2014 Sleeper S: Pierre Warren
There isn't a clear-cut second-best safety prospect in the draft behind Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, the All-SEC free safety from Alabama. It could be Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois. Or perhaps it's Calvin Pryor from Louisville. Or maybe it's Washington State senior Deone Bucannon. Nevertheless, there are some good --not great -- prospects in the defensive backfield, and there are also some who are lurking under the radar.
Nat Berhe from San Diego State is a very good player with only a 7th-round rating. Alden Darby and Hakeem Smith are also solid safety prospects who aren't garnering much attention pre-Combine. All of these prospects have the chance to improve their stock in Indianapolis. But there's another guy I'm high on who wasn't invited to the Combine, and that's Pierre Warren from Jacksonville State.
In the 2013 Draft, the Gamecocks had wide receiver Alan Bonner drafted by the Houston Texans in the 6th round. He was the first player from the school drafted since 1991. And now in 2014, they have a decent shot at having another player selected in the later rounds. Warren (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) was a 2013 first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection for an impressive season which included 76 total tackles, 5 interceptions including one for a TD, 12 pass breakups, 3 fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. In four career games against FBS schools, three of which were SEC teams, Warren compiled 22 tackles, a pass breakup and 2 fumble recoveries. The first critique on Warren would be the small school he played for, so it's encouraging to see good play against FBS schools.
Warren is leaving school early as a junior and has been a starter since the last four games of 2011. He's tall, athletic and plays the ball extremely well in the air. Not only can he make plays on passes, but his three fumble recoveries shouldn't be ignored. He's just one of those players who is always near the ball and ready to make a play on it, always trying to force a turnover. He's recorded a 4.53 40 time which is good for his size. If he can improve on that time at the Jacksonville State Pro Day, scouts will automatically upgrade him in their rankings.
With unquestionable athleticism, good tackling ability and ball skills, there aren't many questions about Warren's game. Scouts will want to be sure he can compete at a high level against the best football players in the world in the NFL. Granted, Warren is benefitting from a weak safety class where anyone can rise quickly with a good workout. But his resume and athletic ability shouldn't be brushed off so easily.