*It's no secret that the 2017 NFL Draft class has great depth at the cornerback and safety positions. We're all familiar with the top defensive back prospects ... But let's look at some of the lesser-known guys. NFL Network analyst and former pro cornerback Ike Taylor -- a fourth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003 -- pinpoints five sleeper DB prospects. *
Draft ceiling: late second round. Draft floor: fourth round.
This Colorado corner has been climbing up the ladder on many draft boards, but I think he's still going to be a Day 2 or 3 selection, because this cornerback class is so deep. He has the size (6-foot, 202 pounds) and is a great talent, but he's still raw. Awuzie can make an immediate impact if he's asked to play man-to-man coverage because he has the ability to follow the opponent's best receiver in that scheme. He's going to have to improve on off-coverage, but I'd rather have a guy who can play man in this league and help him develop in zone coverage. Teams will pass him by because he's coming out of Colorado, which enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2016 but hasn't exactly been a football power of late. If Awuzie played at Florida or Alabama, he'd easily go in the first our second round. His skill set reminds me of yours truly. I was unknown and raw coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Dick LeBeau helped me develop into a shutdown corner in Pittsburgh with time.
Draft ceiling: third round. Draft floor: sixth round.
King is an old-school, physical player who excelled as a cornerback at Iowa, winning the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award and earning All-America honors. But he doesn't have ideal height (5-10) or burner speed, and most project him as a safety at the next level. He has the instincts and is very knowledgeable, but he can't let his ballhawking eyes get the best of him on Sundays. Some defensive backs can get in trouble but make up ground with speed. King can't do that. If King has an assignment on pass plays, he can't get caught peeking.
Draft ceiling: third round. Draft floor: fourth round.
Kazee will get overlooked because of his 5-10, 184-pound frame and his underwhelming 40 time (4.54 seconds). But teams shouldn't look past this guy. While some prefer taller corners, Kazee's height isn't his issue. He tracks the ball well and has a receiver's mentality -- consequently, he recorded the second-most interceptions in the FBS two years in a row. Kazee reminds me of Asante Samuel, who was drafted five spots before me in 2003; Kazee plays off-coverage well, as he likes to watch the play develop. I see him as a starter in the right system. The lack of speed and size will hinder him in the draft, but if you pop in the tape, he looks as good as just about anybody in this class. I like Kazee over a lot of others, pound for pound.
Draft ceiling: fourth round. Draft floor: sixth round.
Jerome played well at the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, earning the MVP award, but he wasn't spectacular at the NFL Scouting Combine -- running a 4.7 40. He's going to slide to the later rounds due to his lack of speed, but he's a versatile safety. Having played some corner at St. Francis, Jerome can cover a tight end in the slot or a receiver outside the numbers. NFL teams prefer him at safety because of his build (5-10, 204 pounds).
Draft ceiling: fourth round. Draft floor: seventh round.
The Clemson product is rarely out of position and is very instinctive. At the combine, he was very robotic and didn't wow me in drills. Johnson is somewhat stiff until he's in the game. He led the national champion Tigers with five interceptions and notched 60 tackles and seven pass breakups. The team that drafts Johnson will get a gamer, but he's going to be overlooked because he's not as dynamic as other safeties in this class.