Josh Norris

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Draft 2012: The Underrated

Sunday, February 12, 2012


This is the complementary Underrated prospects column following last Friday's Overrated article. Read below for the most underrated players eligible for this year's draft, and bang it here for the most overrated.

All 40 times and heights/weights for non-senior prospects are projected.

Underrated:

1. Iowa OT Riley Reiff (6-6/300/4.94) - The consensus opinion will soon consider Reiff a top-ten lock, and he earned that recognition with consistent play as a 37-game starter at Iowa. Reiff is an athletic left tackle with solid lateral agility and quick hands to lock or redirect. He bends at the waist occasionally, but flashes solid posture and knee bend when recovering that nullifies the worry. Once Reiff gets into proper positioning in the run or pass game, it's over. He can contain even the most elite defenders. NFL teams will love Reiff's strong first punch and nastiness that most Iowa players bring. Reiff is a serious contender to be selected third overall and won't make it past the Panthers at the back end of the top ten.

2. Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill (6-4/222/4.65) - The former Aggie wide receiver is a natural quarterback, possessing a strong arm and compact release while handling movement in the pocket very well. Where Tannehill falters at times is his decision making, trusting his receivers to make plays on contested catches -- many of which did not go Tannehill's way in college. Even more necessary than arm talent, a quarterback must be a game manager who makes sound decisions. I am confident this is an area in which Tannehill will develop, and he is already more adept playing under center than most draft-eligible signal callers. While some consider there to be a major drop-off after this year's top two quarterbacks, Tannehill possesses all the qualities of an early-career starter. With the Browns, Redskins, and Dolphins drafting in the top ten, I see little chance that Tannehill makes it into the double-digit picks.

3. Baylor WR Kendall Wright (5-10/190/4.42) - It would not surprise me at all if Wright were the first wideout picked. While I still don't consider him top-ten worthy, Wright's combination of playmaking ability and versatility is unmatched in this year's draft class. Wright lines up at every receiver position, running each route with ease and creating separation at all parts of the field with quickness and body control. I'd go so far as to call Wright the top playmaker at any skill position. Height is the lone knock on Wright, as very few receivers under 6-foot have historically been selected in the first round. My question is, how many "small" receivers would you swap with larger ones who never met expectations? Plenty.

4. Tennessee DE Malik Jackson (6-5/270/4.82) - Jackson quietly offers the same versatility as top-five prospect Quinton Coples, having played extensively at end and tackle and excelled at both in the SEC. Jackson displays incredible strength off the snap with quick hands that throw even the most thickly built interior linemen off balance. Jackson's arm length helps disrupt passing lanes, but he has yet to maximize his length potential into leverage against the run, especially in short-yardage situations. When rushing the passer, Jackson is persistent and very active with strong counter moves if his initial burst is halted. His "tweener" label may be frowned upon by some, but I think Jackson is a top-five defensive end in this draft and worthy of a second-round pick.

5. Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden (6-3/219/4.92) - Weeden possesses the arm talent, composure, and confidence to take calculated risks in tight windows. Realistically, there is no competition for this year's No. 4 quarterback; the discussion should begin and end at Weeden. I believe he is much more ready to start immediately than most give him credit. Again, Weeden's age should be a non-factor for the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams. He deserves to be selected late in the first round.

6. California ILB Mychal Kendricks (5-11/240/4.72) - When I referenced inside 'backers that deserve to be drafted ahead of Vontaze Burfict in Friday's Overrated prospects column, Kendricks was one of the thumpers I had in mind. Kendricks' height has been discussed as a negative, but plenty of undersized "Mikes" are NFL starters. Kendricks has outstanding closing speed with excellent timing on delayed blitzes around the edge or up the middle once leaving his zone coverage. He can struggle to fight through blocks when leading with the wrong shoulder, but makes up for it with exceptional lateral quickness to knife through lanes. Kendricks' reliable instincts are showcased in every game, making plenty of jarring hits at the line of scrimmage on aggressive angles inside or out. Kendricks' cover skills are solid as well, but obviously his limited length will be a detriment when competing with taller receivers. Still, a team will get a starter on the second day with Kendricks.

7. Alabama NT Josh Chapman (6-0/310/5.02) - Possibly the least flashy player in the draft, Chapman is one of my favorites. He was the unheralded piece of a relentless 'Bama defense, plugging the middle to let others run free. Chapman plays within a two-yard radius, getting little penetration but displaying a rare anchor that rarely gets moved, even when facing double teams. With limited upfield ability, Chapman will be a two-down NFL player but he accomplishes his responsibility extraordinarily well. Despite playing with a torn ACL for the last eight games of the 2011 season, Chapman was the nation's top run defender.

8. Midwestern State OG Amini Silatolu (6-3/318/5.40) - It's a shame Silatolu was forced out of the Senior Bowl due to injury, because he would have put on a show. The Division-II prospect has mammoth size and an equal amount of strength. He looks to punish his opposition in any manner on every snap. Silatolu lays out for bone-crushing blocks and can toss smaller defensive ends to the side like rag dolls. His feet are a bit heavy against quick rushers, and Silatolu can get too high at times while redirecting, but he is a violent prospect. He should be drafted earlier than fellow small-schooler Will Rackley was in 2011.

9. Texas A&M CB Terrence Frederick (5-10/187/4.52) - A veteran player, Frederick is often overlooked after playing alongside more highly touted Aggie cornerback Coryell Judie. Frederick's best work is in the slot, where he exhibits short-area quickness in both man and zone coverage while staying with his responsibility. He rarely played press at A&M, but has plenty of physicality to his game and is a tremendous blitzer off the edge while disguising pre-snap. His ball skills are lacking, needing to get his hands on more passes, but Frederick stays in a receiver's hip pocket consistently. Even against the run, Frederick shows the necessary skills to be a team's 12th defensive starter as a nickel corner. He'd be a value pick on the third day.



Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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