SleepersJuly 23, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Pat Hunley

In any rookie draft, the fourth round is usually less than irrelevant. Most rookie drafts are four rounds long, and by that point, there’s nothing left but second day draft picks and undrafted free agents. However, there are always some deep sleepers in the fourth round, and some of them work out. Marques Colston went undrafted in most rookie drafts, and Mike Bell was a common third and fourth round pick. There are diamonds to be found in the rough that is the fourth round, and although predicting them is impossible, speculating is easy. One common fourth round pick who could become the next Bell or Colston is Kolby Smith.

Kolby Smith was one of two running backs out of Louisville taken in the NFL draft. He played behind Michael Bush for most of his college career, but when Bush broke his leg in 2006, Smith became part of a Louisville rushing attack that ran for almost 2500 yards and scored 35 touchdowns. Smith received the majority of the carries and ended the season with 154 carries for 862 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He also scored 7 touchdowns. However, Smith never received more than 20 carries in a game and was relieved frequently by George Stripling and Anthony Allan.

Smith was drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs, and for a fifth round pick, you really couldn’t ask for a better situation. The Chiefs have minimal depth at running back, so Smith’s chances of making the roster are excellent, and his chances of eventually becoming the backup are also high. And don’t forget the question marks surrounding Larry Johnson. LJ had over 400 carries last year, a workload that usually translates into poor performance in following years. There are also rumors that Johnson could hold out of training camp because he wants a contract extension. All of these factors lead to a great situation for Smith where he could get carries right away or be the starter within a couple years.

I’m not saying that Smith is a sure thing. You shouldn’t take him in your rookie draft and declare your running back problems solved. Players that fall to the fifth round fall there for a reason, and Smith is no exception. He never carried the full load in college, so even if he does become the starter, he will probably be in a running back by committee with a goal line vulture as well. This could limit his fantasy value. Still, the situation surrounding Smith gives him a much better chance at playing time than other players you could get with a fourth round rookie draft pick. For that small of a price, why not take someone that could one day be a starting running back?

Pat Hunley is a die hard Steelers fan and Cafe addict who one day aspires to be a sports journalist. You can always find Pat in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of steelerfan513.
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