I’ve had the chance to watch tape on pretty much everybody that I’ve wanted to. I was really disappointed by Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Colorado OT Nate Solder, and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo. However, Miami OG Orlando Franklin and Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard blew me away and now I believe that they are some of the most underrated players in the draft.
1. Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn
No change at the top here. Fairley can do it all as he plays both the run and the pass very well and can play in a 30 scheme as well as in the 4-3. To me, the dirty plays are the only thing working against him.
2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
A dominant receiver in college whose skillset translates very well to the NFL. He has the toughness, work ethic, and physicality to be the go-to-guy in the NFL from day 1. He will be severely underdrafted (likely in the 10-15 range).
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Everybody pretty much agrees that Green is deserving of a top 5 pick and it’s no secret why. He’s a great talent with great hands and is really tied with Julio Jones for the second overall slot in my opinion.
4. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I love how Peterson plays the game. He’s an all-world athlete, but unlike most superior collegiate athletes, Peterson does not skate by on his natural abilities. He is tough, understands the importance of sound fundamentals, and contributes in every phase of the game.
5. Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
A very complete player who is scheme versatile. He looks like a very safe pick at this point who I believe will be a very good but underrated pro because he doesn’t generate as many impact plays as Fairley.
6. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
An unbelievable athlete who can be a terror off the edge with his acceleration and power. He could be a Julius Peppers-type player, but at the same time, he is far from a finished product and it may take him 3-4 years to be a 10 sack player.
7. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Sat out this past season, but was utterly dominant in 2009 and was an early favorite to go first overall in 2011. He toyed around with Boston College’s Anthony Costanzo and is just a phenomenal pass rusher.
8. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A
Every bit as good as Robert Quinn, but is not as big or as long. As a result, he is much better off in a 3-4 than in a 4-3. I liken him to a more explosive but smaller Brian Orakpo, who went 13th overall in 2009.
9. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
He looks better than Peterson in most games, but struggles against top competition, which is a very scary omen going into the NFL. He needs to prove a lot to me at the Senior Bowl, where he can cement his status as a top 10 pick.
10. Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Is not a wonderful athlete, but has a great first step and displays an extraordinary array of pass rush moves. He is relentless and very polished, and looks like he will immediately be a very solid edge rusher at the next level.
11. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers is as complete of a defender as you will find in the draft. He can rush the passer, drop into coverage, and is a very reliable tackler. He has a very good nose for the football and can play any of the four linebacker spots in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3.
12. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Smith is relatively unproven, but has as much athleticism as anybody in the draft. He plays with pretty good technique for somebody so young and can get in the backfield with ease. His ceiling is very high, though he is a possible bust.
13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Many say Watt is a player without a position, but he is one of those players who will find a way to impact a game no matter where he lines up. I like him as a left end in a 4-3 who can kick inside to a 3 technique on passing downs.
14. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The best offensive tackle in this class could see his stock soar due to team needs, but he has never played left tackle and was not dominant at USC. However, he has very good feet and is a driving run blocker despite being only 290 pounds.
15. Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois
The people at ESPN are loving Liuget, and I’m starting to see the light. He never gets driven off the line of scrimmage and has good lateral movement to bring down the ball carrier. He may be best as a 3-4 defensive end, but would be a fine 3 technique as well.
16. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
I still believe that Mallett is the top quarterback in the draft. He has a rocket arm, and though I am beginning to see his inconsistent accuracy and struggles against pressure, he is always able to put up points, no matter how good the opposing defense is. It’s not like any of his targets are going to be drafted in the first two or three rounds either.
17. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Ingram is a very complete running back who can carry the rock 20 times a game if need be in the NFL. He can run inside and outside and be the focal point of an offense from early on in his career.
18. Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
Pouncey can do everything and play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line. He has extensive experience at both guard and center, and is the best puller I’ve ever seen in the college game. His best fit is at guard in the NFL.
19. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Initially, I didn’t think much of Carimi, but he is definitely good enough to be a starting tackle in the NFL. What I don’t like is how often he plays down to his level of competition, but that won’t be an issue in the NFL as everybody is worthy of Carimi’s respect there.
20. Stephen Paea, DT/NT, Oregon State
If Paea demonstrates that he can play nose tackle, which I believe he can, he could be selected near that 10th overall slot. He is very powerful and pushes the pocket as well as anybody in this draft. I would like to see some better pass rush moves and instincts out of him though.
21. Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
Jordan looks like a 5 technique in the NFL, where he has flashed a great-looking swim move and supreme agility for a player at that spot. Also, he doesn’t get driven back as easily as most 280 pounders. Still, he needs to add more bulk to become a dependable player on first and second downs.
22. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Locker played on an awful team last season, but is extremely mobile and is accurate enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He needs a good outing at the Senior Bowl to solidify a first round grade.
23. Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
I loved Sheard on tape as he is very athletic getting to the passer and is surprisingly powerful against the run. I believe he has been arrested though, so character concerns may bring up some red flags. Keep an eye out for him though, as he looks like a very good left defensive end in a 4-3 at this point.
24. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
A force against the run and the pass and can be a very solid piece in a defense. However, until he improves his pass rush moves and quickness, he is nothing more than a two down left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
25. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Baldwin has elite size and leaping ability, which gives him the potential to be a dangerous deep threat in the NFL much like Vincent Jackson. However, he needs to improve his route running to become a complete pass catcher.
26. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton was an unbelievable collegiate player, but he needs a lot of work on his accuracy to be an effective NFL quarterback. He will get drafted in round 1 based on potential and production in a fluke offense only.
27. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Williams has the height, speed, and fluidity that you look for in a top-notch NFL cornerback, but needs more experience to polish his game. Still, he remains a very promising prospect who has a bright future.
28. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Dowling is a very physical, instinctive corner that plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. My only question about him is his long speed, which may force him to move to safety or limit him to playing for a cover 2 team. He reminds me of Saints cornerback/free safety Malcom Jenkins.
29. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Casey is a high energy 3 technique who is tough to drive backwards and is disruptive. He has extremely good burst, both into the backfield and laterally, for a player his size. He’s not versatile and is quite short, though.
30. Cameron Heyward, DE/DT, Ohio State
Heyward is tough, instinctive, and has good pedigree, but I question whether he will be a good fit in the NFL. He doesn’t have the athleticism to be a very good 4-3 end and lacks some size to be an ideal 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle. That being said, he can be a very valuable piece who can move around on the defensive line and play the run very well.
31. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Solder has immense physical gifts and is a very good run blocker despite his height (6’9″). He is very athletic, but needs a ton of work in pass protection before he sees the field. He could be an all-pro, but he could just as easily be a bust. Much depends on his work ethic and his future offensive line coach.
32. Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami
The more I watch Franklin, the more I like him. He is a nasty, powerful run blocker who had the athleticism to play left tackle at Miami. Outside of Mike Pouncey, Franklin is the best interior lineman in the nation who can play either guard spot and potentially right or even left tackle. He plays with great leverage, using his 6’7″ frame to his advantage.
Overrated players who didn’t make the cut: Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert plays in a fluke offense and gets too antsy in the pocket to focus downfield and make a decent throw. Miami DE/DT Allen Bailey may light up the combine, but his physical gifts do not show up on the field as he shows terrible lateral movement and minimal pass rush skills. Miami CB Brandon Harris is a player I’ve heard good things about, but I can’t get over Michael Floyd dominating him in the bowl game a few weeks ago.