One sleeper from every 2016 SEC class
Approximately 50 percent of the first-round picks in the last two NFL drafts have been players that did not have ratings of four-stars or better as high school prospects.
That means in nearly every recruiting cycle there are a slew of sleepers to keep an eye on and it’s not a given that you can’t have elite individual talent on the field on Saturdays even if you don’t have the highest-rated prospects in your recruiting classes.
The trick is being able to identify these “sleeper” types. Because there are vastly more prospects rated two or three stars as opposed to four or five stars, it’s not that easy for analysts to do. The good coaching staffs, however, have no trouble as most pay no attention to rankings and ratings and simply attempt to make the best evaluations possible.
Chances are, there is at least one sleeper prospect who will out-perform his rating given to him by the recruiting industry in every class in the Southeastern Conference this cycle (2016). Here’s my best shot at one from each.
Alabama: Shawn Jennings, ATH, Dadevile (Ala.) 0.8615 (247Sports Composite rating)
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Jennings is a do-it-all type of player at the high school level and could play a number of positions with the Crimson Tide (safety is a strong possibility). It is not wise to undervalue prospects like this who can do a lot of different things — those guys tend to help in a big way once they find their spot in college.
Arkansas: Terrance Malone, OG, Northwest (Miss.) Community College 0.8194
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Malone is a mid-year transfer who projects to make an impact on the interior for the Razorbacks right away. Missed evaluations on the offensive line have been few and far between for Bret Bielema and his staff during their time in Fayetteville.
Auburn: David Marshall, DE, Thomaston (Ga.) Upson-Lee 0.8712
Marshall has “tweener” type size at 6-foot-2.5, 256-pounds, but he plays with high intensity, has good strength and quickness and has the chance to make an early impact in the pass rushing department for the Tigers.
Florida: Dre Massey, WR, Holmes (Miss.) Community College 0.8834
Massey was a legendary do-it-all threat at Mauldin (S.C.) High School before heading to the junior college ranks. He gives the Gators an instant impact, explosive playmaker — something that still is needed in Gainesville.
Georgia: Tyrique McGhee, CB, Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County 0.8594
McGhee is the lowest-rated prospect in the Bulldogs 2016 class, but this is an excellent evaluation. He’s got natural ability in the coverage department and enough plus athleticism to be a big contributor in time at UGA.
Kentucky: Dakota Holtzclaw, TE, Columbus (Ohio) Kilbourne 0.8519
Holtzclaw is one of the more intriguing tight end prospects in the 2016 cycle. He’s 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, so he will have to fill out his frame a bit. Once he does that, however, the upside is clear.
LSU: Andre Anthony, DE, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr 0.8863
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Anthony may not be ready just yet to step in and rush the passer in the SEC, but give him a year or two in the weight room and development under Ed Orgeron and he could completely out-play his rating during his career in Baton Rouge. There is big-time quickness and athleticism here.
Ole Miss: Tariqious Tisdale, DE, Lexington (Tenn.) 0.8538
Years ago, the Rebels signed an unheralded player from Bruceton, Tenn., 35 miles from Lexington, Tenn., and it turned out to be linebacker Patrick Willis. The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Tisdale has an excellent raw skill set and Ole Miss is quite good at developing defensive linemen (see Marquis Haynes).
Missouri: Marvin Terry, DE, Dallas (Texas) South Oak Cliff 0.8863
Speaking of being good at developing defensive linemen, Terry is the quintessential Mizzou defensive line recruit. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, but is extremely productive. While there is a new defensive line coach in CoMo (Chris Wilson), the expectation is the the results will remain the same.
Mississippi State: Greg Eiland, OT, Philadelphia (Miss.) 0.8517
The 6-foot-7, 305-pound Eiland is raw but full of upside and the Bulldogs tend to develop offensive linemen at a high level. Given his raw skill set, it would not be a surprise to see this guy end up being an NFL draft pick and an all-conference type of performer during his time in Starkville.
South Carolina: Kier Thomas, DE, Miami (Fla.) Central 0.8783
Thomas, a former Florida State commit, plays out of position at nose tackle at the high school level. He will play the “BUCK” position for Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks and is perfectly suited for it.
Tennessee: Jeff George, WR, Dodge City (Kan.) Community College 0.8798
George, who has a semi-famous football name, is a 6-foot-6 athlete who has developed and worked his way into being a Power 5-level recruit. He has the skill set to become quite the weapon for the Vols.
Texas A&M: Kendrick Rogers, WR, Frankston (Texas) 0.8731
The Aggies have had success developing raw, plus-sized receivers (see Mike Evans) and the 6-foot-5, 194-pound Rogers brings that and more to the table.
Vanderbilt: Devin Cochran, OT, Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian 0.8590
Cochran has size (6-foot-7, 305 pounds), raw ability and plays for one of the top high school programs in the state of Georgia. He’s one of those Peach State steals that the Commodores have made a living off of during the past decade or so.