This is Part 1 of a 2 part series where I will take a look at some players that I feel are either underrated or overrated. I enjoy the scouting process and always want to look back to see how my evaluations fared. I’m also not afraid to put my opinions and player grades out there, as I’m sure you can tell by my scouting reports. I hate the cookie-cutter mentality and hopping on the bandwagon with prospects like the media does. It’s bad for the draft community and I feel as though I wouldn’t actually be sharing my own personal thoughts instead just trying to “fit in” so I don’t get blasted for my reports.
This list consists of my favorite underrated players in the draft. The list is only limited to potential 1st rounders. I realize that not all of these guys are locks for the 1st round and that the draft is wildly unpredictable, but these players were considered 1st rounders for much of the off-season.
Courtney Upshaw – DE/OLB – Alabama
I’m puzzled at the recent negative buzz surrounding Upshaw. Many are saying his stock is slipping and it’s because teams don’t know where to play him. I think Upshaw can play anywhere. He can be effective standing up or with his hand in the dirt. He may not lack pure speed around the edge but that doesn’t mean he won’t be good at rushing the passer. He’s got tremendous strength and uses his hands better than any pass-rusher in this class. He’ll be a force against the run as well, unlike most of the other top rated guys. I see an all-around great player with the potential to be elite.
Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina
Sticking with defensive linemen, Coples is another guy I’m high on. Yes, I am aware of his motor issues but he has the talent. He toned it down at times as a senior and it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe he wasn’t trying to get hurt to protect his 1st round status or maybe he had a falling out with his coaches. I say that because watching a talented team like UNC play this past season was frustrating. They were consistently flat and the defense especially played with no fire and this wasn’t limited to just Coples. Butch Davis and company were fired after the season so maybe there was something going on that we don’t know about. Coples proved his talent at the Senior Bowl as he repeatedly abused offensive lineman. The guy can play and people are forgetting just how good he can become.
Coby Fleener – TE – Stanford
People say this is a weak tight end class and that Fleener is overrated simply because he’s part of a bad group. That couldn’t be more false. Fleener is a tremendous receiver and his blocking is really not all that bad. Sure he’s not a great in-line guy but he can block on the move when he’s playing in more of an H-Back role. Andrew Luck helped him, but he also helped Luck. He should definitely come off the board in round 1 and become one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in the league.
Brandon Thompson – DT – Clemson
Thomspon is one of the top defensive tackles in the class but he’s often overlooked. The media is focusing too much on the athletic freaks and combine standouts instead of the actual standouts on the field. Thompson is strong at the point of attack but he’s also got an explosive element to his game. He’s raw as a pass-rusher but he’s definitely got some quickness off the snap. He should be able to start right away and play at a high level, which can’t be said for some of the other top rated defensive tackles.
Fletcher Cox – DT – Mississippi State
At the time that I put this list together Cox was supposed to be drafted in the 15-25 range. Now, he’s a lock to go in the top 10 it seems. I can’t say I disagree with that. He’s a tremendous athlete and at times you’ll forget he’s a 300 pound defensive tackle when you see him chasing down plays from the backside. He’s still developing (although not raw) but he’s got a high ceiling.
Cordy Glenn – OG/OT – Georgia
Cordy Glenn is the second best tackle in this class after Kalil in my opinon. He’s big but he’s got quick feet and the length to stay outside at tackle in the NFL. Many think he’ll be best suited at guard but I’d rather give him a chance outside first. He’s got great power and plays with a nasty demeanor. He reminds me of a poor mans Jonathan Ogden.
Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor
Wright’s stock seems to be slipping and there are reports of teams giving him a 3rd round grade. I’m baffled as to why. He’s a dynamic player with great hands who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He can make guys miss and he has the speed to consistently get behind secondaries. Don’t buy the 4.6 40 time he ran at the combine, it’s clearly not comparable to his game speed. He’ll be a fun one to watch in the NFL.
David DeCastro – OG – Stanford
DeCastro is probably one of the best guard prospects I’ve ever scouted. I know guard isn’t a sexy position and they aren’t usually drafted very high, but DeCastro is an exception. He’s so technically sound and is a dominant run blocker. He’s #6 on my big board and I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the top 10. There really are no criticisms other than “he’s a guard” so he’s still rated in 15-20 range.
Shea McClellin – OLB – Boise State
McClellin is a quick riser and will likely be drafted in the 1st round despite the majority of the draftnik community rating him as a 2nd/3rd rounder all year. He’s high on my big board as well and I can see him being a great pass-rusher in the NFL. He’s got the quickness to succeeded and he flashes some nice moves. Most of all I love his relentlessness and it’s what makes me draw the comparison to Clay Matthews.
Dont’a Hightower – LB – Alabama
Hightower is another guy who doesn’t get much love because he’s not a freak athlete. He is a great football player though. He’s so strong and powerful at the point of attack it’s hard to see him struggling against the run as a rookie. Despite his size he’s not terrible in coverage either. He’s agile and can certainly hold his own in space. You can start him from day one and he can be a force in the middle of your defense for years to come.
And that concludes my list of underrated 1st rounders. Check back soon for my post on overrated 1st rounders.