In the recent weeks, there have been a lot of questions about who are my value picks in the 2016 NFL Draft class. A value or sleeper prospect is basically a player who gets drafted after the first round and proves to be a steal. The second day of the draft is where the men are separated from the boys among NFL general managers. All the players have strengths and flaws, but the top evaluators find future starters and team building blocks on Day 2. Every year, I pick my favorite second-day value. Here is my record.
2008 Pick: Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech 2009 Pick: Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss 2010 Pick: Brian Price, DT, UCLA and Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida 2011 Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia 2012 Pick: Derek Wolfe, DL, Cincinnati 2013 Pick: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky 2014 Pick: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU 2015 Pick: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M and Ronald Darby, CB Florida State 2016 Pick: Jaylon Smith, LB Notre Dame and Sheldon Day, DT Notre Dame
Overall, this list is very strong with the one exception being Brian Price. Unfortunately, family tragedies robbed him of being able to put an NFL career together. Flowers has had a Pro Bowl career. Wallace has been a good pro receiver and helped get the Steelers to a Super Bowl. Houston is a pass-rushing terror for the Chiefs, while Warford is one of the best young guards in the NFL. Warford has been better than top-10 picks at guard in the same draft class, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. Hill flashed as a rookie and could be in store for some good years.
Last year, I went with Cedric Ogbuehi with Ronald Darby being my backup. Since Ogbuehi was selected in the first round, he doesn't count for the long-term track record. Darby had a strong rookie year for Buffalo and looks like he'll have a very good NFL career.
Here is a breakdown of a sleeper prospect at each position for the 2016 NFL Draft class. All the players will be prospects who are going on the second or third day of the 2016 NFL Draft. If a player is a possible late first-round pick, I don't include him as an option.
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
I had a really hard time choosing between Hackenberg and Cardale Jones. I could see either being a steal. I went with Hackenberg because Jones is such an unknown commodity with only 11 starts in his career.
Hackenberg is a difficult evaluation in his own right. He has a good arm with size and field vision to work though his progressions. In every game, Hackenberg would make beautiful throws deep downfield into tight windows that beat good coverage. Unfortunately for him, a lot of those impressive throws were dropped by inadequate receivers. As a pro, Hackenberg has the arm talent to be a dangerous quarterback who can make money throws.
There also are a lot of flaws to Hackenberg. His accuracy is inconsistent, and he missed badly on far too many routine completions. Hackenberg has a habit of overthrows on check downs to the flat. In the pocket, he is a statue who can get rattled by the rush. The steady pass rush bearing down on Hackenberg at Penn State caused him to make some bad decisions. That was an issue as a sophomore especially, and he did show improvement at avoiding interceptions as a junior.
If Hackenberg goes to a good coaching staff and he learns well behind a veteran, he has enough arm talent and the physical skill set to turn into something. Of the second-day quarterbacks, I think Hackenberg could end up being better than Jones, Connor Cook and Dak Prescott.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
The 6-foot, 220-pound Prosise has a surprising burst to go along with having good size for a NFL running back. He hits the hole quickly and runs with vision and balance. For the NFL, Prosise needs to improve his ball security and I'd like him to run with more of a mean streak. He could stand to be more physical and use his size to get yards after contact. Prosise has experience as a wide receiver, and I think he could be a very good receiving back in the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised if Prosise is a David Johnson-type back at the next leve.
2015 Pick: T.J. Yeldon 2014 Pick: Jeremy Hill
Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
Like last year, there weren't a lot of options to pick from at tight end. Arkansas' Hunter Henry could go in the first round, and the makes this an easy choice with Hooper. Hooper looks like a future three-down starter. He has the skill set to be a dangerous receiver down the seam and in the red zone like he was in college. Hooper has the quickness to get downfield and is too fast for your average linebacker to run with. He has excellent hands and is very skilled at going up high to make receptions over defensive backs. Even though he isn't the biggest of tight ends, he has good body control and uses his size well to shield the ball from defenders to make receptions. Hooper runs good routes, is smart to find the soft spots in zone, and is a smooth athlete. He should be a real asset in the NFL in the red zone.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
For the NFL, Boyd is a well-balanced receiver. He isn't a burner, but has enough speed to get separation with a burst to rip off yards after the catch. He is a quick route-runner who gets space from cornerbacks coming out of his breaks. Boyd is a physical runner and is dangerous after the catch. He tracks the bell extremely well, makes acrobatic catches and out-fights defensive backs for 50-50 balls. Generally, Boyd has reliable hands, too.
Overall, Boyd is an underrated prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft class. He could end up being a really nice value pick on the second day. Boyd could be a very good No. 2 receiver, and it wouldn't surprise me if he exceeds expectations in the NFL. He is a pure football player who could be a nice chain-moving weapon.
2015 Pick: Justin Hardy 2014 Pick: Jared Abbrederis
Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame
Alabama center Ryan Kelly could go in the first round, but I like Martin just as much. Martin looks like he could be a quick contributor at the next level and enters the NFL with good technique. He has good hand placement, balance and knee bend, plus he can anchor. Martin is quick to the second level in the ground game and effective on screens. He has the mobility and athleticism for a zone- or man-blocking scheme. Notre Dame ran some plays of both with a favor toward zone over the years. Martin could stand to add some power to anchor against heavy bull rushers in the NFL. He may not have the frame to get much bigger, so he would be better off helping on double teams rather than going one-on-one against speed rushers or heavy nose tackles. I think that Martin could be a very good late second-rounder or early third-rounder who turns into a 10-year starter.
Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
From a skill-set perspective, Clark has everything that a NFL team looks for in a left tackle. He has quick feet with athleticism and agility to mirror speed rushers. With his long arms, Clark can be hard for defenders to get around. He also has enough natural strength to get movement in the ground game. Clark would fit well in a zone-blocking scheme as he has the athletic ability to move well in space. As a pro, Clark's career depends on him landing with good coaches and his being dedicated to working hard at getting better. In speaking with sources, they say that Clark is all potential. He has the quickness, size, length, strength and athleticism that teams want in a starting left tackle. They feel that he also has talent to be a good left tackle as a pro. I agree with those points, and if Clark lands with the right team and he works hard to be the best he can be, he could turn into a Pro Bowler.
2015 Pick: Cedric Ogbuehi 2014 Pick: Antonio Richardson