Every year there are guys in the NFL draft that teams and scouts seem to underestimate or undervalue and every year a select few surprise by becoming highly productive players. We've seen so many examples of it in the past with guys like Brady, Colston, Sherman, Chancellor, Antonio Brown and more recently T.Y. Hilton, Tyrann Mathieu, Keenan Allen, Larry Warford, Zac Stacy and Jordan Mills. These are players that for one reason or another were not worth a 1st rd pick as they either had previous injuries, baggage or not the ideal measurables. But what separated a lot of these guys from their peers was their level of intelligence, heart, will and determination. These are things that do not show up on paper or cannot be measured with a stopwatch. Guys with these intangibles are often referred to as sleepers. If GM's hit on their first couple picks in the draft it is expected but if they can hit on late round picks like Seattle did with Sherman and Chancellor then they can win Championships. A case can be made this year for Shayne Skov being one of those sleepers....
From Rantsports last offseason: By and large a good kid who has had to overcome a lot of difficulties in his personal life. Outstanding student both in the classroom and in his film studies. An emotional and fiery team leader. Watch a few of his half-time speeches on YouTube, and tell me you don’t want to play next to that guy. Very high football IQ. A very smart, instinctive player who regularly makes his proper reads. Consistent producer when healthy. Has been a tackling machine since the moment he stepped foot on campus in 2009. Ferocious hitter who can really lay the wood and set the tone for the defense. Has the size and bulk to take on blockers and hold at the point of attack. Very strong run defender. Has a nose for the ball, and plays downhill with good anticipation. Outstanding interior blitzer. Has the speed, strength and timing to burst through and collapse pocket. Has quick feet and fluid hips while dropping back into coverage. Is efficient playing zone coverage, but is a liability in man. Experience playing both inside and outside linebacker spots in an odd front. A classic old school, blue collar, throwback kind of linebacker in the mold of Brian Urlacher (though not quite as strong in coverage).
A little raw in coverage but a ton of talent nonetheless. Sounds like a 1st rd pick right?
Well in 2011 he tore his Achilles and was slowed in 2012 while recovering from the injury. Last year however, he regained his explosiveness and was as dominant as any MLB in the country. Furthermore, he seemed to show up big in big games as shown here against top teams:
Shayne Skov Highlights (via Andrew Costa)
Notice how he hits the hole hard, takes proper angles, sheds blockers and can get to the quarterback - all areas that our LB's struggled in.
Last year, Kiko Alonso was in a similar boat as Skov going into the draft. He too was coming off a major injury, skipped the Senior Bowl and also had a DUI in his past. This led him to drop to the 2nd round where he was taken by the Buffalo Bills and went on to a great NFL rookie season. This year Shayne Skov could have similar results. He played typically in 3-4 defense at Stanford similar to what San Francisco does in the NFL so it is not clear if Bears GM Phil Emery will even have him on his radar come draft time. But when you factor in all those intangibles, the ability to be a difference maker, the leadership qualities along with talk of the Bears slowly transitioning to a hybrid defense (and/or eventually a 3-4), Skov may be the kind of sleeper player Emery drafts for the future. This is likely Briggs last year with us and with Bostic likely replacing him next year at WLB, having a guy like Skov sit and learn for a year may just be what the doctor ordered. Realistically, that was the plan for Bostic last year. Regardless, if he is still on the board when we pick in the 3rd round he may be too tempting to pass up.
Bottom line, Skov plays with as much passion and heart as anyone, has great leadership qualities and is a real student of the game. He may not be the biggest, fastest or best in coverage but does have a lot of positives that are hard to teach including his smarts and playmaking ability. He requires further coaching at the NFL level but if anyone can overcome their weaknesses you gotta believe he has the mental toughness, will and determination to do so.
Sounds like a sleeper to me......