As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, many general manager’s have been consulting their scouting departments on which players they should target. Furthermore, many NFL teams have already selected a handful of players they feel good about, when their team is on the clock. However, since the draft order is based on standings, GM Trent Baalke will have to play “Nostradamus” a bit and predict which players will actually fall through the cracks, as they hold the 31st pick in the first-round. With many top players likely gone, I believe Baalke should take a calculated risk on a “sleeper.”
A sleeper is a player that has flown under the radar, despite his productivity, potential, or skill set. Many other factors can deem a player as a sleeper, including character concerns, college competition, and injuries. However, despite these perceived flaws, many NFL teams are willing to take a gamble, in hopes that player will pan out, and Michigan State product William Gholston is no exception.
Gholston’s college career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, while at Michigan State. His flashy plays combined with a questionable attitude, are what scouts worry about the most. In 2011, Gholston made headlines for all the wrong reasons, as he was suspended for one game due to punching Michigan’s T Taylor Lewan and twisting QB Denard Robinson’s helmet. Although, Gholston let his emotions get the best of him that day, I believe he is well worth the risk.
For starters, Gholston is built like an absolute freak. He stands 6-7 and weighs 275 pounds of pure muscle. He is blessed with a nice frame that he can grow into, while also providing the athletic ability to wreak havoc in the backfield. A true freak of nature. Not only is Gholston athletically gifted, but his long wing-span affords him the ability to block passing lanes with his arms.
In 2012, Gholston set a new Michigan State record for most pass break-ups by a defensive lineman in a single season with 10. In today’s NFL, pass breaks ups are just as valuable as getting a sack on a quarterback, as Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt garnered high praise, earning him the nickname “J.J. Swatt.” To me a pass rush is just as valuable as a pass break up, because it creates at the very minimum a loss of down. Furthermore, if for some reason Gholston is unable to get pressure on the quarterback, he can then rely on his lanky arms to help impact the play. A dual pass-rush threat the 49ers sorely miss.
Secondly, his physical nature is second to none. Gholston welcomes contact and loves to be physical at the point of attack. He holds the edge well and plays with good leverage, allowing him to shed blockers and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Gholston is agile enough to stick with tight-ends in pass coverage, while quick enough to contain running backs in the flat, making him a very intriguing prospect. In my eyes, a poor man’s Julian Peterson.
Remember him? Before TE Delanie Walker earned the nickname, “The Jack of all Trades,” it was Peterson who was the epitome of that metaphor. Like Gholston, Peterson also played for the Michigan State Spartans, before being drafted by San Francisco in the first-round (16th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. Peterson could do it all. He played defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback, and sometimes free-safety. A true versatile player that was athletically blessed, and I see a very similar situation with Gholston.
Before the 2012 season began, Gholston was regarded as one of the premier defensive players to watch for. However, as the season progressed, Gholston draft stock quickly spiraled due to other players stepping up and having monsters seasons. Gholston, is now projected by many to be a late second to early third-round draft pick.
Whether the 49ers have Gholston on their watch list remains to be seen. However, if Gholston somehow falls to them with the 31st pick, they should strongly consider him, as I believe Gholston is well worth the risk.