With the 2020 NFL Draft approaching, it is prime season for mock drafts and big boards. While these are always a blast to come up with, every year there are prospects who get pigeonholed into rounds and rankings that are lower than where they should be.
Whether it be poor combines, a lack of exposure or scouts and pundits’ misinterpretation of where value lies, diamonds in the rough get overlooked every draft season.
We’ve already covered defensive sleepers, so now let’s look at quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends.
CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Undrafted
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: 20th-ranked QB
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Not listed in top 100
Where I value him: Late fourth/Early fifth-rounder
This was by far the hardest position for me to come up with a sleeper for. Not only is quarterback the most valuable position in the league, but it’s also one where players are easily overvalued by scouts/media.
This is a QB class with only two first-round quality guys, in my opinion, in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. And they’re pretty much mocked as top-10 guys across the board.
There are a ton of overrated QBs in this class, like Jordan Love and Justin Herbert, but every time I found one who I thought might be underrated, I’d go look at big boards and he’d be ranked even higher than I would’ve had him. I initially was going to go with Jacob Eason here, but it turns out he’s not really undervalued as far as basic mocks and big boards go.
With that being said, I settled on Tyler Huntley as the closest thing to a QB sleeper in this top-heavy class.
The way Huntley plays quarterback isn’t necessarily flashy, but he’s smart, accurate and efficient. With his added running ability, I think he’s at least a backup-level guy in the league, but with a fringe-starter ceiling.
Huntley’s calling cards include his refusal to turn the ball over, accuracy at all levels of the field and mobility.
He is a good decision-maker, who rarely puts the ball in harms way. His interception totals have decreased every year of his college career: throwing 10 as a sophomore, six as a junior and four as a senior.
And it’s not like he’s getting lucky with defenders dropping picks left and right. He is just that accurate and frugal.
This starts with ability to read defenses and consistently make the right throw.
Watch how he quickly reads through all four routes before making a decision on where to place the ball. This type of play style translates well to a west coast offense in the NFL.
My favorite trait that Huntley possesses is his accuracy. He ranked numero uno in the country in adjusted completion percentage in 2019, at 82.6 percent, which is the highest number Pro Football Focus has recorded since Robert Griffin III in 2011.
This wasn’t achieved by repeatedly checking the ball down, either. His 9.9 yards per attempt ranked eighth in the country, and he averaged a higher depth of target than Justin Herbert.
His willingness to take chances in the middle of the field on intermediate-level throws is encouraging, considering the lack of risky ones yielded on such plays.
His accuracy and anticipation on throws in the intermediate level of the field is very translatable to the NFL.
While Huntley doesn’t showcase the strongest arm you’ll see, he still produced on throws 20+ yards downfield, with a decent adjusted completion percentage of 50.0 and a 112.7 passer rating on such passes.
If the Patriots wait until Day 3 to draft a QB, Utah's Tyler Huntley is an under-the-radar guy who could be worth a look. Led the nation in adj. comp% last season, per @PFF. Great under pressure (10.9 YPA). Smart with the ball (4 INTs in 300 attempts). Extremely elusive. pic.twitter.com/XQSCSnBNaL— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) April 5, 2020
Huntley is also a rather shifty guy. He wasn’t invited to the combine (which is dumb), but his pro day numbers were more than impressive.
Pro Day Numbers:— IG: @SleeperAthletes (@SleeperAth1etes) April 1, 2020
School: #Utah #Utes
QB Tyler Huntley (@_SNOOP1)
Height: 6'1” 3/4
Broad Jump: 10’8.5
3-cone drill: 6.84#BrowardCounty pic.twitter.com/22aGjdlv2f
He ran for 1,543 yards and 15 TDs in his three years as a starter, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. The Utes ran a good bit of read-option with Huntley and Zack Moss, due to his ability to make something happen as a keeper.
Those aren’t staggering career numbers, but considering how well he uses his mobility to maneuver his way through pressure, it’s definitely a plus.
Huntley was largely unfazed by pressure in college, throwing for the fourth-most yards in the country when pressured.
He uses his athleticism to his advantage when needed, but he’s a pass-first QB. If no one is open, he’ll survey his options and tuck it to run.
Huntley may not be the most exciting prospect, but you have to love the way he plays. He was an overqualified game-manager at Utah, which you could look at as a negative, but considering a game-manager role would likely be what he is at the NFL level, I look at it as a positive.
He can come be my backup quarterback any day of the week, and maybe he develops into a starter in the meantime.
CBS Sports Position Rank: Sixth-ranked RB
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: Sixth-ranked RB
Tankathon Position Rank: Sixth-ranked RB
Where I value him: Third-ranked RB
Yet another Ute makes the sleeper list so far, which makes three, including cornerback Jaylon Johnson. What do people have against Utah?
I used position rank, as opposed to round value, when it comes to running backs, because where I value running backs differs from most big boards. Positional rank seemed to more accurately convey the difference in player analysis among all of the class.
At a position like running back, where much of the success is dependent on the play of the offensive line, you’re looking for a guy who can hit the holes when they’re there and make people miss when it’s not.
While he might not be the fastest RB in the draft, Zack Moss does both of those things at arguably the highest level of anyone in this RB class.
Moss was the highest graded running back in the country in 2019, according to PFF, with a 91.5 overall grade. He racked up 1412 rushing yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and eluded the second-highest amount of tackles in the country, with a whopping 89 avoided tackles.
Moss has some good hips for a 223 pound guy. And considering he’s only 5-foot-9, that’s a compact human being.
He has the ability run through defenders attempting arm tackles, with strong, churning legs.
But unlike a player like A.J. Dillon, he’s not seeking out contact on runs. He uses his power when necessary, but his forte is eluding defenders with swift cuts and spin moves.
Moss was basically the backbone of his offense at Utah, which featured him a ton in a run-heavy approach. While he was a workhorse back, he carried his weight in the passing game.
A solid receiver, Moss caught over 90 % of his 31 targets, dropping only one pass in 2019. He averaged 13.8 yards per reception, despite catching a good bit of balls near the line of scrimmage.
Similar to a guy Saints fans might be familiar with in Alvin Kamara, Moss often makes the first defender miss in open space after the catch.
“Zack Moss isn’t a good receiver”— Michelle Magdziuk (@BallBlastEm) April 8, 2020
“Zack Moss can’t create his own plays”
“Zack Moss isn’t fast enough to beat defenders for long runs”
They are all haters... go prove them wrong, my friend. pic.twitter.com/28WolR5A23
He’s got some developing to do as a route-runner before he splits outside and starts running option routes, but he’s a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield.
One aspect that is very important to Saints head coach Sean Payton, when it comes to running back prospects, is pass-protection. In nearly 400 pass-blocking snaps throughout his college career, Moss only allowed 16 hurries.
A solid pass-protector when called to do so, Moss looks to be a certified three-down back.
His athleticism might not blow you away, as he ran a mere 4.65 40-yard dash and ranked in the 34th percentile in the vertical jump. However, Moss checks pretty much every box when it comes to production at the position.
He should be one of the first three running backs selected in the 2020 draft.
CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Mid third-rounder
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Big Board Rank: Second-ranked tight end
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Late third-rounder
Where I value him: Late second/early third-rounder
Complete tight ends in this draft are few and far between. To find one, I had to search all the way to Dayton University, where Adam Trautman absolutely dominated competition.
Typically, I don’t put as much stock into the Senior Bowl as I do the entirety of a player’s college career, as that’s where you’ll find stability and a larger sample size. But with a player like Trautman who was playing such weak competition, his productive Senior Bowl outing was huge.
The 6-foot-6 255 pounder racked up 916 yards and 14 TDs as a senior at Dayton. He was the only NCAA tight end with double-digit touchdowns, and he ranked second among tight end in yards.
Easily the highest PFF-graded tight end, with a 94.2 overall grade, his collegiate production was never in question. But when he lit up the Senior Bowl, that opened the eyes of scouts.
Dayton TE Adam Trautman had a great week of Senior Bowl practice pic.twitter.com/F3QZDxuWRd— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 25, 2020
Trautman more than held his own in Mobile, Alabama, shaking linebackers and safeties on nasty routes. This largely confirms what we saw on the field in 2019.
He tied for sixth in yards per route run among tight ends with fellow tight end prospect Hunter Bryant, at 2.71.
Trautman’s ability to get in and out of breaks on his routes is what really intrigues me. He recorded a 6.78 three-cone drill, which was by far the best among tight ends at the combine (the only one under 7.0), and was in the 97th percentile.
That level of change-of-direction abilities are quite rare for a man of his stature. Being able to bend, dip and cut like that at 6-foot-6 is not even fair.
Watch this corner-post against Jacksonville, where the defense is attempting to double-team him.
He gets the safety’s hips turned on the out-fake, then quickly dips back inside for the grab, before carrying the two defenders into the end zone. Big man can move.
Add this to the fact that he’s a contested catch monster, and you’ve got yourself a hell of a receiver.
Not to mention, he was an absolute mauler in the run game at Dayton. And if you’re asking yourself how much that means, relative to where he played, here’s one of his blocks in the Senior Bowl.
Dayton TE Adam Trautman has gotten a lot of buzz as a potential Patriots target this week. He just put a D-end on his first series in the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/NeofNOQEuG— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) January 25, 2020
You’re really not going to find many holes in Trautman’s game. He blocks well, runs good routes, catches the ball reliably and is great after the catch (12 eluded tackles in 2019 T-2nd most among FBS tight ends).
His only real competition for the label of the best tight end in this draft is with Hunter Bryant and Harrison Bryant, who are good players, but simply aren’t near as complete as Trautman.
Hunter Bryant is a good receiver, but is a liability in the run game. Harrison Bryant was very productive at FAU, but never ran very complex routes and had a ton of his production schemed up on hitches and out routes, probably due to his complete lack of agility (7.41 three-cone).
With the questions Trautman answered in the Senior Bowl, he’s moved his way up to damn-near my no. 1 tight end in the draft. It’s between he and Hunter Bryant, and it really just comes down to which style of tight end you prefer.
At the end of the day, if you want a do-it-all tight end on day two of the draft, look no further than Trautman. You won’t be disappointed.