5 NFL Draft sleeper prospects who should be first-round picks

BOISE, ID – OCTOBER 12: Running back Robert Mahone #34 runs behind blocks from offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland #76 and offensive lineman Garrett Larson #67 of the Boise State Broncos during second half action against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on October 12, 2019 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 59-37. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)

NFL Draft scouting is an inexact science. That’s why these five guys will slip into Round 2 despite being worthy of a first round selection.

Smart NFL general managers understand the importance of coming away with quality starters in the second round of the draft. The best talent evaluators in the business manage to come away with first round talent on Day Two. The five players on this list are going to make the front offices that select them look very clever.

The best value in the second round comes in picking players who have singular flaws that might be covered up by a particular team’s scheme. Those weaknesses are generally enough to push a prospect out of Round 1, but that doesn’t mean it will prevent them from being immediate starters if they land with the right franchise.

The trick for teams is deciding which players have weaknesses that can be managed. The ones that do will give first round production to the team that takes a chance on them. The following five players are first round talents that aren’t widely projected to be in the top 32 selections.

5. Ezra Cleveland

Cleveland isn’t a tackle that should be counted on to provide early production at the next level, but his long-range potential should be enough to push him into the first round. Any team looking to patiently groom their left tackle of the future would be wise to scoop him up in the late-20s.

The knock on Cleveland is that he’s not physical enough to play right away. That’s a reasonable criticism. It’s also something that can easily be fixed at the next level.

What Cleveland does have is exceptional feet for the left tackle position. That gives him an easy path towards becoming a top-notch pass blocker in the NFL. Drafting a potential starter at left tackle in Round 2 is excellent business for the team that makes the gamble.

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