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NFL Draft 2020: Top Late-Round Sleepers

Anthony McFarland Jr., Maryland
Everybody focuses on the first round of the NFL Draft every year, creating countless scenarios on how the 32 selections will play out. Obviously the first round is full of elite talent, but the organizations that really know how to succeed in the NFL are adept at finding value in the later rounds. There's a long list of guys in Rounds 4-7 who may get ignored in the grand scheme of the Draft, but will end up playing crucial snaps on Sundays. I decided to introduce my favorite late-round sleeper at each position as we slowly creep towards April's NFL Draft. It's hard to know exactly where these prospects will end up, but I feel as though they will make an impact.

Cole McDonald, Hawaii Projected Range: 5th-Undrafted
This is a strong quarterback class throughout, with elite potential at the top (Burrow & Tua) but also some interesting sleepers further down the board (Jalen Hurts). We could certainly see one or two of these sleepers make an impact on the next level, and there isn't one with the pure arm talent of Hawaii's Cole McDonald. Playing in an aggressive, vertical offense during his two seasons as starter, McDonald posted numbers of 8,010 yards and 69 touchdowns. He capped off his college career by torching BYU in last fall's Hawaii Bowl, with 493 yards and four touchdown passes. Now, obviously there are some major reservations about a guy like this. First off, he won't play in any NFL offense close to the one he played at Hawaii. With the Rainbow Warriors, he was essentially allowed to drop back chuck the ball all over the field. Of course, that explains his high interception rate (24 in two years) and mediocre completion percentage. McDonald will also play against much better competition on NFL defenses than the units he saw during his time in the Mountain West conference, which is notable to bring up. Despite those valid concerns, his arm talent is off the charts. Again, he isn't the most accurate passer but his deep ball is one of the best in this Draft. If he can adapt to an NFL system and cut down on the mistakes, I wouldn't be shocked if this is a guy that has some spot in the league.

Running back
Anthony McFarland, Maryland Projected Range: 4th-6th
I've been a fan of Anthony McFarland's since he was a four-star recruit coming into Maryland, and he had numerous impressive moments with the Terrapins. In 2018 as Maryland's change-of-pace back, he averaged nearly eight yards per carry and totaled 1,034 yards, gashing opposing defenses with his track speed. Expected to do even bigger things in 2019, McFarland suffered through an injury-plagued campaign that likely hurt his Draft stock. There's a good chance he slips past the mid-rounds particularly with the way the running back position is currently valued in the NFL. Whoever does take a chance on him is getting an absolute burner, who ran 4.44 at the Combine last month. His burst and acceleration in the open field are what really wow me, but the health concerns are there. He could still be a nice change-of-pace for any number of NFL teams, especially one that often leans on the power run.

Receiver/Tight End
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State Projected Range: 5th-7th
I had a tough time deciding on this slot between SMU's James Proche and Isaiah Hodgins, but Hodgins is more of your prototypical NFL wide out, while Proche will have to be used a little differently. Oregon State obviously doesn't get much national attention, but the Beavers were quietly exceptional on offense in 2019, and Hodgins was a big reason why. He caught 86 balls for 1,172 yards, tallying 13 touchdowns. He doesn't beat opposing defensive backs with elite-level speed (4.61 40 at the Combine), but he is a crisp route runner with size (6'4") and big hands. I project him as a possible red zone threat, who could also be helpful on third downs with his reliability. This is a stacked receiver group, but NFL teams should not allow a guy like Hodgins to sleep through the cracks.

Offensive Line
Ben Bartch, OG, St. John's (Minn.) Projected Range: 4th-Undrafted
A converted tight end, Ben Bartch became a social media star after showcasing his signature "smoothie" at the NFL Combine, which included eggs, peanut butter and Gatorade. That smoothie helped him pack on 75 pounds over the last two years, enabling him to move to the interior O-Line. After a stellar career at Division III Saint John's, Bartch turned heads with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl earning him an invite to the Combine, where he was the lone DIII player. Despite less than two full years on the O-Line, Bartch already has the look of a seasoned NFL veteran and despite adding so much weight, he still possesses excellent mobility. You get the feeling he is just scratching the surface of what he can be as an impact blocker, and I'm sure an NFL team will be willing to take a chance on him in the later rounds, even if he is from a DIII school.

Defensive Line
Oluwole Betiku, Illinois Projected Range: 5th-Undrafted
At 250 pounds, Oluwole Betiku's size is the main reason why he will likely drop to the later rounds of this Draft. However, I wouldn't question Betiku's talent, as he was a five-star talent coming into USC before eventually transferring to Illinois. In one season with the Illini, Betiku recorded nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss, playing a big role on a team that finally reached a bowl game. It was somewhat surprising that he decided to forgo his senior season but it's clear he wanted to capitalize on such a strong 2019. Size is a concern, so it seems likely Betiku will move from defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, which certainly seems like a more natural fit. Even so, he'll need to add more weight and prove that he can make an impact on defense beyond simply rushing the quarterback.

Dante Olson, Montana Projected Range: 5th-7th
Dante Olson is an old-school thumper at the inside linebacker position but he has proved his worth during his time with Montana. After 151 tackles in the 2018 campaign, he led college football across all levels with 179 as a senior, 76 of them in the solo variety. That type of production speaks for itself, and at 6'3", 237 pounds he could project as an NFL contributor. Naturally, NFL teams have concerns about his pursuit speed and athleticism, which certainly is not on par with some of the others in this class. But, I love these type of hard-nosed, proven linebackers who come from smaller schools. At the very least, he could help out on special teams where he was Second Team in the Big Sky as a sophomore.

Defensive Back
Tanner Muse, Clemson Projected Range: 4th-7th
A former three-star recruit, Tanner Muse has never been viewed as much of an NFL guy, despite playing on a loaded defense. Most of that is because he hasn't ever been seen as an elite athlete, but Muse really helped himself out by running a 4.41 at the Combine. The interesting thing about Muse is that there remains a good chance he won't even play defensive back at the next level. At 6'2", 227 pounds, Muse is likely to move to the linebacker position. This seems like it will work well for a guy who has fabulous instincts and is a stronger defender in traffic. He could end up being a really effective coverage linebacker at the next level, and a guy that played this many snaps at a program like Clemson clearly can play. He could be a really valuable late-rounder for any number of teams.

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