Every season, players improve their draft stock throughout the year, and identifying these NFL Draft sleepers is always a fun exercise during the summer. Trying to predict success with minimal indications (using only a player’s talent and the situation they’re in) is extremely difficult but a good way to judge evaluation skills. So, I’m going to give one player at every position that I believe can dramatically improve their draft stock with one more college football season.
2021 NFL Draft sleepers
QB: Myles Brennan, LSU
The heir apparent to Joe Burrow, Myles Brennan will be the starter for an explosive and talented LSU offense. It’s just not likely that Brennan produces near the level Burrow did last year.
However, as a player that’s currently commonly projected as a late-day three selection, Brennan has quite the opportunity to make some noise. Brennan is a former four-star prospect who is entering his fourth season with the Tigers.
He possesses the requisite size and arm talent to be a productive NFL quarterback, and he’s in an offense that possesses an elite receiving corps. Expect Brennan to be very productive, his great opportunity at LSU is what makes him my QB sleeper for the 2021 NFL Draft.
RB: Nakia Watson, Wisconsin
A former four-star recruit, Nakia Watson has diligently waited behind Wisconsin legend and the NCAA’s sixth all-time leading rusher Jonathan Taylor. Watson saw limited action last year, only 74 total rushes, but he turned those opportunities in 331 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Watson is a massive running back at 5’11 and 229 pounds. He’s very difficult to tackle head-on and his vision is another strength. He’s not an elite athlete and lacks a great second gear. However, in Wisconsin’s system expect Watson to be one of the nation’s most productive rushers. If Watson can replace Taylor and produce 80% of what Taylor did, expect Watson to be at worst a second-day pick.
WR: Frank Darby, Arizona State
Here is one of my favorite under the radar prospects in the entire 2021 NFL Draft class. Frank Darby is an explosive athlete with a decent frame at 6’1. For his career, he averages over 20 yards a reception, and he’s finally WR1 on an Arizona State team that has produced back to back first-round selections.
Darby spent last season developing a rapport with freshman phenom quarterback Jayden Daniels. Darby’s explosiveness is an NFL translatable skill, and he’s a threat with the ball in his hands. He has some work to do as a route technician, but his physical upside and natural vertical separation is enough for me to bet on him.
TE: Nick Muse, South Carolina
After transferring to South Carolina last year, Nick Muse flashed in limited time. Muse suffered a knee injury that prematurely ended his season, but I think he can have a big year for the Gamecocks.
Muse has good size, soft hands, and very impressive athletic ability. He can make plays after the catch, and profiles as a natural seam buster. Even if Muse is under-utilized this season, I think he has a very good chance of outplaying his draft position. Currently, on very few radars, Muse has been my top sleeper for the tight end position.
OL: Jack Anderson, Texas Tech
Someone I have yet to see get any attention is Texas Tech guard Jack Anderson. Anderson plays with natural strength and a high motor. He’s above average as both a run blocker and pass protector. He’s not a great athlete and still has room to develop his down to down consistency and technical abilities. Anderson reminds me a bit of Jonah Jackson coming out of Ohio State last year. He’s not quite there in his development, but the natural power and attitude draw many similarities.
DL: Jordan Davis, Georgia
One of my personal favorite watches among the defensive line this summer, Jordan Davis was a wrecking ball on the Georgia defensive line. Davis is massive at 6’5 and 330 pounds. His natural play strength is some of the best in the nation. I believe he possesses more pass rush upside than he’s displayed, and he’s at worst an elite run defender with five to six sack upside in the NFL. Expect Davis to be one of the SEC’s top defensive lineman this year, which will naturally raise his draft stock.
EDGE: Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Arguably the best player on this list, Jayson Oweh also possesses the most upside on this entire list. He possesses some of the most impressive physical tools in the nation. He has elite length with his 6’5 frame. Expect him to be one of the most impressive combine performances in recent memory. Oweh has been held back by the talent of Penn State’s defensive ends, but now he’s the full-time starter and I expect some major numbers from him this season.
LB: Kuony Deng, California
One of the most interesting body types in the 2021 NFL Draft class, Kuony Deng’s height and length make him look more like a small forward than a linebacker. He clogs passing lanes and makes plays from sideline to sideline. Deng produced 116 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and eight pass deflections. Not talked about nearly as much as he should be, Deng is one of my personal favorite NFL Draft sleepers.
DB: TJ Carter, Memphis
TJ Carter shot onto the scene as a true freshman, he registered five interceptions, 16 pass deflections, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. With decent size and athletic ability, Carter has an alpha mentality and is willing to take on any challenge. Last year he took a step back in his forced turnovers, but if he can find the same success he had early in his career, he’ll be a very promising draft prospect.