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The NFL Draft is almost never won in the first three rounds. Sure, drafting your franchise quarterback in round one is immensely important to a team. Yet, as we all know, drafting elite players in the first round alone typically doesn’t lead a team to the Super Bowl.
Finding and then developing good players on day three is extremely crucial to team building. In this article, we’ll dive in and look at five sleepers from the draft – five players who can become solid contributors for their new teams and outperform where they were drafted.
Round 4, Pick 112 – WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
In year one, St. Brown could eventually become the lead dog for the Lions. St. Brown will immediately fill in as the slot receiver in Detroit, a role in the offense that QB Jared Goff looks at quite often.
My comp for St. Brown is Robert Woods. Athletically speaking, the comparison is on point. St. Brown has great discipline to his route running and tracks the ball very well. He’s a high-floor receiver who does a lot of things well enough to be a very productive player in the NFL.
It’s not often that a fourth-round rookie wide receiver steps into an offense as a potential focal point, yet St. Brown could see that opportunity in Detroit.
Round 4, Pick 115 – LB Jabril Cox, Dallas Cowboys
Jabril Cox slid down the draft board farther than many excepted. There were injury concerns with Cox as well as questions about role in a defense as some teams believed he’s best suited as a third-down only linebacker.
Cox is a dangerous defender in zone coverage. He might be the best instinctive linebacker to come out of this draft class. Even in a situational role in Dallas, Cox can be an immediate contributor on that defense in need of playmakers.
Don’t be shocked when Cox leads all rookie linebackers in interceptions this coming season.
Round 5, Pick 158 – DT Daviyon Nixon, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers nailed this draft, and selecting Daviyon Nixon in the fifth round is one of the many reasons why.
Nixon is a good run-defender who has shown flashes at Iowa of having upside as a developing pass-rusher. Nixon flashed active hands and moves extremely for his size. If he can become more consistent at the next level, he has long-term starting potential.
With his size and athletic ability, Nixon will play a lot of defensive snaps for the Panthers. In Carolina’s multiple front defense, Nixon might surprise some people with solid production in year one.
Round 6, Pick 223 – CB Tay Gowan, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals needed to fill a hole at the cornerback position in this draft class. Many believe they would address the position early on, but they did not. The Cardinals drafted Florida’s Marco Wilson in the fourth-round and later selected UCF’s Tay Gowan in round six.
Tay Gowan is a tall lean cornerback with excellent man coverage ability. The lack of tape is most likely one of the main reasons he wasn’t selected much earlier in the draft.
Gowan has the length and speed that translates well at the NFL level. He still has to work on building up his strength, and his technique can sometimes be inconsistent, yet his upside as a sixth-round pick is tremendous.
Round 7, Pick 231 – OT Larnel Coleman, Miami Dolphins
I’ve written about Larnel Coleman quite a bit after I had the opportunity to sit down with and chat with him last month. Coleman has massive upside to develop into a starter at either offensive tackle or guard, in the NFL.
His length and athleticism at the position are what truly stands out with Coleman.
It may take some time, but if Coleman can continue to develop his hand placement and overall technique, he could have a long successful career in the NFL.
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