I was having a conversation recently with some friends — some agents, some in the scouting community — and the subject of ‘sleepers’ came up. During the conversation, it became necessary to actually define the term. That’s because agents and scouts usually define the term very differently.
This is a generalization, but my experience has been that scouts see most NFL draft prospects as fitting into two categories. Either the prospect is a top-100 guy, an immediate difference-maker and an instant starter, or he’s not. Almost anyone that doesn’t fit into that top 100 could be a sleeper to some or most teams.
Here’s another way scouts define sleepers. If a kid goes to a small school, or a school that’s not Power 5 (the MAC, let’s say, or the Sun Belt, or the Mountain West), he could be a sleeper. It’s a very loose term, obviously, but the players in the latter rounds could almost all be considered sleepers. Just look at how many got cut last weekend. These are players that teams don’t expect to be stars, and if they do, they ‘awoke’ and became game-changers.
This is very different from how agents look at things.
Players that are legitimate fourth- and fifth-round prospects are a long ways from being sleepers. Shoot, guys that everyone agrees will be drafted aren’t sleepers. Not for agents, at least. Why?
Because these days, once a kid gets identified as a legit draft prospect, word gets out quickly. Sooner or later, word gets back to the player himself. Maybe he already saw himself that way, but either way, once he gets that stamp of legitimacy, he expects training. That means an agent can expect to spend $10,000, minimum, getting him ready for his pro day.
Once several agents offer to pay for training, a player’s price and expectation level take off. He might still be a guy that many teams have their doubts about, but agents have to make a significant investment to sign them at that point.
Finding sleepers in the draft is hard for NFL teams, but easier than ever due to the Internet and a number of other factors. But for agents, it’s quite a challenge.