Making The Case For Some Sleepers

Texas Tech SAF Cody Davis is one of the biggest sleepers in this safety class (Photo: US Presswire)

By Evan Brennan

In the legal field, stereotypical and in reality, one sees an attorney advocate the merits of a client’s position to a court. This normally is done after research into the past, present, and likely future predicament that said client could find themselves in, with or without the desired action of a court.

Here, this writer will make his case on behalf of a few players that are not likely to be on too many draft boards, but probably should be upon a closer examination.

#1 Texas Tech SS, Cody Davis, 6’1”, 204 LBS

Davis is a highly decorated safety that played against a number of talented offenses (Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, etc.) in the Big 12.  He recorded 362 career tackles while at Texas Tech, and had 4 interceptions. In terms of his Pro Day numbers, here is how he stacks up against a few prospects that are considered to go before him:

Davis beats all of them across the board in every event with the exception of the bench, which is not as important to a safety as it may be with other positions. Some may point to the fact that his 40 time was unofficial, and the others were NFL Combine times, which are laser timed. Ok, fine. Assuming that Davis’s 40 time is slightly inaccurate, the only one who has a legitimate gripe about this is Shawn Williams of Alabama. All others are still likely much slower than Davis. Vertical, an important explosion-measuring tool, check. Broad, another, check. L-Drill, shows agility and change of direction, no question better. Short shuttle is another one in which Davis completely pulls away from the rest. So why is he so far behind these guys?

“But anyone can be a workout warrior,” one may say. Well let’s take a look at on-the-field stats in 2012.

 

Name

School

Height

Weight

Tackles

Ints

PD

Cody Davis

TX Tech

6’1

204

101

3

7

Matt Elam

Florida

5’10

208

76

4

5

Jonathan Cyprien

FIU

6’0

217

93

4

5

Shawn Williams

Georgia

6’0

213

99

0

4

Robert Lester

Alabama

6’1

220

53

4

2

Davis certainly has a great edge in production in several of these categories with a weaker supporting cast when compared to these other star safeties.

“Well, maybe his film is not good, that’s why.” This writer will let you be the judge of that yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Wo-suc–4

Once again, it is apparent that Cody Davis is at least on par with all of these other safeties in terms of production and measurables. The argument is not that he is better, but at least deserves the same respect that these other players are getting. There are other, tougher to judge items, such as technique, that teams will debate on that will ultimately affect his and all other’s draft stocks. But Davis is someone to watch for sure on your draft board, as this writer suspects that teams will come around to him.

#2 Northwestern, DT, Brian Arnfelt, 6’4, 305 LBS

Defensive tackles, dependent on the system, are tough to evaluate to the untrained eye. Their roles maybe thankless and when executed perfectly may provide opportunities for others rather than themselves, or they may be the featured player of attack on an opposing offense. 

Brian Arnfelt missed a large part of his junior campaign with various foot injuries. The Wildcat D gave up 177.31 yards in 2011. With Arnfelt fully healthy in 2012, that rushing defense plummeted to only 127.62 yards per game, an enormous 50-yard difference in his presence.  Fairness dictates that other players such as MLB David Nwabuisi had a large role in that improvement, but Arnfelt’s role cannot be understated, especially given the physical stats that he flashed at his Pro Day.


Looking at these numbers, Arnfelt overall, put up an impressive workout. He ties Star and Margus Hunt for best numbers at the NFL Combine in the 225 bench press (Star did not workout at the Combine). His 40 time is clearly better than all on this list be at least a .10 of a second. His vertical is 2
nd only to Richardson, and his short shuttle is second only to Lotulelei. His broad is also only 2nd to Richardson. The only real area in which anyone of these tackles can claim superiority to him is in L-Drill, and then Lotuelei is right there with him too.

But let’s look at the stats and compare: Arnfelt as a run-stuffing DL has the same amount of sacks as Floyd, and Richardson only had 1 more. Richardson also had the same amount of pass breakups that Arnfelt did as well. Lotuelei definitely had the edge in sacks by 4 and tackles by a wide margin, but his role from film was dependent on him covering up youth at MLB in Utah’s scheme.

Once again, the case is not that Arnfelt is not better than these players, but that looking that he needs more respect then he is being showed on draft boards, given his production, his measureables, and his importance to a team’s overall performance.

#3 UNLV LB/FB John Lotulelei, 5’11” 233 LBS

UNLV’s Lotuelei, unlike many others on this list did not play in a major conference (MWC), nor was his team even a decent team within that smaller conference (6-32 over last 3 years). Despite not having exceptional size, exposure, or team success, Lotulelei has nonetheless succeeded on the field. He recorded an amazing 121 tackles his senior year, more than Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Oregon’s Kiko Alonso, Florida’s John Bostic, Rutgers’s Steve Beauharnais, and North Carolina’s Kevin Riddick. Lotuelei had 9.2 tackles per game, and has a 19-tackle performance against Nevada.

Unlike many on this list, Lotulelei was invited to the NFL Combine, but a rather shocking invite to the majority who had not adequately scouted him. There he recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump, the best among ILBs, while only Beauharnais and Te’o, of the previous list were within range of him at 33 inches. He also ran a 6.91 L-Drill, beating both Bostic and Beauharnais again by several tenths of a second.

At his pro day, he ran a 4.65 40 and had a 10’2” broad jump, very good numbers for a an ILB. If he is beating other top round ILBs in terms of on-the-field production with a much weaker supporting staff, and beating them in individual measureables, is the fact that he is an inch or two shorter than them the sole reason why he is not being discussed with them? If so, a team in the later rounds will be very happy that he is still around.

#4 Utah P Sean Sellwood, 6’3” 203 LBS

This year, there are a number of punters who may be considered for the exceptional status of being drafted in this year’s NFL Draft. Last year, Jacksonville drafted Brian Anger of Cal in the third round. This year is no different, as there are a number of highly qualified punters who have shined throughout their careers, possibly to be considered to play in the NFL. One such punter that very few are talking about is Utah’s Sean Sellwood. Who?

Sellwood is a South African national who moved to the Salt Lake City in high school. Sellwood was a 2nd team All-Pac 12 punter this year, and a CBSSPorts.com Midseason All-American. But again, despite this, he is a talent that kicks in relative anonymity, or at least is not talked about much outside of Salt Lake City. But that is changing and here’s why:

 

Name School Punting Avg
Ryan Allen

LA Tech

48.4

Riley Stephenson

BYU

47.31

Sean Sellwood

Utah

46.5

Shown above are the leaders in punting average with leader Ryan Allen also winning the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter. Stephenson, Sellwood’s instate rival, was an All-American as second on this list. Other punters, such as LSU’s Brad Wing, Idaho’s Patrick Cowan, UCLA’s Jeff Locke, Arizona State’s Josh Hubner (curiously 1st team All-Pac 12 in front of Sellwood), all finished behind Sellwood in average punting, and continue to be talked as potential draft picks above Sellwood. Not that Sellwood should be considered better than these fine punters, but that the lack of at least equal attention is startling.

Perhaps a cogent and very applicable argument for many of these punters, especially Hubner, is the fact that Sellwood only attempted 38 punts on the year and split time with Aussie sophomore sky punt specialist, Tom Hackett. Such a finding may provide, therefore, some justification as to why he did not receive the same accolades as they did. No disrespect to Mr. Hackett and his abilities, but it remains nonetheless a curious move by the Utah coaching staff to go to such a system, given that a punter the caliber of Sellwood would be purposefully limited in an unorthodox manner by his coaches. 

To add to the bizarreness of this, Sellwood, very early in the year had 6 punts in one game go over 50 yards, and 526 yards total during game versus Utah State. Sellwood is also 3 for 3 in his career on pass attempts on fake punts and threw for a touchdown; an interesting stat that also shows his versatility and athleticism. He also served in a unique role as the team’s holder on PATs and field goal attempts, not usually a role reserved for a punter.

Sellwood, repeatedly on Twitter, has mentioned workouts by various teams, evidence that word about him is getting out.

Overall, while certain players continue to get great media coverage and promotion, there are players such as those featured here that teams will find and sign or draft. Teams, through their due diligence, scouting, interview processes, and other methods uncover gems such as these players may be year after year, despite their perceived lack of media coverage or promotion. 

 

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