NFL Draft Overrated/Underrated Prospects

Quarterback

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Overrated: Brad Kaaya – Miami

Before the season, Brad Kaaya was seen as the second rated quarterback behind Deshaun Watson. After a mediocre season, Kaaya’s draft stock had slipped to the middle rounds of the draft. He looked comfortable at the combine and at his pro day, which has elevated him back up draft boards. He’s not the first round pick that people projected before the season, but he’ll likely be a day two pick. I just don’t see it with Kaaya. I think he will be a lifelong backup and should be a day three selection. He played in a pro-style offense in college, which helped him look comfortable at the combine. Many of the other quarterbacks played in spread systems, so they struggled with their footwork compared to Kaaya. Although Kaaya looks good in workouts, he struggles when playing in games against live competition. He doesn’t handle pressure well, and isn’t able to consistently keep his eyes down the field without looking at the pass rush. He’ll always look good in practice, but he’ll never be a starter-quality quarterback in games.

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Underrated: Deshaun Watson – Clemson

I’ve heard that there aren’t any first round quarterbacks from many draft experts, but there will be a few drafted because of how important the position is. I understand the criticisms of Watson’s game, but I have him as a top fifteen prospect. I have a higher grade on Watson than last year’s number one pick – Jared Goff. He does have deep ball accuracy issues and comes from a gimmicky offense at Clemson, but he has shown the ability to make every throw and has elite athleticism for the position. Watson is a leader, a winner, and plays his best ball when the lights are brightest. If I was in charge of a team needing a quarterback, I’d have no issue selecting him in the top 10.

Running Back

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Overrated: Christian McCaffrey – Stanford

Although I have a borderline first round grade on McCaffrey, I think he’s being overrated by draft experts. I’ve heard that he’ll be a top ten pick, which I think would be a huge mistake. I think McCaffrey is a gadget player. He’s not a pure running back, he’s the type of gadget player that you have to manufacture touches for. I think he’d make a better slot receiver than running back. You can give him the ball out of the backfield at times, but I don’t think he has the size and ability to consistently run the ball between the tackles. I compare McCaffrey to a bigger Danny Woodhead or Darren Sproles with the ability to return punts and kicks. This makes him a valuable commodity, but I wouldn’t take him until the second half of the first round.

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Underrated: Brian Hill – Wyoming

This is an extremely deep draft for running backs, and I think Brian Hill has been lost in the shuffle. Although he didn’t play against the greatest level of competition, he rushed for over 1600 yards and 1800 yards during his last two seasons in college. Hill is a bigger back and doesn’t have elite speed or athleticism. I don’t think he’s a liability in the passing game (third down), but his best football will likely be on first and second down. In a league that has few workhorse running backs, Hill will fit in as a power back that can handle a large workload. He has experience in both a zone and power blocking scheme, which will make him valuable for all 32 teams. I think he’ll likely be selected in the fifth round, but I’d draft him in the third round if I needed a powerful running back.

Wide Receiver

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Overrated: John Ross – Washington

Everyone freaked out when John Ross ran a record-breaking 4.22 40 yard dash at the combine, but this shouldn’t change his draft stock. Before his 40 yard dash, we all knew that he was extremely fast and injury-prone. His combine ended after that speedy run because he got injured in the process. Ross isn’t just a fast person, he’s a legit wide receiver prospect and should be drafted in the first round. I’ve heard rumors that he could be the first receiver drafted, which would be a huge mistake. Ross is the third receiver on my board behind Mike Williams and Corey Davis, and I think he should be drafted towards the end of the first round if teams are comfortable with his medical situation. He struggles against press coverage, which should relegate him to the slot at the next level. I think he’s a good player, but drafting him early in the first round before Williams and Davis would be a mistake.

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Underrated: Gabe Marks – Washington State

As a proud Cougars alum, I’ve had a lot of experience watching Gabe Marks play. I’ve seen him play every game of his career (some on television and some in person), so I know his game extremely well. I think he’ll be a late round pick and will eventually become some team’s starting slot receiver. He reminds me a lot of Doug Baldwin with his attitude and quickness. He doesn’t have elite deep speed, but his shiftiness allows him to separate from corners. I’ve heard that he has issues with his hands, but that is a bunch of nonsense. Marks consistently makes difficult catches look routine. I have a third to fourth round grade on him. Some team will draft him in the last few rounds of the draft and get a starting slot receiver for years to come.

Tight End

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Overrated: David Njoku – Miami

David Njoku will be a first round pick in this year’s NFL draft. I have a first round grade on him, but I think he’s being overrated by draft experts. I have him as my second rated tight end behind O.J. Howard, but I think there is a large gap between them. I have Evan Engram and Bucky Hodges as my third and fourth rated tight ends. I have Engram and Hodges closer on my big board to Njoku than Njoku is to Howard. Njoku is an elite athlete and has the highest upside of all the tight end prospects, but I think he’s further away from his ceiling than most people think. I don’t have as high of a grade on him as I did for Eric Ebron coming out of North Carolina, and I expect early struggles in Njoku’s career just like with Ebron (although I think Ebron will eventually turn the corner). It usually takes tight ends longer to assimilate into an NFL offense than other positions, and I think Njoku will take even longer than a typical tight end prospect. I don’t have an issue with a team drafting in the twenties choosing Njoku, but the rumors of him being neck and neck with Howard are alarming to me.

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Underrated: Cole Hikutini – Louisville

Cole Hikutini is one of my favorite players in the draft. Every year I have a few players that I like a lot more than the consensus, and this year the greatest example of that is Hikutini. Although he struggles as a blocker at times, I think he has the frame and competitiveness that is necessary to become a good blocker. His technique is poor, but I think he’ll become a serviceable blocker with NFL coaching. But where Hikutini will make his money is in the passing game. This is a passing league, and it’s becoming crucial for offensives to have mismatch tight ends. I think Hikutini can lineup as an inline tight end or as a big slot receiver. He doesn’t run great routes, but he’s physical and quick enough to create separation from defenders. He has great hands and consistently makes tough catches on tape. I think he’ll be a fifth or sixth round pick, but I have a late second round grade on him. It may take him a few years to develop into a starting tight end, but I think he’ll eventually become a player that far outplays his draft position.

Offensive Tackle

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Overrated: Roderick Johnson – Florida State

Roderick Johnson is the classic “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” prospect in this year’s draft. If he puts everything together, he’ll be the best offensive lineman from this draft class. He has that type of potential, but I think he’s much more likely to be a bust. I’d give him a ten percent chance of hitting his ceiling, which would frighten me if I was considering drafting him. I think he’s a boom-or-bust prospect. He’ll either put everything together and become elite, or he’ll be a career backup. I wouldn’t take that type of prospect until day three, but I think someone will take a chance on his upside on the second day of the draft. That could end up being a costly mistake.

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Underrated: Forrest Lamp – Western Kentucky

I love Lamp! Forrest Lamp is my highest rated offensive lineman in this year’s draft. I think he’ll be moved inside at the next level (guard or center), but I would play him at offensive tackle if I was in charge of the team that selects him. I compare Lamp to Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, and Brandon Scherff. All three of these guys were elite left tackles in college, but were moved inside to guard once they were drafted. None of them (including Lamp) have elite length, but they have the technique that could allow them to thrive on the outside. There is an offensive tackle crisis in the NFL. It’s much easier to find a guard, so I wouldn’t move a potential tackle inside until he proves that he can’t survive at tackle. Although I admit that Lamp’s best position would be as a guard, I think it’s more important to have a good tackle than an elite guard. Tackles are the much more important position to have, and they are a lot harder to find. I think Lamp isn’t getting enough consideration as a tackle, and I think it’s a mistake. Most experts think he’s a late first round pick, but I’d draft him in the top ten if I needed offensive line help.

 

Offensive Guard

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Overrated: Dorian Johnson – Pittsburgh

I like Dorian Johnson as a third-day draft pick, but I’ve seen mock drafts that project him in the second round. I think drafting him late in the third round wouldn’t be a huge reach because of the lack of offensive line talent in this draft, but I’m not as high on Johnson as many others are in the draft community. He was a five-star offensive tackle prospect in high school that seamlessly made the transition to guard. He was a great collegiate guard, but I’m not sure that he has the athleticism to become a starting guard at the next level. The NFL values versatility in their offensive lineman because only a few are able to dress during games, and I think Johnson doesn’t have the versatility that teams covet. If he’s a backup guard only, he won’t be a valuable commodity to teams. I think some team will believe he’s a potential starter and will reach for him in the second round. He has great length and technique, which could help him overcome his athletic limitations. But I wouldn’t draft him until the third or fourth round of the draft.

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Underrated: David Sharpe – Florida

I think David Sharpe could be a right tackle, but I think he’ll end up playing guard at the next level. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he has elite size and strength. I think he could survive on the outside, but speed rushers would give him problems. He’s strong enough to handle the strength of defensive tackles if he gets moved inside to guard. He’s already an elite run blocker as a tackle or guard. I don’t think he’ll ever be a good pass protector unless he moves inside. Although he isn’t a great athlete, he does a good job of reaching second-level defenders. Sharpe is a very polarizing player that might last until the fourth round. If I was looking for a versatile lineman, I’d pull the trigger on Sharpe on day two of the draft.

Center

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Overrated: Jon Toth – Kentucky

Jon Toth is a draftable center that I like as a sixth or seventh round pick. I’ve seen reports that he may be drafted early in the third day of the draft. I’m not as high on him as others, but I think he could become a serviceable backup center in the NFL. He’s a four-year starter in the SEC, and has really good size for his position. He’s bigger and stronger than most centers, which contributes to him being a good run blocker at the point of attack. He isn’t a good athlete, which is why he’ll often struggle to get to second-level defenders as a run blocker. He isn’t a great pass protector, but could survive in a zone scheme that allows him to play to his strengths. I don’t think he should go undrafted, but I would only draft him as a developmental backup center in the last two rounds of the draft.

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Underrated: Riley Sorenson – Washington State

As a proud Cougars alum, I’m a big fan of Riley Sorenson. I not only think he’s a great football player, but he’s also a great person. He overcame cancer and losing both of his parents in a short period of time to become one of the best center prospects in this year’s draft. When he arrived in Pullman, the Cougars were one of the worst offensive lines in the country. By the time he was a senior, Sorenson was leading one of the best offensive lines in the country. He was a pivotal reason for turning around the program at Washington State. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s a technician that could thrive in a zone blocking scheme. He might get drafted in the late rounds of the draft (but I think he’ll go undrafted), but he’ll make a roster as a backup center. If he continues to get stronger and makes slight improvements to his technique, I think Sorenson could develop into a starting center.

Defensive Line:

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Overrated: Eddie Vanderdoes – UCLA

Eddie Vanderdoes is a boom-or-bust prospect that I believe is being overrated by the media and draft experts. He was a five-star recruit out of high school and clearly has the talent to become a starter in the NFL, but he struggled this past season coming off of a torn ACL. He played a bit overweight and seemed to have a questionable motor. I think his motor may improve if he sheds some weight, but that isn’t a given. I think he will likely be a rotational defensive tackle at the next level. If he reaches his ceiling, he’ll be an above average starter. I just don’t think he’ll ever reach that level. The pre-draft process has been favorable to him, which may culminate in him being drafted higher than expected. I think he’ll probably go in the third or fourth round, but I have a fifth round grade on him.

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Underrated: DeMarcus Walker – Florida State

I don’t understand why I’m in the minority that thinks Walker should be a late first round pick. When watching Florida State’s tape over the last few years, Walker has stood out as a defensive star that is always around the ball. I can’t take my eyes off of him even when watching his teammates. He reminds me of Michael Bennett because of his ability to dominate as a defensive end and defensive tackle. He can play anywhere on a defensive line in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense except for at nose tackle. His versatility is important, but it’s not even his biggest strength. My favorite trait of Walker is his ability to rush the passer. He has great technique and a relentless motor that helps him get to the quarterback at a high rate. He’s also a good run defender, but he’ll make his money by becoming a quarterback’s worst nightmare. I think his best position is as a 4-3 defensive end in base defense and defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. He’ll probably be a day two pick, but I would draft him in the second half of the first round if I needed pass rushing help.

Edge

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Overrated: T.J. Watt – Wisconsin

If T.J. Watt was named T.J. Jamieson, would he be a first round pick? I think being related to superstar J.J. Watt has pushed him up draft boards. I think Watt is a nice player, but I wouldn’t take him until the third round. He has upside as a pass rusher, but hasn’t put it all together yet. He would be at his best as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but could survive in a 4-3 defense (as a strong-side linebacker in base defense and defensive end in nickel). He has the motor of his brother, but he’s not nearly as talented of a player. I like his upside if he continues to develop his body and technique, but I think overdrafting him because of family bloodlines could be a costly mistake.

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Underrated: Jordan Willis – Kansas State

After a phenomenal combine, I think Jordan Willis has proved that he should be a first round pick. I put more stock into an elite combine for edge defenders (and corners) than other positions in the draft. Although elite athleticism is important, it’s meaningless if the athlete isn’t a football player. On tape, Jordan Willis is one of the most impressive prospects in the draft. He plays with great technique, but didn’t seem to be an elite athlete. He went to the combine and put up numbers similar to Von Miller. I think it’s easier for elite athletes to have a bad day at the combine than bad athletes to have a good day. Willis proved that he has the elite athleticism to match his elite technique. He can play equally well in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. I think he’ll get selected in round two, but I would take him in the second half of the first round if I needed an edge defender. Willis is going to outplay his draft stock at the next level.

Linebacker

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Overrated: Zach Cunningham – Vanderbilt

Zach Cunningham has been mentioned as a potential first round pick. I like what I see on tape, but I don’t think he’s physically gifted enough to be a first round pick. When he’s unblocked, he’ll fly around to the football and make plays. He’s got a nose for the ball, but often gets stuck on blocks. He’ll need to add strength at the next level if he wants to become a starter. I think his awareness is an issue at times, but he often makes up for this with elite athleticism. I don’t think he’s very versatile, I would only draft him if I played a 4-3 defense. He’s a classic run-and-chase weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense. He has the athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs, but hasn’t shown the proper technique. He also misses too many tackles for my liking. I think Cunningham can be coached up to overcome these flaws, but I wouldn’t take him until the end of the second round.

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Underrated: Jarrad Davis – Florida

Jarrad Davis is one of my favorite players to watch on tape. I became aware of Davis when watching Florida prospects before last season’s draft. I was trying to watch other prospects, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Davis. He constantly flashed on tape by always being around the ball. He wasn’t as good last season as he was the year prior, but his inconsistency can be attributed to health problems. He played through injuries last year, which slowed him down a bit. He’s a downhill thumper against the run, but has enough athleticism to defend the pass in both man and zone coverage. I think he’s best suited to be a middle linebacker in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, but I think he could play any linebacker position in a 4-3 defense. He’s projected as a late first round pick, but I think he should be picked in the first half of round one. He’s the third linebacker on my big board behind Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick, but I have these three players grouped a lot close to each other than most draft experts do.

Cornerback

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Overrated: Adoree’ Jackson – USC

I think Adoree’ Jackson has elite potential, but he also has a lot of holes in his game that he needs to clean up before becoming a starting cornerback. I think he’ll be a first round pick, but I wouldn’t take him until the second day of the draft. He will be an elite returner right away, but might not see the field much as a rookie on defense. I’d like to see a team use him on offense too, but not many teams are creative enough to use their elite athletes on both sides of the ball. He never had a full offseason to focus on football before, so this draft season may allow him to make more improvements than he’s shown year-to-year on tape. I worry that Jackson will be a nickel cornerback only, which won’t make him as valuable as the versatile corners. I like Jackson and think he could develop into a starting corner, but it will take a lot of time for him to get to that level.

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Underrated: Marlon Humphrey – Alabama

I’m a lot higher on Marlon Humphrey than most draft experts. He’s my second rated corner behind Marshon Lattimore. We all have issues with his ability to track the deep ball, but I believe it will be coached out of him at the next level. He was dominated at times by receivers on go routes, but has shown the ability to turn his head and track the ball at times. He’ll have to become more consistent with this, but I think it will come with more reps and trust in his technique. He has elite athletic traits, and has shown the ability to play in a zone defense. If a team wants to draft a cover 2 corner, I’d take Humphrey in the top ten. I think his only issue will be in man coverage on deep routes, but he’ll become an elite all-around cornerback if he’s able to fix this flaw. I’m willing to bet on his upside due to his young age and elite athleticism. I think Humphrey will be a late first round pick, but I would draft him in the top ten if I needed a cornerback.

Safety

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Overrated: Justin Evans – Texas A&M

I think Justin Evans might be a starting safety in the NFL, but I’m not buying the hype of him being a second round pick. He’s a very good athlete for his size, but isn’t a great football player yet. He has the potential to become an elite safety if he puts everything together, but I wouldn’t overdraft him based on his tools. I saw too many missed tackles on tape, which are mostly attributed to being too aggressive. His best fit is as a strong safety, but he plays like a free safety. If he reaches his ceiling, he will be a versatile safety that can play both free safety and strong safety. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a free safety in a strong safety’s body. Ultimately, I think he’ll figure it out and become a solid starter. But I’m worried enough about Evans’ skill set that I wouldn’t draft him until the third or fourth round.

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Underrated: Shalom Luani – Washington State

As a proud Cougars alum, I’ve watched every game that Shalom Luani has played at Washington State. I don’t think he’s going to be a starter in the NFL, but I think he could be a third safety that can play in nickel. A lot of teams are playing three safeties, and I think Luani has the ability to play on the majority of defensive snaps. He is versatile enough to play free safety and strong safety, but I think he’s best suited to play as an in-the-box strong safety. He has good range and ball skills, but he’s at his best when he plays close to the line of scrimmage. He can cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage, and has experience playing zone coverage too. I think he’ll be a late round pick or undrafted free agent, and some team will be lucky to get him on the cheap. He’ll have to make his mark as a special teams player first, but will eventually get a chance to make his mark on defense.

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