Day 3 NFL Draft Picks: 12 Late-Round Rookie Sleepers In 2021 Draft Who Could Break Out
If you’re looking for late-round names you should monitor from the 2021 NFL Draft, read Juan Carlos Blanco’s report on Day 3 NFL Draft Picks: 12 Rookie Sleepers Selected In The 2021 Draft.
Despite the intense scrutiny that each NFL team heaps upon the NFL Draft process each year, the evaluation process is far from perfect. One of the clearest indicators is the fact there are multiple productive players at a minimum – not to mention the occasional bona fide star – who emerges from the latter portion of the draft.
This year’s class of late-round picks in the NFL’s 2021 Draft should be no different, and in fact, several 2021 NFL Draft prospects who slipped into Day 3 were touted as potentially Day 1 or early Day 2 picks at some point this spring.
We at The Game Day offer a closer look at a dozen 2021 NFL rookies drafted in the late rounds who could ultimately qualify as excellent values in their NFL careers.
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Day 3 NFL Draft Picks: 12 Late-Round Rookie Sleepers Selected In 2021 Draft
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
(North Carolina — 4th round, 107th overall pick)
Carter shapes up as an excellent value pick at this point in the draft, especially considering the drastic needs the Jets have at the running back position. Oft-injured journeyman Tevin Coleman certainly isn’t going to serve in a true lead-back role at this point in his career, while Ty Johnson and Josh Adams have shown flashes but remain largely unproven.
Carter wrapped up his college career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, is a strong receiver out of the backfield, and has deceptive playing speed that also allowed him to average over 7.0 yards per carry in two different college campaigns.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
(USC — 4th round, 112th overall pick)
The Lions not only nabbed themselves a talent worthy of a much higher selection when they grabbed St. Brown, but also one with a likely chip on his shoulder after falling much further than had been projected.
The younger brother of the Packers’ Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra has a slighter frame but brings excellent route-running and run-after-catch ability that could make him an instant hit out of the slot his rookie year. The playing time opportunity also projects to be there, considering the Lions are barren of top-tier receiver talent after losing both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones this offseason. This target void is what you look for in 2021 NFL rookie sleepers.
Jabril Cox, LB, Dallas Cowboys
(LSU — 4th round, 115th overall pick)
Cox is another selection that qualifies as an excellent value where he was taken. He had some injury concerns, but he’s a seasoned prospect: Cox put together a highly decorated four-year career at North Dakota State before transferring to LSU for his fifth year of eligibility in 2020.
The step up in competition didn’t exactly faze Cox, who still produced 58 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, along with a sack, a fumble recovery, eight passes defensed (including three interceptions).
He could challenge for a starting role by Year 2, but he could also see significant playing time his rookie year considering the injury history of Leighton Vander Esch — and the fact that Dallas reportedly isn’t picking up LVE’s fifth-year option.
Jaelon Darden, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
North Texas (4th round, 129th overall pick)
Darden carries a slight frame at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, but he still enjoyed a highly productive career at North Texas that he wrapped up with a 74-1,190-19 line in 2020.
Given the Buccaneers’ excellent depth at receiver, Darden projects to start his career as a fixture in the return game, a job he boasts solid college credentials for after averaging 8.9 yards per punt return on 35 runbacks.
Tylan Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens
(Oklahoma State — 4th round, 131st overall pick)
Wallace’s accomplished college career with the Cowboys included a 1,491-yard, 12-touchdown season as a sophomore in 2018 and a pair of 900-yard tallies to finish off his tenure.
Wallace brings solid size at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, and while he’ll need to battle up the depth chart early in his career, he could conceivably surpass Devin Duvernay and/or Miles Boykin with a strong enough training camp/preseason.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
(Memphis — 5th round, 150th overall pick)
The last time Gainwell saw in-game action, he was busy racking up a whopping 1,459 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns at a clip of 6.3 yards per carry, while also producing a 51-610-3 line through the air during an outstanding 2019 sophomore season at Memphis.
He presumably jumps right into a training camp/preseason battle with Boston Scott to serve as the primary backup to Miles Sanders, with perhaps only the rust of not having played last season impeding to a degree early. Nevertheless, his superior talent should eventually overcome any early struggles and potentially elevate him to a high-volume complementary role his rookie season.
Simi Fehoko, WR, Dallas Cowboys
(Stanford — 5th round, 179th overall pick)
Fehoko is an intriguing selection in the fifth round, considering the combination of his 6-foot-4, 222-pound frame and 4.43 40 speed. The Stanford product is going to open his NFL career presumably no better than No. 4 on the depth chart if Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are all healthy.
However, Gallup’s pending free agency following the coming season could certainly be the key for a move up beginning with Fehoko’s second campaign.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
(Louisiana — 6th round, 194th overall pick)
It isn’t often you can nab a Division 1 back with 3,864 total scrimmage yards and 46 total TDs on his college resume, as well as 4.3 speed, on Day 3. Yet that’s precisely what the 49ers are getting in Mitchell, who also boasts excellent size for the position at 5-foot-11, 218 pounds.
The 23-year-old does join a crowded backfield with Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and fellow rookie Trey Sermon (for whom the Niners traded up into Round 3). Still, given Kyle Shanahan’s love of an RB committee approach and Mitchell’s undeniable raw talent, he seems likely to garner a long look this summer.
Demetric Felton, RB/WR, Cleveland Browns
(UCLA — 6th round, 211th overall pick)
Felton is interesting from the standpoint of his versatility, as he produced as both a running back and conventional receiver during his time with the Bruins. The 22-year-old finished his four-year college tenure with 2,059 total scrimmage yards and 15 total touchdowns, and early word is he could eventually be developed into a slot wideout at the NFL level.
Quincy Roche, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
(Miami — 6th round, 216th overall pick)
There’s no questioning the Steelers’ ability to identify linebacker talent, and Roche could well prove to be one very shiny diamond in the rough.
Through his three seasons at Temple and final year at UM, Roche essentially set up camp in opposing backfields while recording 54 tackles for loss, including 30.5 sacks, over 45 games. He also defensed seven passes and forced and recovered eight fumbles apiece, and as telling as any stat is the fact he finished second behind only first-round pick Jaelan Phillips on the Hurricanes in 2020 in both TFLs and sacks.
Sam Ehlinger, QB, Indianapolis Colts
(Texas — 6th round, 218th overall pick)
Ehlinger gets a mention here due both to his position and the fact he garnered plenty of experience and numbers over 46 college games, a span during which he accrued 11,436 passing yards, a 62.5 percent completion rate and a 94:27 TD:INT. Additionally, while not exactly a prolific running threat under center, Ehlinger did compile 1,903 rushing yards (3.4 yards per carry) and 33 rushing TDs during his four college seasons, including a whopping 16 scores as a sophomore in 2018.
Carson Wentz will naturally get every opportunity to thrive in Indy, but Ehlinger will presumably have a chance to battle Jacob Eason for the right to back him up in 2021. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Ehlinger also boasts good size, but there are questions as to how well his skill set translates to the next level.
Dazz Newsome, WR, Chicago Bears
(North Carolina — 6th round, 221st overall pick)
Newsome is the second accomplished North Carolina alum that could prove to be a Day 3 gem. The 22-year-old put together an impressive career with the Tar Heels that included 2,435 receiving yards, 18 receiving TDs, 178 rushing yards and a pair of rushing scores, and 679 total return yards and a punt return TD.
Newsome’s strong route-running and yards-after-catch ability both allowed him to thrive in the slot as a college wideout, and he could potentially carve out a similar role to open his NFL career while also getting return reps.
After reading about sleeper late-round picks from the 2021 NFL Draft, catch up with the rest of our NFL betting and fantasy football tips.