As much as I love day one of the NFL Draft, Day 2 is THE day to find some hidden gems, some sleepers, if you will. So, here are a few of my favorite sleepers on day two that could hopefully end up in Battle Red, Liberty White and Deep Steel Blue at 65th overall or 73rd overall…of course, if the Texans stay at those spots.
DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
What a physical freak he is, my goodness. At 282 lb, he lit up the Combine like a Christmas tree. He ran a 4.49 s 40-yard dash.
Let me repeat…a 282 lb human being ran 4.49 seconds. That was faster than nearly 40% of the defensive backs.
Here's my scouting report on the former Wildcat
A decisive winner on the defensive interior at the Senior Bowl was AA NW, aka Adebawore. It's not easy to write Adetomiwa Adebawore in my notebook all day long, so that's the shorthand that I use. On Wednesday, I wrote "AA NW" a ton. Why? The Northwestern Tasmanian Devil shocked and yanked his way through nearly every one-on-one drill. It felt like I knew it was coming on every rep and the OL just didn't see it coming at all. Then, when I actually called out what was going to happen on a pass rush rep, he threw one of the nastiest jump-through, cross chop Aaron Donald-style pass rush moves that I'd seen in Mobile, maybe ever. I mean, there have been about five or six "OHHHHHHH/AHHHHHH" moments in all the drills for the last two days, but that move had the entire DL going nuts. He's difficult to figure out, honestly, because he's also sub-6-2, but only 284 lb, whereas a guy like Silvera is 300+ lb. So, does AA NW play a penetrating 3-technique? Does he play the edge, then bump inside on pass rush downs? He's a bit of a conundrum, given his lack of superior height and build but dude is powerful, quick and incredibly disruptive up and down the line of scrimmage.
He had two pass rush one-on-one reps back to back against Notre Dame interior offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson that were purely awesome. Poor Patterson, he was no match for the keg of dynamite in the purple helmet. Adebawore ran right through him to the QB, using Patterson as a shield. On the second rep, he walked Patterson backwards all the way to the spot where the OL were standing. I mean, it was the most impressive thing that I saw in three days. Adebawore gives up 20 lb to Patterson but that's what leverage does. Adebawore had Patterson so mad that the Irish OL started to shove back as Adebawore ran back to the defensive line following the whistle. I always chuckle in those instances because football allows as much violence as one can impose on another man between the whistles. If you get worked, that's on you. Adebawore won that rep with insane leverage and strength and embarrassed his foe. Now, I'm not totally sure where to play him on a down in/down out basis at the next level, but over the last two days, no defensive linemen was as dynamic as the Northwestern star.
Now, can we figure out where he's going to play on a down in/down out basis? NFL teams are going through that process right now and I'm curious to see where it leads.
OG/OC Steve Avila, TCU
On Thursday night, the Dallas Cowboys drafted massive Mazi Smith from Michigan at No. 26 overall. I saw only one OL in a dozen games or so that went toe-to-toe with Smith and came out a victor and that was TCU's Avila.
Here's my scouting report on the Horned Frog All-American
That matchup was one of the best interior tete-a-tetes of the 2022 season. Torrence v. Carter. Avila v. Smith.
On the second offensive play against Michigan in the CFP Semifinal, Smith was in a zero technique right over the nose of TCU center Alan Ali. When the ball was snapped, Ali slid to the side almost in a position blocking sort of way, so he didn't make any impact on Smith. Then, Avila joined the party and HAMMERED Smith, driving into, and through, the stout Wolverine disruptor. When Avila popped him, Smith's neck/helmet snapped back and I'm telling you I hadn't seen that in at least a half dozen games I've studied of Smith. That was Exhibit A of Avila's power, hip snap and ability to move players/lift them off the ground. Of course, on the next play, Smith did use his torque and power on his one-on-one pass rush to lift Avila on one leg but mere mortal guards would've been on their wallets. In the end, Avila was able to keep Smith off the QB, allowing a clean throw.
He's quick to recognize stunts and then effectively make blocks, not just dive after a guy because Avila didn't SEE the stunt and couldn't react. When he hits on the rise and he has proper pad level, man, he WILL ABSOLUTELY move big men off the ball, goal line or otherwise. On the flip side, when he starts to tire and fatigue, his feet stop and he's susceptible to shock/yank/DT block destruction.
Avila is a guard all day long. If he catches a DL just right, that DL is going NOWHERE. On day three at the Senior Bowl, he had a pass rush rep against South Carolina DT Zacch Pickens and completely shut him down. That was one rep after Pickens ran Saldiveri seven yards upfield into the QB. Avila did some work at center down in Mobile, but I think the Horned Frog is destined to be a guard for a decade or more in the NFL.
OC Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas
I've been a fan of Stromberg for the past few years as he was the best center in the SEC for the past two years.
Here's my scouting report on Stromberg
Watching Stromberg two years ago, I was completely intrigued by his NFL prospects. There's plenty of DOG in his game and he backs down from no one. I wasn't sure how he would hold up to hefty nose tackles, but, not only has the ability to anchor against power, but re-gather and eliminate any movement backwards into the QB's lap.
He has plenty of nasty in his game and when that's combined with his movement skills, it can make for a combination that NFL teams will love. Case in point, against Texas A&M, he pulled on a long trap play. He was supposed to kick out the DE, but when the DE saw the OT/OG block down, he closed and attempted to spill the block (i.e. go underneath Stromberg's block to make the RB bounce). Stromberg was in a tough position because trying to root out a defender diving hard to spill the block is incredibly difficult. So, Stromberg collisioned him and then turned him back inside to give his back a chance to make a quick cut and get vertical for some yardage. I loved how Stromberg stayed in an athletic position on the block so he could make an effective play his responsibility, no matter what.
He can adapt to stunts and make the right block nearly 100% of the time. He has upper body strength to torque defensive linemen out of the hole. At worst, he'll stalemate hefty interior defensive linemen. His power is undeniable in the run game. I can't tell you the times that I saw him lift a nose tackle well out of the way in the zone game.
He'll get in trouble when he gets overextended, but even then, he doesn't lose his latch often. He is as good a combo blocker as I've seen - bouncing off of down lineman to the linebacker with great effectiveness. He's a great counter puncher. He'll take some shots, but the ones that he counters with are just as physical or, in many cases, that much more powerful in return.
WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
He played his last game at Ole Miss at NRG Stadium and he would be a great candidate to start his NFL career at NRG Stadium too. I was admittedly too low on Mingo and knew it one hour after I finished my Draft Guide.
He's a physical specimen who can play all over the formation and create issues with his insane athletic profile.
Here's my scouting report on Mingo
"Mingo had a strong week down at the Senior Bowl, winning a ton during one- on-ones - short, medium and deep - especially later in the week. He was a slant runnin' beast, especially on the goal line. He had an ongoing battle with 6-3 CB Julius Brents (Kansas State) that I could've watched for days. He showed off all of his releases, physicality and strong hands. And, being from Ole Miss at 220 lb, he certainly looked like he had gone to the A.J. Brown School of Playing Receiver. When, WHEN, he finds consistency in his overall game, he's going to be compared to Brown, no question - shoot, he PHYSICALLY looks just like him.
During his playing career, though, he was up and down. He'd set records one week (see his game against Vandy in 2022) and then nothing the next. I spoke to a good friend of mine who covers Ole Miss football, telling him I was excited for Mingo's prospects and he was too, but cautioned me about his inconsistency that was highly noticeable to those around the program. The heart of the matter, though, is that it's difficult to find height/weight/speed with explosiveness like Mingo.
Mingo is the one player in this WR group that I think could go much higher than expected, based solely on his height/weight/speed and potential."
RB Israel Abanikanda, Pitt
Speed. For DAYS. He was on my radar screen, but it wasn't until the Tennessee game in week two of the 2022 season that he snatched my attention full in front of me. Here's my scouting report for Pitt's record-breaking RB from Brooklyn, NY.
Here's my scouting report on Abanikanda
"Whoa, dude has JUICE I didn't think he had. Well, once I saw him run I went to his bio and found that he was a track star in high school, so yeah, he can FLY.
On the third drive of the Tennessee game in 2022, he got a wide zone handoff from the shotgun. He noticed that a Tennessee defender was out of his gap and he housed that bad boy. I mean, smoked that secondary 76 yards to the house. Holy smokes, this cat can fly. He absolutely embarrassed the entire Tennessee defense on that run. I mean, he was at full speed in four steps and it looked like he was sped up on the film. He was at 78 rpm and everyone else was at 45 rpm.
He had a career game against Virginia Tech in 2022, rushing for 320 yards and SIX touchdowns. He had a four TD game against Rhode Island. He had 20 touchdowns in 11 games. He had nine 100 yard games. He lit up every defense that he faced and was a BIG play waiting to explode on opposing defenses.
Abanikanda was a two time 100-meter Gold Medalist in the NYC Mayor's Race and third place in the NYSPHSAA outdoor track and field championships. Once I learned that it made a ton of sense and he comes from good football genes. His dad played ball at Georgia Tech.
At first glance, I didn't think he was big and powerful, just fast. But, he's way more powerful than he looked on tape. He is 215 lb and I saw him bounce right off hard hit/no wrap tackle attempts often in his Pitt career.
IA is a legit home run hitter. Big time and I can't wait to see that speed in the NFL in 2023."I'm a massive fan of Michigan stud DT Mazi Smith (#43 in the Harris 100). Powerful. As strong as any interior player I've studied in this class and many others. #1 Freak on Bruce Feldman's 2022 Freaks List. There was only one player that I saw on film have any consistent success winning, moving or making Smith uncomfortable."There's only one way to start with Avila.