Draft season is fully upon us. Now is the point where we all sit, covered in Cheetos dust, IVs of Redbull about to burst our veins, periodically tazing ourselves to “keep the sleep away” as we attempt to satiate our unending thirst for draft knowledge. Relationships end, jobs are lost, and health fades as we muster every last bit of strength within us to look at one more Schefter tweet – just in case that is the big one. The draft is an obsession. It separates the men from the boys and the sheep from the goats (a wise man I know used to say that, and I still have no idea what it means – seems fitting for draft season). No other topic so trivial, elicits as much idee fixe as the NFL Draft. I am one of the weak. One of the obsessed.
As a result, my job this week is to find one sleeper for each round of the draft. One player who others might look over who the Ravens could snatch, and turn into gold. This is my attempt at entering the pantheon of Greek mythology by becoming the modern day King Midas. This is easier said than done in the days of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper droning on ESPN for 23 hours a day. But, as in any Greek myth, I refuse to succumb to the hardships. I will put forth the select few who I think will succeed above all else.
Before I can disappoint you all, I must admit that some of my favorite draft prospects in the past include Tharold Simon, Matt Elam, and Terrence Cody. I am not one you should trust for draft knowledge, but I will do my best.
Will Hernandez (round 1)
Finding a first-round sleeper is a difficult endeavor. Every player is hyped up. It is hard to find a player that people are quiet on. One such player is Will Hernandez – a mountain of a man from UTEP. He is a true mauling guard in the mold of Larry Allen. That is as nice of a compliment I will give anyone – even if my wife did not appreciate it. Some will say he does not fit into zone schemes, but he compliments his wide frame with startlingly quick feet. The phrase dancing bear might come from watching Hernandez waltz away with a defensive lineman in his grasp. He is as graceful as a ballerina, but his power is anything but dancer-like. If he can stop hopping out of his stance he has the potential to be a special player in the league. The Ravens need another offensive lineman, but the first would be a little rich for them considering the success they have had developing later picks.
DJ Chark (round 2)
Ravens fans yearn for an exciting offense like Nikki Sixx yearns for smack. It is not unusual to see a Ravens fan, elastic band around their arm, sleeping on cardboard outside the Under Armour Performance Center begging Ozzie for their next fix. “Just one more” they beg, “one more receiver and I will be done for good.” We all know that last receiver never comes though. Boldin, Smith, Perriman, Maclin… the list never ends. Maybe Crabtree, Brown, and Snead will be enough to stop the shakes, but I doubt it. In that case, DJ Chark, another in a long list of wideouts from LSU, would be an interesting look. Chark, like all other LSU receivers, falls down draft boards because of disgusting quarterback play in Baton Rouge. Give Chark a semi-competent (Joe Flacco at least has to tick that box) quarterback and his skill and athleticism will shine. We are talking about a 6’3” receiver who ran a 4.34 40 yard dash, has a 40” vertical, and a 129” broad jump. He has deceiving double moves and would compliment Crabtree and Snead perfectly. If Chark had played for another team, with at least a semblance of quarterback I think he would be much higher on the board battling with Ridley and Moore for the first receiver off the board.
Alex Cappa (round 3)
If any one organization has a knack for finding small school studs, it is the Ravens. I can only hope they are smart enough to take the chance on Alex Cappa. The first time I saw Cappa on the field, I was not blown away. I expected a man, chiseled from marble, who single-handedly blocked entire teams while the ten other Troglodytes on his team did their best to not stick their keys into power outlets. I was wrong. He looked just like any other player on his team – and that isn’t a compliment. That was until the ball was snapped. Everything changed at that moment. My eyes widened. My dogs scurried at the THUMP my jaw made as it hit the floor. Cappa was the second coming. I think at some point their water bottles poured red as he turned what was once water in grape tinted goodness. I do not know if I have ever seen an offensive lineman that finishes in the same style as Cappa. He is nasty in the best way possible. I have been enamored with this player ever since. As long as he doesn’t befriend Judas he will have a long career in the NFL.
PJ Hall (round 4)
I am not sure how much of a sleeper PJ Hall is anymore. I stumbled upon him in pre-draft research, and was blown away. Here was a player with one offer out of high school, Sam Houston State, who stepped onto the field as a redshirt freshman and had 93 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception, and five blocked kicks. He finished his collegiate career with 42 sacks and 14 blocked kicks. For three of those seasons he was double or triple teamed every play. Although he was playing at a small school he was unstoppable – which is what you want from a small school prospect. PJ Hall would slide in perfectly as a DE for the Ravens. He measured 6’4”, weighs 300 pounds, benched 225 36 times, has a 38” vertical and runs a 4.76 40 yard dash. I cannot think of anything else to improve upon this player. I wouldn’t be disappointed if he was a second-round pick.
Frank Ginda (round 5)
If you have played any amount of amateur football in your life you know there is a pretty standard set of players. There are the athletic freaks. The fat kids that don’t have anything else going for them (guilty as charged). The guys too dumb to know any better. And the guy who does not look like they should be good, but somehow always find themselves at the right place at the right time. Frank Ginda from San Jose State is of the latter. No matter what, he is always on the ball. I think he would be especially great in Baltimore where he could fill the shoes of Zach Orr, as the off-ball backer who has a nose for the football. He could be the cleanup crew for Mosley. He led the nation in tackles per game at 13.3. He is a true junior who could have used another year in University, but his loss would be our gain as he could truly feature for us in the middle. As an added bonus, Ginda was Academic all-Mountain West every year he was on campus.
Bo Scarborough (round 6)
The Ravens have been searching for a running back ever since Ray Rice decided to go full Mike Tyson in that elevator. While we finally might have one in Alex Collins, I would love to hedge our bets and draft a little thunder to our lightning. That is where Bo Scarborough fits in. The number 16 overall prospect in the class of 2014 he is an athletic freak. He is big, fast, and powerful. Exactly what you want in a running back. He looks like the next Derrick Henry. That is until you see him run the ball. After a great Sophomore year, he struggled as a Junior in a loaded Tide backfield. If he can be brought in at the end of the game to finish teams off he could be a very effective running back. He could spell Collins at key moments and as long as we do not try to pass to him everything should go well. His biggest issue so far has been a spot on Boobie Miles impersonation – injuries and all.
Trey Johnson (round 7)
At this point in the draft anyone who looks good enough to be a star is gone. What is left is equivalent to that box of garbage at every garage sale that just says “FREE”. No one wants it, yet it will always get taken. I have wondered many times in my life, “Why would anyone want that junk. Something so terrible that people are too proud to even ask money for it as they sell all their useless garbage. This is the garbage of the garbage world.” That is what day three is to the draft. But with the draft, like with the garbage box at the garbage sale (Typo? Maybe not), there is the odd success story. Turn on the TV for second half hour of the local news to see the eccentric hoarder who flipped the free garbage they found for thousands of dollars on eBay. That is Tom Brady. It only happens once a century, but if you win that lottery you are set for years to come. The best way to ensure that you draft a successful prospect at this point is picking the freak athlete and hope you can teach him to play football (although no one else has yet). A player who has the athletic talents to be an NFL player is Trey Johnson. He ran a 4.33 40 yard dash, 4.20 short shuttle, a 36” vertical and a 128” broad jump. He also had 17 pass breakups last year to go with his blazing times. Trey is the type of player you want to give a chance at the end of the draft.