Twins that are athletes usually remain teammates throughout their high school and college careers. It's their choice to. But on the rare occasions where both twins are talented enough to play sports for a living, they no longer control their destinations and usually have to go their separate ways. Leading off this year's preview of the NFL Draft, we have the stories of not one but two prospects who figure to be playing the 2017 season on Sundays, while leaving their twin brothers behind to finish up their college careers. And if you wanted to, you could consider both of them sleeper picks.
As far as the draft is concerned, different people have different definitions for what a sleeper is. Some insist a sleeper must be someone picked toward the end of the draft, while others claim even someone taken in the 1st round can be called a sleeper. Loosely defined, an NFL sleeper is a player who performs at a level far exceeding what's expected of a player picked at the point of the draft he is selected. Richard Sherman, for example, turned out to be a classic sleeper - a 5th round pick who not only became a starter but ascended all the way to an All-Pro player.
One of the dictionary definitions for sleeper is "someone or something that becomes unexpectedly successful or important after a period of being unnoticed, ignored, or considered unpromising or a failure." Whether you use that definition or the NFL version, they both fit when you're talking about former UCF CB Shaquill Griffin and former Texas RB D'Onta Foreman. "Unexpectedly successful after a period of being unnoticed"? That's Griffin and Foreman to a T.
Although they look alike, it's easy to tell the Griffins apart. Shaquem is the one with no left hand. He's been that way since he was 4 years old, after his left hand was amputated to eliminate the unbearable pain it was causing him. That he is able to play as well as he does with just one hand is remarkable, and hopefully we'll be hearing a lot more about him around this time next year. As for Shaquill, his period of being unnoticed came to an end on March 6, the the day the DBs took the field for their workouts at the NFL Combine.
In their evaluation of Griffin, the Philadelphia Eagles-themed blog Bleeding Green Nation describes him as "a tremendous athlete with great size, playmaking ability, and overall physicality. Unfortunately, he is still incredibly raw at the position and way too inconsistent at this point; but he has a massively high ceiling that could prove to be a big payoff for an NFL team." Massively high ceiling meaning that if he reaches his potential, he will be an outstanding player. Of course, that's a very big "if".
You know how assistant coaches are. They always think they're the one who can bring the best out of a player. And after how well Griffin performed at the Combine, you can picture a lot of DB coaches salivating about the possibility of coaching someone with his athletic talent. I guess you could call Shaquill a boom-or-bust kind of prospect. Hopefully he'll end up with a coaching staff that can make him boom.
It seems like scouts always want to accentuate the negative, focusing more on what you don't do well instead of your strengths. So Foreman's weaknesses - catching the ball, protecting the QB, and too many fumbles - have pushed him well down the list of the top RB prospects available this year. If he doesn't get picked until the 3rd or 4th round, as expected, he indeed will turn out to be a sleeper. In my not so humble opinion, as long as he goes to a team committed to running the ball, he's going to be a star player.
Foreman was in attendance at the Combine but did not participate due to a stress fracture in his foot; but, as you can see in the bottom photo above, he was back in action in time for Texas' pro day 4 weeks later, where he had his dreads all bunched into a bun.
Maybe next year their brothers will have their own draft experience. But for D'Onta Foreman and Shaquill Griffin, their time comes now. Although it's possible they could be picked on Day 2 of the draft (rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night), I'm including them both in the "likely to be drafted" category (of players I expect to be picked in rounds 4-7 on Saturday). Whether they go in round 3 or 4, I'll be expecting them to turn into sleepers and earn their biggest payday on their second contract rather than their first.
We'll look at the rest of the Day 3 picks a bit later. But first, here are some players who won't have to wait until Saturday to hear their names called.
When Alabama recruits you out of high school, you know you're talented; but it wasn't until he got to another SEC school that Alvin Kamara made his mark. Injuries and other "issues" made for a rocky 2013 freshman season at Alabama for Kamara, during which he redshirted and after which he transferred to a junior college for a year before showing back up on the radar again in 2015 in a Tennessee Volunteers uniform. In two productive seasons Kamara racked up 1,977 total yards from scrimmage on just 284 touches (a 7.0 average) for UT and scored 23 TD.
Just what is it that makes Kamara special? Just ask anybody who has tried to tackle him in the open field. Indeed the profile Pro Football Focus did on him mentions the 90 missed tackles he caused while carrying the ball in his two seasons for Tennessee. It also says he "excels at making defenders miss, both in the open field and in tight spaces." He's no slouch after taking a handoff, but his elusiveness can be best utilized on short passes to him coming out of the backfield. And it was utilized by the UT coaching staff, to the tune of 74 receptions (for 683 yards) in his 24 games.
The first two links below are to articles on Kamara from Bleacher Report and a website called Read American Football. The third link is a video of his drills at the Combine. And if you have time, on the bottom is a video of his Tennessee highlights (if nothing else, check out his spectacular TD against Vanderbilt, beginning at the 7:00 mark).
Alvin had his dreads flowing more freely at Tennessee's pro day, so I included a photo from there in addition to the one from the Combine.
WIDE RECEIVER U (WITH DREADS)
Will the real Wide Receiver U please stand up.
The contenders for the title of the College Football program that has had the largest number of their former receivers move on to bigger and better things on Sundays are many. Depending on your criteria for success and how far back into the past you want to go, schools like Miami, LSU, Ohio State, Florida, and Michigan are the ones mentioned most often as the leading candidates. USC, Notre Dame, and Tennessee also have a good argument. And more recently, thanks to the likes of Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Calvin Johnson, and Demaryius Thomas, Alabama and Georgia Tech have entered the conversation. And there's one more school that belongs that I haven't mentioned yet. Not only is it one of the frontrunners for WR U, it's the undisputed champ for the title of Wide Receiver with Dreads U. I'm talking about the Clemson Tigers, of course (and shame on you if you didn't already know).
At 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, Williams certainly isn't the fastest WR; but the 4.55-second 40-yard dash he ran at Clemson's pro day (photo above left) is fast enough for a WR his size. And besides, with his ability to go up and make leaping catches, he doesn't need blazing speed. You can have a defender blanketing him and he'll still make the catch, just like he did for a key 24-yard gain on the game-winning drive against Alabama (photo above right). He's going to be tough to stop on fade routes into the end zone for whichever team picks him.
The Clemson Insider and Charlotte Observer did interesting articles on Williams which you can read on the first two links below. The third link is the First Draft video feature on him done by the NFL Network. And on the bottom I'm including a link to a video of his pro day workout instead of his one from the Combine because he had his dreads reduced at the Combine.
Williams' profile on NFL.com says he is comparable to Plaxico Burress, which is a good thing - as long as they're talking about on the field and not off. I'm sure Mike wouldn't mind it at all if his NFL career includes a game-winning TD catch in the Super Bowl, as Burress' did.
Williams is a lock to be picked in the 1st round; and there are a number of teams looking for a WR in the 1st round. He could go in the top 10, or he could fall to near the end of the round, depending on how things play out on Thursday night.
RICHARD SHERMAN 2.0
Right!! ..... But that's not who I'm talking about. All of the above attributes belong to a player in this year's draft too, a player hoping to be the second coming of Sherman, the Seahawks' star CB. Well, at least on the field former Washington Husky Kevin King hopes he emulates Sherman. Even though he's not shy about expressing himself, I'm guessing King would rather do without all of the off the field controversies that Sherman's big mouth has caused him.
Up until UW's pro day a week after the Combine, Sidney Jones was the UW CB with dreads everyone expected to be drafted in the 1st round. But after he unfortunately suffered an injury during his workout (which will likely drop him to round 2 or 3), now it looks like King will be the one to be picked in the 1st round. Originally expected to be a Day 2 pick, King wowed everybody with his speedy 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. That's where he and Sherman differ; and because Sherman isn't quite that fast, he fell to the 5th round of the draft in 2011. King figures to go late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd this weekend. Other than speed, the similarities are there. The Pro Football Focus profile of King (first link below) says "his strengths and weaknesses are the same" as Sherman. And also like Sherman, Kevin is able "to carry on a conversation about almost anything," according to a recent SI.com article (second link below). I couldn't find a video of his workout at the Combine (which I was planning to include), so here instead (third link below) is a short interview he did while a guest on the NFL Network's Total Access program last week.
Of course. There's one other difference between King and Sherman - it's going to be a couple of seasons before we'll be able to see King's dreads when his helmet is on. But if he's as good as expected, he'll be in the league long enough for his dreads one day to be just as long as Sherman's.
If the Chiefs don't take Alvin Kamara, might they take King? Two years ago they struck gold in the 1st round when they took a UW CB from Oakland by the name of Marcus Peters. Don't be surprised if they go to that well again. Or how about the Seahawks? With Sherman seemingly doing everything he can these days to get himself traded, King might still be playing in Seattle in the years ahead.
CERTAIN TO BE DRAFTED
Unless they get arrested or do something else stupid enough to torpedo their draft stock at the last minute, these players with dreads all will be picked in the first 3 rounds of the 2017 Draft.
WR Mike Williams - Clemson
RB Dalvin Cook - Florida State
RB Alvin Kamara - Tennessee
DE Takkarist McKinley (photo on right) - UCLA
LB Tim Williams - Alabama
LB Reuben Foster - Alabama
CB Sidney Jones - Washington
CB Kevin King - Washington
S Malik Hooker - Ohio State
In last year's preview I had 7 players in this category and was correct on 6 of them. Only Sheldon Day didn't get picked in the first 3 rounds. He went early in the 4th. ==============================================================================
THE LAST LAUGH
When you're already well over 300 pounds when you first start high school, it's not a good thing - especially if it's an unhealthy 300 as it was with Ogunjobi. Tired of hearing the parents of other kids laughing during games when his son took the field, Ogunjobi's father eventually got the help needed to get his son in shape. And did he ever get in shape. By the time he left high school, he was getting scholarship offers to play in college. And 4 years after that, after leading Charlotte in TFL in all 4 of his seasons, he's about to get the last laugh on those who once laughed at him. I wonder how many of them earned over a million dollars in their first year after college. Now at 305 pounds after once topping 350, Ogunjobi ironically is now considered too small for a DT and will need to add some weight.
I had hoped RB Kalif Phillips would be UNCC's first ever NFL draft choice. But CBS Sports.com has him ranked 989th on their list of prospects; so he has a less than 0% chance of being picked. So that honor will go to Oguinjobi, who didn't have dreads as recently as the Senior Bowl in late January. He debuted his baby dreads at the Combine. Hopefully he's planning on letting them grow a lot longer. I'm looking forward to the day we'll be able to see them hanging outside his helmet.
Apparently the disrespect didn't end at the Combine. Of more than 50 photos (from two different websites) I saw of Houston's pro day, Taylor was in only two of them, and neither was worth posting. So I'm including action shots of his INT return against Cincinnati in Week 3 last season (he scored on the play) and of his sack of Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville in Week 12. Both of those plays are included in a video of his highlights from last season on the second link below. Above that is a draft profile done by FanSided.
Different teams play different defensive schemes; so no doubt there is a wide variation in where Steven ranks on teams' draft boards. As mentioned in the scouting profile the scheme made for Taylor is the 3-4; and I'd say there's a good chance that the 3-4 team that picks him is in for a pleasant surprise.
LIKELY TO BE DRAFTED
All of these players with dreads can expect to be drafted this weekend; most will be picked on Day 3. But if history repeats, not all of them will be. In my previews from previous seasons I've never been 100% correct in this category; so there are probably a couple who will end up being disappointed by the time the draft ends.
TE Bucky Hodges - Virginia Tech
WR Noah Brown - Ohio State
WR ArDarius Stewart - Alabama
WR Damore'ea Stringfellow - Mississippi
RB D'Onta Foreman - Texas
RB Kareem Hunt - Toledo
RB Alvin Jones - UTEP
DE Avery Moss - Youngstown State
DT DeAngelo Brown (photo on right) - Louisville
DT Larry Ogunjobi - UNC-Charlotte
DT Vincent Taylor - Oklahoma State
DT Charles Walker - Oklahoma
LB Jayon Brown - UCLA
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin - Tennessee
LB Steven Taylor - Houston
CB Shaquill Griffin - UCF
CB Jalen Myrick - Minnesota
CB Channing Stribling - Michigan
CB Howard Wilson - Houston
CB Ahkello Witherspoon - Colorado
S Rayshawn Jenkins - Miami (Florida)
Of the 15 players I had in this category last year only 12 were drafted. I missed on Terrance Smith (who went on to play in 9 games for the Chiefs), De'Runnya Wilson, and Avery Young.
DARE TO TAKE DARE
Thanks (or should I say, no thanks) to the make-it-up-as-you-go-along nature of the rules of the English language, two words can be spelled the same but be pronounced differently and/or have different meanings. Such is the case in this segment. The first dare is the familiar one, as in "I dare you to do something." The second Dare? Well, that's the two-syllable name of someone who just might be drafted this weekend. A little earlier I did a segment on Kevin King. Now here's one on someone from the other U-Dub. They had a pretty good 2016 season too.
Rumor has it that Ogunbowale scored a 35 on the Worderlic intelligence test, an extremely high number for a RB; so he's probably not going to have much trouble finding a job if the NFL doesn't work out. But hopefully it will work out. For his sake, it better, or else he'll have to go through life with his sister - a star college basketball player - bragging about how she's the best athlete in the family. Personally I think some team indeed will dare to take Dare; but of the 7 prospect rankings and mock drafts I looked at, only one of them has him being drafted. Can one be right and six wrong? Hopefully so. If not, no doubt Dare will have no shortage of free agent offers to choose from after the draft.
THE BALLAD OF MONTAY CROCKETT
There are currently four NFL players with dreads from Crockett's hometown of Rock Hill, SC - 1st round picks Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, and Cordarrelle Patterson, and 5th rounder Jonathan Meeks. Will Crockett make it five? Well, perhaps some team's scout was impressed enough to convince that team's GM to draft him. More likely, he'll begin at the bottom as an undrafted free agent. Not surprisingly with a prospect as unheralded as Crockett, there wasn't much I could find on him. But the Rock Hill Herald found some stuff. Their quickie article on Crockett (first link below) includes of bunch of links to videos, photos, and sound bites of him. The other link is to an Instagram video in slow motion of his broad jump at the regional combine. Hey, I'm sorry, it's all I could find.
A long, long time ago a close relative (I'm sure) of Crockett named Davy became an American folk hero, famous enough to inspire a TV show and a song to serve as the theme for the TV show - The Ballad of Davy Crockett.
Some day, after he's inducted into the Hall of Fame, maybe there will be a Ballad of Montay Crockett to chronicle his rise to superstardom.
Seriously though, Montay has the athletic ability and the desire to succeed on the next level. So, as is the case with so many rookies, this is all about him just going out and not being afraid to do it - taking advantage of every opportunity to shine in practice and giving a team every reason to keep him.
MAYBE THEY'LL BE DRAFTED
Most of these players with dreads have no chance of being drafted; but in the previews I've done in the past there always have been a couple that are drafted, and suppose that will be true again this year. Although most will not be hearing their names called, I'm listing all of these guys because many of them will sign as free agents and be appearing at NFL training camps near you this summer, trying to make their dreams come true. As usual, I didn't do a very thorough job in compiling the list; so there may be a few names not included that should be.
G Stephen Evans - North Alabama
OT Nick Callendar - Colorado State
OT Jevonte Domond - UTSA
OT Darrell Williams - Western Kentucky
OT/C Detonio Dade - Alcorn State
TE Joshua Cook - Idaho State
TE Standish Dobard - Miami (Florida)
TE Trey Foster - Nebraska
WR Quincy Adeboyejo - Mississippi
WR Chris Black - Missouri
WR Montay Crockett - Georgia Southern
WR Keon Hatcher - Arkansas
WR Krishawn Hogan (top photo) - Marian (IN)
WR Verlan Hunter - Grambling
WR Jerome Lane - Akron
WR Spearman Robinson - Western Carolina
WR De'Quan Ruffin - Stephen F. Austin
WR Tony Stevens - Auburn
WR Aregeros Turner - Northern Illinois
WR Chad Williams - Grambling
WR Daniel Wise - CSU-Pueblo
WR Ishmael Zamora - Baylor
WR/QB David Washington - ODU
QB Bennie Coney - Eastern Kentucky
RB/WR Tremane McCullough - Southeast Missouri State
RB Kendell Anderson - William & Mary
RB Trey Edmunds - Maryland
RB Tarean Folston - Notre Dame
RB Jakori Ford - Idaho State
RB Tion Green - Cincinnati
RB DeShawn Jones - Campbell
RB Dare Ogunbowale - Wisconsin
RB Kalif Phillips - UNC-Charlotte
RB Devine Redding (second photo from top) - Indiana
RB De'Veon Smith - Michigan
RB Tyvis Smith - Northern Iowa
FB Kenneth Goins - Maryland
DE Edmond Boateng - Arizona State
DE Christian Brown - West Virginia
DE Fadol Brown - Mississippi
DE Jessie Clark - Montana State
DE Will Coleman - Mississippi State
DE Jason Hatcher - West Georgia
DE JeMarcus Marshall - Northwestern State
DE DeVante Wilson - California
DT Josh Augusta (middle photo) - Missouri
DT Rashaad Coward - ODU
DT Jabari Dean - Central Michigan
DT Tyrique Jarrett - Pittsburgh
DT Demetri McGill - East Carolina
DT Uso Olive - Central Washington
DT Ondre Pipkins - Texas Tech
DT Demond Tucker - Iowa State
LB Alex Armah - West Georgia
LB Keith Brown - Western Kentucky
LB Aaron Cook - Gardner-Webb
LB D'Vonta Derricot - Arkansas Tech
LB Deshawntee "Ironhead" Gallon - Georgia Southern
LB Dominko Goff - Arizona Christian
LB Jack Lynn - Minnesota
LB Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga - Maine
LB Nyeem Wartman-White - Penn State
CB Andre Adams - Arkansas-Monticello
CB Tiyun Avery - Henderson State
CB Treston DeCoud (second photo from bottom) - Oregon State
CB Jordan Ford - Campbell
CB Will Hines - Southeastern Louisiana
CB Marcus McCoy - Upper Iowa
CB Trey Morgan - Western Carolina
CB Aarion Penton - Missouri
CB Boise Ross - Buffalo
CB Justin Thomas -Utah
CB Dee Virgin - West Alabama
CB Jhavon Williams - Connecticut
CB Mondo Williams - Appalachian State
S D'Nerius Antoine - Southern Mississippi
S Jamal Carter - Miami (Florida)
S Devin Centers - Utah State
S Adrian Colbert - Miami (Florida)
S Dominquie Green - North Carolina
S Quadarius Mireles - Faulkner
S Ahmad Thomas - Oklahoma
S Denzel Johnson (bottom photo) - TCU
S Germod Williams - Stephen F. Austin
Three of the players I had in this category last year were drafted - Donavon Clark, Chris Moore, and Temarrick Hemingway. And 13 others who signed as free agents played in at least one regular season game, most notably Matthias Farley, De'Vante Harris, Cre'von LeBlanc, Curt Maggitt, Lafayette Pitts, and Jarrod Wilson.
After last year's disappointing total of just 26 players with dreads drfated, I'm looking forward to getting back to normal in the 2017 draft - where there should be 30 players with dreads at the very least picked. Close to a dozen of them have dreads that right now are still in their beginner stage; but that's OK. Short dreads eventually become long dreads; and I'm sure everyone drafted is planning on being in the league long enough for their dreads to get very long.
Here briefly is how the players I featured in last year's preview fared as rookies.
Irish Dreads .....
=== Jaylon Smith - drafted in the 2nd round by the Cowboys and, as expected, spent the entire season on the Non-Football Injury list. (Obviously his knee injury was a football injury, but since it happened before he got to the NFL, he was eligible for the NFI list.) According to recent reports, the nerve damage in his knee has finally started to heal; so there might yet be a happy ending for him.
=== Will Fuller - drafted in the 1st round by the Texans - played 14 games (13 starts) and had 47 catches for 635 yards and 2 TD - also took a punt return to the house
=== Sheldon Day - drafted in the 4th round by the Jaguars - played 16 games (203 defensive snaps) and had 8 tackles and 1 sack
=== Ishaq Williams - not drafted, signed as free agent with the N.Y. Giants - spent most of season on practice squad; on active roster for final 2 weeks of season but did not play
=== Chris Brown - not drafted, signed as free agent with Cowboys - was injured during training camp and spent entire season on injured reserve
=== Matthias Farley, who I said had "about as much of a chance of being drafted as I do" - well, he wasn't drafted but did sign with the Cardinals as a free agent; after being cut at the end of training camp, was claimed off waivers by the Colts and played all 16 games, mostly on special teams
And the others .....
=== Keith Marshall - drafted in the 7th round by the Redskins but spent entire season on IR after injuring his elbow during Week 3 of the preseason
=== Matt Judon - drafted in the 5th round by the Ravens - played 14 games (309 defensive snaps), finishing with 27 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 PBU, and 1 FR
=== Harlan Miller - drafted in the 6th round by the Cardinals - cut at end of training camp but signed to practice squad and spent most of season there - on active roster and started last 2 games of season and had 6 tackles and 1 INT
=== Avery Young - not drafted, signed as a free agent with Saints but spent entire season on NFI list (whatever his injury was, it still remains a secret)
=== Silverberry Mouhon and Jacobi Green - both were not drafted and were not signed as free agents either
ODDS & ENDS
=== During their college careers RBs Kareem Hunt (photo on left from Toledo pro day) and Alvin Jones looked like they had dreads but actually had their hair in loose braids. But I can welcome them both to the house now. After seeing them at the Combine, it's obvious they now have converted to dreads.
=== You may have noticed I had former Ole Miss DE Fadol Brown included in this year's preview - again. By my (careless) mistake, I had him in last year's preview after his junior season. My bad. He was at the Combine this year but doesn't figure to be drafted.
=== And finally ..... as was rumored all throughout his career as a basketball player at VCU, Mo Alie-Cox will try to have a pro career as a football player. And after impressing at his own personal pro day (details from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the link below), Alie-Cox officially became the first member of the NFL's 2017 class of rookies with dreads after signing with the Colts last week. Alie-Cox redshirted his first year at VCU after arriving for the fall semester in 2012; so technically, he was eligible for last year's NFL Draft. When nobody drafted him (because he was still playing basketball, duh), he became a free agent able to sign with whichever team he pleased. Since the Colts have a good track record of turning power forwards into tight ends, and since the Colts have a QB who makes stars out of his TEs, signing with Indy was a no-brainer. Good luck, Mo!