2017 NFL Draft Sleepers: Cornerback Edition

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With the 2017 NFL Draft just around the corner, the Green Bay Packers now stand to address some weaknesses. Free agency season has felt more like open Season to Packers fans. The top three needs have been to shore up the running back, corner back and outside linebacker positions. Although recent signings have alleviated some of the issues, they far from fix them all. The Packers will pick 29th in each round. At that point, quite a few of the top prospects they would ideally have liked to pick will already have been snapped up by other teams. But what about the diamonds in the rough? Let’s take a look at the sleepers in the 2017 draft.

2017 NFL Draft Sleepers: Cornerback Edition

To address the need for a cornerback, Green Bay may want to take a serious look at Lamar’s Brendan Langley and/or San Diego State’s Damontae Kazee. Both players impressed at the Senior Bowl, and both hail from small schools. In 2016, Brendan Langley led the Southland Conference with six interceptions. He logged 43 tackles and returned two touchdowns. His weaknesses were mainly things like on occasion failing to hit and lift opponents and missing arm tackles. Kazee, on the other hand, was the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year two years running. Like Langley, he’s a player with balance, and who can change direction easily. He can perhaps be described as lighter on his feet than Langley, and although as athletic, Kazee is more compact. His weaknesses include a lack of ability to accelerate quickly, and he has been known to be tricked by double moves.

Flash and Awe?

Kazee weighs in at 184 pounds and stands at 5’10”. In combination with the somewhat shorter arms, this means that he may not be the ideal size for the position. 17 recorded interceptions in four years at SDSU is nothing to sneeze at, though, and neither is six forced fumbles. In addition, Kazee has started for SDSU all four years, and been a great playmaker for the team. He displays an impressive field vision, and his ability to anticipate routes is good for a college player. Despite these stats, he is not well known outside of his own conference, and must be considered a sleeper. It would be interesting to see what the Green Bay coaching staff could do with this young player. He looks good on paper and is entertaining – exciting even – to watch. A bit of flash and awe perhaps, for Green Bay?

The Athletic Sleeper

At 6’0″ and with 199 pounds of nicely distributed brawn, Brendan Langley looks like a cornerback. At the Senior Bowl, he showed good ability to shadow receivers, and looked quick, balanced, and changed direction swiftly. The ability to accelerate on a dime also impressed. Langley started his college career at Georgia. However, the Bulldogs seemed unable to figure out the optimal position for him. They shuttled him between the cornerback and wide receiver positions. This led to few games as a starter for Langley, who transferred to Lamar in search of more playing time. It was there that he began to start as a cornerback on a regular basis. It is also fair to say that Langley has been an excellent punt returner.

Raw Material

The shuttling between positions has led to Langley being described as “raw”. In Langley’s case, however, “raw” can be read as malleable. For a team like Green bay, whose brand has become synonymous with “homegrown,” raw can be a good thing. Langley’s weaknesses seem to stem from issues with form and technique. That’s something for the coaches not just to address, but also to work with. They can shape and coach a player like Langley. That’s exactly the kind of talent Green Bay likes to grow. What cannot be taught is the kind of athleticism that this player displays. That’s good “raw” material for coaches. Also in Langley’s favour, Green Bay has used several players to return punts. This includes Micah Hyde, who recently signed with the Buffalo Bills. Langley could arguably fill Hyde’s shoes in that regard.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Coaches

We can be reasonably sure that the Green Bay organization already knows which players they would like to draft. There is, however, no accounting for that wrench that sometimes gets thrown into the plans of mice and men. That’s when sleepers get a chance. Being a sleeper doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a flawed player. It can just as easily mean that someone hasn’t received deserved attention because he’s is from a small school. It can mean a player was shifted from one spot to another because he’s talented in more than one slot. In Langley’s case, both apply. For Kazee, only the former. Whether these players sign with Green Bay or another team, they will likely get a (deserved) shot at the NFL.