Football fans, we have finally made it. We are just hours away from the draft after one of the most exciting offseasons in sports history. Everyone is suffering from 'draft fatigue' at this point in the process, so instead of focusing on the top of the class today, we will look at some sleepers
Day two and three prospects do not have the same amount of hype surrounding their names as the premier talents of the class, but they are just as important. The New England Patriots built a dynasty with their sixth-round selection of Tom Brady (a.k.a the G.O.A.T.) and the Denver Broncos used their late picks of running back Terrell Davis and tight end Shannon Sharpe to propel them to back-to-back Super Bowls. So, let's look at some under-the-radar edge prospects that could become franchise cornerstones.
Thomas was a highly recruited prospect in the 2017 class before choosing Oklahoma over Alabama, Baylor and Texas A&M. He quickly became a part of the Sooners' rotation before breaking out as a redshirt junior, recording 8.5 sacks helping him earn second-team All-Big 12 honors. He followed that performance up with another all-conference bid, recording 11.5tackles for a loss and 8.0 sacks. Thomas showcased his versatility throughout his career, wreaking havoc on Big 12 offenses while lining up both inside and outside. Though he does not have the same hype surrounding his name as his former teammates Perrion Winfrey and Nik Bonitto, Thomas showed off his potential to contribute in the NFL. He diagnoses blocking schemes very quickly and uses his quickness to close on ball carriers before they know what hits them. He does an excellent job of using his length to shorten the edge in his pass rushers on the outside and his agility to beat interior offensive linemen into the backfield versus the run. As he transitions to the NFL, it will be important for Thomas to keep finding counter moves to his power rushes to develop into a high-end pass rusher.
Engabare was an instant addition to South Carolina's rotation when he touched down on campus in 2018, and his role for the Gamecocks expanded every season, finally becoming a starter for his final two years. He is intriguing due to his rare combination of excellent first-step explosiveness, length and power. He had a productive senior season putting up 44 tackles to go with seven for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Once Engabare enters the league, he will have the potential to be a pass rush specialist as a rookie. He had elite flashes of agility and quickness, darting through offensive linemen to disrupt plays before they could even start. He also showcased his versatility playing on the outside of almost every defense imaginable. He shined in these different defenses, using his length and speed to power to crush any escape lanes for opposing quarterbacks. For Enagbare to transition into an every-down player, he must improve his ability to be stout against the run, but he has shown the talent to succeed at the next level.
Gunter has one of the most unique stories in the entire class. After seeing the field as a true freshman for Coastal Carolina, Gunter earned a starting role and first-team all-conference as a sophomore. After having a breakout season, he transferred to N.C. State and sat out a year before returning to the Chanticleers. The move back was successful as he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles which led the FBS. Though his production dropped last season, Gunter still earned second-team all-conference. Entering the league, he will have a chance to show his ability to set an edge; his best trait. While he can still be developed as a pass rusher, Gunter's ability to get extension and shed as the running back hits the hole can offer some value as an early-down defender. Whatever organization chooses him this weekend will need to ensure that they add to his pass rush repertoire while working to ensure that he uses the same active hands he has against the run on passing downs.