jones can be another one of these elite defensive edges if he gets that kind of coaching.
CB – Syracuse
Ifeatu Melifonwu is not getting nearly the amount of buzz that he deserves in the draft community. The redshirt junior is 6’2½, 212 pounds, and has a wingspan of 80 ⅛“. Whether it is press-man, zone, soft man, I do not care, as I think that Melifonwu can most likely start in your scheme.
The main negatives about Melifonuwu are speed and acceleration. He’s not particularly slow but may be below average, especially on his backpedal. There were times where his closing speed on a ball was just not what I wanted it to be.
However, guess what? He still got a hand to it because his wingspan is ridiculous. Melifonwu, time and time again, was able to get a hand to the ball and disrupt passes because he puts on a clinic on how to use your arms and hands in pass defending. When pressing, you can see that Melifonwu also knows how to use his hands and strength to absolutely blow guys off the line, something I think can translate to the NFL level, despite the receivers being bigger and stronger.
I actually really love his zone coverage ability as I believe Melifonwu could have easily been a safety. I do think he is most valuable as a CB, especially since he already knows the position. However, his physicality and size really bode well for a zone scheme.
Another plus that I do not put a ton of stock in while scouting CBs is his tackling. However, it is always nice to have CB who is willing to go in there and get a tackle. This is a trait that coaches love because it shows character and helps them just a bit when scheming.
This is another prospect that just needs the correct coaching. Physically, he has everything I would want out of a corner. His strength, his size, his wingspan are all outstanding, and his speed and acceleration are good enough to be a top-level NFL cornerback. He just needs to refine his pressing, refine his coverage skills to get to that 1st-round CB level. However, with such small improvements needed, I see him as a steal in the projected rounds that he is mocked in, the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.