It’s widely known that Kyler Murray is the likely No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, and Alabama’s Quinnen Williams are all becoming household names as they look to be drafted in the top 10. What about some of those lesser-known prospects? The unfamiliar? For every Murray, there are always guys like Carson Wentz and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Who are this year’s sleepers?
Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion Old Dominion is far from a football power and has only been an FBS program since 2014. The upstart program pulled off a stunning upset of Virginia Tech last year and part of the reason was their 6-3, 255-pound defensive end Oshane Ximines. With 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, Ximines put himself on the NFL’s radar. At the combine, he ran 4.78 in the 40-yard dash and appears to be a second or third-day pick. Extremely coachable, Ximines could be the draft’s most underrated pass rusher.
Ulysees Gilbert III, LB, Akron In today’s age of spreading the field on offense, faster and more athletic linebackers are needed on almost every down. Gilbert, who played in every game of his college career, is that type of linebacker. At 6-0 and 230 pounds, Gilbert runs under 4.5 in the 40. He was a two-time All-MAC selection that had 353 career tackles and 28.5 tackles for loss. He’s a likely third-day selection, but his skill set belongs in the NFL.
Ryan Pope, OT, San Diego State An athletic 6-7 and 315 pounds, Pope was not highly recruited out of high school. He went to Long Beach City College before winding up at San Diego State. Pope’s versatility will get him drafted just not among the top offensive linemen in the draft. He has started at both right and left tackle and has massive potential. He has 35-⅛-inch arms and huge (11-⅛ inches) hands. Pope is an outstanding run blocker that was part of an Aztec offensive line that blocked for Donnel Pumphrey (third in FBS history in rushing yards) and Rashaad Penny, who rushed for 2,248 yards in 2017.
Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor If the name sounds familiar, that is because Hurd was a starting running back for Tennessee not too long ago. Hurd left the Vols with one year of eligibility left to play for head coach Matt Rhule at Baylor. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Hurd has great size and can create some mismatches against smaller corners. He runs in the 4.5 range in the 40 and was Baylor’s leading receiver last year with 69 catches for 946 yards. Hurd will need to become a more fluid route runner, but all the skills are there.
Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts With his blistering 40 at the NFL Combine, Isabella might not be considered a sleeper anymore. Isabella turned plenty of heads with his 4.31 40 at the combine. A Biletnikoff Award finalist, Isabella caught 102 passes for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. He’ll be a second or third-day pick because of his size – 5-9 and 188 pounds.
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware Adderley had just one FBS offer out of high school – Wake Forest – and wound up at Delaware where he was a four-year starter at safety. He amassed 226 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and 11 interceptions in earning All-CAA honors three times. At 6-0 and 200 pounds, Adderley is a unique blend of size and speed and has the ability to play either cornerback or safety.
Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan Bunting might be the most underrated corner in the draft. At a shade over 6-feet and 195 pounds, Bunting has the speed and athleticism that makes for a long career in the NFL. He ran 4.42 in the 40 and recorded an amazing 41.5-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine. Bunting excels in man coverage and will solid Day 3 draft pick up for some lucky NFL franchise.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.