Coming in at No. 199 overall, Tom Brady has become the poster boy for players who severely outplay their draft position. We call them “sleepers.”
The 2012 NFL draft features a bevy of players who may not be at Brady-like levels of sleeperdom, but they still have the tools to play higher than their draft stock would suggest.
Who are the top 10 sleepers in the 2012 NFL draft class? We’ve got you covered.
10. Bradie Ewing, Fullback, Wisconsin
Fullbacks are rarely drafted high, but you also don’t see many draft busts at fullback. It’s the nature of the beast, to some extent, but Wisconsin’s Bradie Ewing is his own kind of beast.
A versatile runner with good power between the tackles and nice range as a receiver out of the backfield, Ewing has the classic toughness of a mauler at the position but brings a new-age quickness and athleticism to the position.
Ewing may not be drafted until the fifth or sixth round, but he has legit Pro Bowl potential.
9. DeQuan Menzie, Cornerback, Alabama
Early in the 2011 college football season, one of our great readers told me that DeQuan Menzie was the best cornerback on the Alabama team—better than Dre Kirkpatrick, even.
I thought he was crazy. Today, I’m willing to gladly admit he was right.
Menzie is a better pure cornerback than Kirkpatrick, who looks more like a free safety lining up at cornerback. Add in Menzie’s quick feet and ability to stick receivers at the line of scrimmage, and you have a player who is ready to start in the NFL as a slot cornerback.
As teams move to more spread offenses with three and four wide receivers, having a dedicated cover man to take on the slot will be key.
Menzie has potential to be a stud in that role.
8. Kyle Wilber, Outside Linebacker, Wake Forest
A college defensive end who projects well as a convert to a stand-up position in a 3-4 defense, Kyle Wilber’s performance at the East-West Shrine Game put his name on the NFL draft community map.
Every year, there is at least one pass-rusher who no one expected to break out who does.
This year, that player could very well be Wilber, who has the quickness and natural strength to be a very good outside linebacker.
A leg injury suffered in his senior season is the only thing keeping Wilber from being a higher draft pick.
7. DeVier Posey, Wide Receiver, Penn State
You can barely call DeVier Posey a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes after he was suspended for 10 games during the 2011 season after being overpaid for work he did in the summer. Posey played in just three games this season.
When Posey was on the field, he was limited by inexperience and a coaching staff that seemed ready to pull him at any time. Posey didn’t follow that up well with a strong pre-draft performance in the Senior Bowl or combine.
What Posey does possess are strong hands and the frame to be a solid wide receiver off the line of scrimmage.
If he can get coached up a bit, Posey can be a starter from the late rounds of the 2012 draft.
6. Brandon Taylor, Strong Safety, LSU
Finding a hard-hitting safety who can line up off the tight end and make plays in both coverage and against the run isn’t easy.
Brandon Taylor makes it look much simpler than it is.
Taylor made a big impact every time he walked onto the field this year, including at the Senior Bowl, where he rocked receivers who dared come over the middle against his zone coverage.
Taylor isn’t afraid to hit, and he’s a clean tackler who won’t bring on the wrath of the NFL commissioner for hitting too high.
Taylor has game-changing ability to separate players from the ball. Don’t forget this name.
5. Lennon Creer, Running Back, Louisiana Tech
The comparison is almost too easy to make, but Lennon Creer reminds you of Arian Foster in many ways.
Former Tennessee running back who people overlooked? Yep.
Injury issues limiting his senior season? Check.
Potential late-round or undrafted running back with legit NFL skills? Spot on.
Creer is a big, strong runner who has to overcome some injury question marks, but he has the raw talent to be great if given a chance.
4. Austin Davis, Quarterback, Southern Miss
It wouldn’t be a complete list of draft sleepers without at least one quarterback. Austin Davis is our guy.
An underrated performer at the combine who got lost in the shuffle of the bigger-named players, Davis capped a solid career with good postseason performances in thepre-draft run-up.
Davis is a good athlete with dual-threat skills as a runner or passer and has the ability to throw well enough on the run to pressure defenses.
He needs help learning to anticipate routes and finding passing windows in the pocket, but the raw tools are there for Davis to be molded into a good quarterback.
3. Amini Silatolu, Guard, Midwestern State
Diehard draft fans may have heard of Amini Silatolu, but casual observers should take note. This big, powerful offensive guard is loved by those who have seen his game.
Silatolu has the raw power and quickness to become a Mike Iupati-like power guard. His power and drive at the point of impact are the best of any interior lineman in this year’s class.
Silatolu may have a funny-sounding name, and he certainly didn’t play at a major university, but he has big-time NFL talent.
2. Jake Bequette, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Arkansas
Jake Bequette has the strength and speed to play down on the defensive line as a defensive end, but he’s also nimble enough to stand up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
While many are touting Shea McClellin as a late riser at the position, keep an eye on Bequette.
His big body, strength and good feet have Bequette ready to be a starter in the NFL. Teams looking for a Brooks Reed-like steal in this year’s class will fall in love with the Arkansas defender.
1. Ron Brooks, Cornerback, LSU
If you are looking for a player who will be drafted outside the top 50, but could become an elite player down the road, Ron Brooks is your man.
Brooks was a No. 3 cornerback at LSU, playing mostly behind Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, but his talents cannot be ignored by NFL scouts.
Brooks has the speed, size and range to play in man coverage, but he’s silky smooth enough to flip and glide through zone cover alignments.
Go ahead and invest in Brooks. He’s a safe bet as a sleeper who could be an early Pro Bowler.
Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.