NFL Draft Sleeper - Hidden in Plain Sight

NFL Draft Sleeper – Hidden in Plain Sight


Florida State opened the 2016 season with its biggest come from behind win in school history over nationally ranked Mississippi on a Monday night game that had a huge audience as it was the only game being played at the end of a holiday weekend between two nationally ranked teams. Florida State was ranked No. 4 prior to the game, while Ole Miss was ranked No. 11 and they played before a TV audience of 8.354 million viewers, which was the second highest TV audience of a vast college football weekend. Only Notre Dame and Texas had a higher TV viewership while FSU and Ole Miss outdrew the Alabama against USC and LSU versus Wisconsin games. 

As is usually the case, the focus was on the quarterbacks as Mississippi had Chad Kelly, an All-American candidate and the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who was in attendance at the game; and Florida State's heralded redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, who got the start because of an injury to the starting QB and had Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston on the sideline offering his support. An additional attraction was Florida State's All-American RB candidate Dalvin Cook who has been projected as a 1st round NFL Draft choice when he declares for the draft. 

Pro scouts were very interested in the matchup between LT Roderick Johnson of Florida State and right defensive end Marquis Haynes of Mississippi who also lined up at LDE at times which would place him against Florida State's RT and brings us to the subject of this article, namely Rick Leonard, who plays RT for the Seminoles.

Rick Leonard was a 4 star high school recruit as a defensive end and spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as a substitute DE who didn't get much playing time. In the spring of 2016, Coach Jimbo Fisher had the idea of converting Leonard to offensive tackle as Coach Fisher had a need at the position and thought that Leonard had the traits to be successful. Coach Fisher has had success with this type of move in the past when he converted DT Cameron Erving to LT and then to center out of necessity. Erving ended up being a 1st round Draft choice of the Cleveland Browns.

So before the huge TV audience of 8.354 million, a sellout crowd of 63,042, the football celebrities in attendance, and the spotlight on headline players such as the aforementioned Chad Kelly, Deondre Francis, Dalvin Cook and others with a side note that the game was played in Orlando, the home town of Francis and the pro scouts eagerly awaiting the matchup between Roderick Johnson and Marquis Haynes, Rick Leonard, who in addition to all of the attention on the star players, the enormity of the game between highly ranked teams and standing at 6-6 306, was hidden in plain  sight for anyone to see. But the attention went to the play of Ole Miss in the first half, and then to QB Deondre Francis propelling himself into the national spotlight by passing for over 400 yards and 2 TDs while running for another 59 yards; to Placekicker Ricky Aguayo, a freshman and younger brother of PK Roberto Aguayo, a Florida State All-American from last year, with Ricky kicking 6 field goals and DE Demarcus Walker, who had 4.5 Sacks including a Strip-Sack of QB Kelly, not to mention the outstanding play of strong safety Derwin James.  James, Walker, Aguayo and Francis all were ACC Players of the Week at their positions for their play, while Rick Leonard received no attention, but very quietly more than held his own.

Considering that he has played tackle for less than one year, he played very well and exhibited aggressiveness in run blocking and a good hand punch and arm extension in pass blocking. Sure, he needs more technique work and refinement for the position, but he has the size: 6-6 and 306 pounds, quick feet, agility and long arms that pro scouts prize at the tackle position. Leonard has built himself up from 273 lbs. in the spring of 2015 to 287 lbs. in the spring of 2016 to his current 306 and with his long arms and quick feet and being known for his passion for the game and work ethic, he has emerged as a potentially high draft choice when he declares for the draft, most likely in 2018.

Being 6-6 and 306 pounds and playing for the No. 4 ranked team in the country, he was hidden in plain sight for all to see but drew barely any attention because of the enormity of the game and the focus on the star players, yet he might well be a star in the making.


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