2024 NFL Draft: 10 sleepers to know

The third day of the NFL draft is the spotlight moment for the hard-working area scouts and position coaches behind the curtain to celebrate the gem prospects they believe are underappreciated and acute fits for a need or the overall team culture.

A late-round pick or a highly coveted undrafted free agent can slip through the cracks, and history shows draft position isn’t the only factor in a prospect becoming a reliable pro.

Sometimes it’s a receiver who tested poorly but had all the intangibles, like recent rookie receiving yardage record-setter Puka Nacua (Rams).

Sometimes it’s a quarterback without a strong arm or standout athleticism, but great decision-making and a feel for running the offense, like Brock Purdy (49ers).

Among our favorite sleepers we project as late-round picks or undrafted free agents are these 10 names to know:

Jaden Crumedy, DT/DE, Mississippi State

Injuries limited Crumedy over the past couple years, but when healthy he was one of the more dynamic big men among college defensive lines. Despite being 300 pounds he regularly lined up over tackles early in his career. Clearly, the tools are present as the foundation for a great find.

Sataoa Laumea, OG, Utah

A college tackle who figures to kick inside as a pro, Laumea’s length, strength and tenacity fit lead to a projection of long-time starter at guard. There will be some projection involved for teams, but he could easily outplay a fourth- or fifth-round draft slot.

Tip Reiman, TE, Illinois

Reiman’s modest production won’t stand out amongst tight end prospects, but a blazing 4.64 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds set him apart from his peers at the position. In a tight end class lacking depth, he figures to be one of the more interesting mid rounders at the position.

Travis Clayton, OT, Basingstoke RFC

A former rugby player and boxer, Clayton’s special pro day gives him a legitimate chance to get picked. He ran a 4.82 40-yard dash at 6-7, 301 and has 35-inch arm length. Jake Witt was drafted in the seventh round last year with size and speed, but less length.

Eric Watts, DE, Connecticut

One of the freakiest height-weight-speed athletes in the draft, Watts has near 36-inch arms at 6-6, 274 and ran in the 4.6s at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s a bit stiff with his rush and will need seasoning with his hands, but he is extremely undervalued right now given his upside.

Bayron Matos, OT, South Florida

A walk-on at USF who played college basketball, Matos has almost no experience and would need a long runway. His traits are drawing scouts to take a look because of a frame — 6-7, 313, 35-inch arms — and light feet indicating he’ll grow into football. Matos ran a 4.92 at his pro day.

McKinnley Jackson, DT, Texas A&M

Testing bumped Jackson down from a likely Day Two pick into the sixth-round range. His length and strength in the run game are readymade for the next level.

Craig Young, LB, Kansas

Primarily a nickel defender for the Jayhawks, Young went from 215 to 225 pounds during the pre-draft process to show he could hold the weight of a true linebacker and testing indicates he maintained his athleticism. Fits for teams emphasizing hybrid versatility in the back seven such as Seattle and Baltimore.

Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State

At a shade under 5-10 and only 184 pounds, Smith-Wade’s draft stock tanked with his 4.5 40 time as a likely nickel-only corner. His smooth movements in transition and sticky man coverage should translate.

Jaylon Carlies, LB/S, Missouri

Carlies should be getting more attention. He’s the ideal modern-day linebacker with height, weight, length and speed teams covet. His instincts are still in the works, but ceilings don’t get much higher for late-rounders.