My (very) early sleeper pick for #15: Carlos Basham.
Why? In the first round, particularly as early as NE is picking, you want to get a guy with a physical skill level that's hard to find. Carlos Basham has a RARE athletic profile. Draftscout
(which does a really good job of getting physical measurements) has Basham at 6'4 1/8, 285 with a 4.68 40. Bruce Feldman placed Basham 2nd on his annual physical freaks list, with a 400# press, 700# squat, 36" vertical, and 4.21 short shuttle. You just don't find those sorts of numbers on a 6'4, 285# human.
Okay, but does that translate to production? Well, 10 sacks as a junior and then 5 sacks in 6 games as a senior. Wake generally played him as a DE, but he was also athletic enough to stand up and rush, and kick inside as well. While he's not an elite edge setter, he has the length, mass, and power to handle that responsibility in NE's defense. They've typically been using guys like Simon, Calhoun, Bowser, Jennings, and Wino in that role. Those guys are in the 250-265 range. Basham has 20+ #s on them, with the frame to add even more good weight. Oh, and he's also faster than all of them, too (with the possible exception of Wino).
5th year senior and team captain lead me to believe that the intangibles are there that will appeal to BB. It's pretty clear (and was as pointed out in last week's Breer article), this team - and particularly the front 7 - needs more three down players who can handle the run and pass. There's too many package guys that can only do one or the other (and some who can't really do either, but that's another story). Basham profiles as a three down player with rare physical traits. He even covers kicks at 285#. You just don't run across guys like him every day.
Draft Twitter generally has Basham as a late first into the 2nd round, so 15 feels like a stretch right now. Brugler has Basham as his 6th best edge prospect, so it's possible I'm seeing things that aren't there. But I have a good feeling Basham is going to start building Twitter momentum starting with the Senior Bowl weigh-ins that will only go up once he has his combine workout (assuming there's a combine this year). I think coaches are also going to like him based on production and makeup.
There are some really interesting edge guys who will likely be candidates in the 15 range, including Paye and Rousseau. But I think Basham has some qualities that BB is going to really like, including mass and power.
As an addendum, I liked Rousseau's tape over Basham's. Rousseau had more splash and juice; rangy, functional power, and very disruptive. Draftscout had him a shade under 6'5, 260#. Looks the part, but could use more mass. That said, I just don't see BB taking a one year player in the 1st round. Particularly one who opted out of playing a 2nd season Just doesn't fit with what I've seen from him.
Kwity Paye would definitely be a consideration. 6'2 6/8, 272#. Very athletic and disruptive. Doesn't have the length of Basham or Rosseau, but he could conceivably have the power to set the edge and hold up at the POA. Definitely has the athleticism to do the other things NE wants from its DE/OLB types. Paye makes perfect sense in this range, but I highlighted Basham as an under the radar type who could also end up in this range.