The 2018 NFL Draft is still nearly three months away, but the hype is already building. The 2018 class is strong in quarterbacks with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen to name a few. It is possible that as many as five quarterbacks are among the first ten selections when the draft gets underway April 26 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Most draft aficionados know Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, but there are plenty of draft-worthy candidates that the typical fan just doesn’t know yet. Here are a few of the best NFL draft sleepers that could climb up several teams’ draft boards with impressive combine and-or pro day performances.
RILEY FERGUSON, QB MEMPHIS
Ferguson quarterbacked one of the nation’s most prolific offenses over the past two seasons. Playing in the American Athletic Conference may have placed Ferguson under the radar, but NFL scouts surely know about the 6-3, 185-pounder who originally committed to Tennessee before taking a detour through Coffeyville Community College in Kansas to Memphis. He is a strong-armed gunslinger who completed 63 percent of his passes for nearly 8,000 yards, 70 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions in his two seasons as the Tigers starter. Ferguson could be a third-rounder but could fall into the sixth or even seventh rounds in a deep quarterback class.
KYLE LAULETTA, QB RICHMOND
Lauletta was the shining star at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The 6-3, 216-pound Richmond product completed 8-of-12 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. The knock on Lauletta, of course, is that he played his college football at the FCS level. Make no mistake, this guy can play. Yes, he played in a spread option attack and will need work with his footwork, but most guys coming out of college need the same help. He has a big-league arm and great head on his shoulders and should go somewhere between the third and fifth round.
JOHN KELLY, RB TENNESSEE
Kelly played behind Saints rookie star Alvin Kamara before bursting onto the Vols scene this season. He rushed 189 times for 778 yards and 9 touchdowns during what turned out to be a disastrous Tennessee season. Kelly is sturdy at 5-9 and 205 pounds and, like Kamara, he is a threat as a pass receiver and he can block. Kelly was the best player on a Tennessee offense that was not very good in 2017. He should be a late round draft pick.
D.J. MOORE, WR MARYLAND
Moore was well off the radar at Maryland where he caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns. He is 5-11, 215 pounds and with an outstanding combine or pro day could vault himself into a possible first day selection. Moore is big, fast, and catches everything. A sub-4.5 40-yard dash will move him into the first-day discussion. Still, he is a likely Round 2 or 3 choice.
CHUKWUMA OKORAFOR, OT WESTERN MICHIGAN
NFL offensive line coaches and offensive coordinators love big, athletic left tackles. Okorafor is likely the best of the bunch but played in the confines of the MAC at Western Michigan. When coaches talk big, they are talking about Okorafor who stands 6-6 and weighs in at 330 pounds. He is athletic, has a great first step, and is equally adept in pass protection or pulling and leading in the run game. Okorafor could be a first-round pick, but he could drop as low as the third round depending upon his combine and pro day stats.
MARCUS DAVENPORT, DE UTSA
The 6-7, 255-pound Davenport might be the draft’s most intriguing prospect. He is long, lean, and athletic coming off the edge. He turned heads at the Senior Bowl with his blend of size and speed. During the regular season, Davenport had 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss at UTSA. He is still kind of raw and with a few extra pounds could become a great one in the league. He’s worth of a second or third round pick right now and that could improve after the combine.
OLASUNKANMI ADENIYI, DE TOLEDO
If there is a player that can really improve his stock at the combine, it is Adeniyi. He is the prototypical tweener that has made its mark in the NFL the last few years (think Hassan Reddick and Takk McKinley). The Toledo product is 6-2 and weighs just south of 250 pounds. He is quick, fast, and plays with great leverage. For the Rockets last year, Adeniyi recorded 20 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He’s still a late-round pick at this point, but could move up the boards by Day 1.
MIKE HUGHES, DB UCF
After a year at North Carolina, and another at Garden City Community College, Hughes landed on his feet at UCF. At 5-11, 191, Hughes can match up with most outside receivers and play outstanding man-to-man coverage. He was a JUCO All-American but only played one season at UCF. That will bring some questions, but Hughes has the talent to be a Day 1 or 2 pick.