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The 22 most underrated players in the 2017 NFL Draft

Featuring at least one player at every position.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 NFL Draft less than two months away, the hype continues to build. With hype, there is pointed media focus surrounding a few players at each position and, frankly, it gets a bit boring. Every day you open up draft articles talking about Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, Mike Williams, John Ross' 40 yard dash and arguments over which quarterback is the best. Left in the path of this monotony are dozens of very good prospects who receive no recognition whatsoever. There are a few players who are legit top 40 talents who are not getting their due, big school players who got overshadowed and small program sleepers who have high NFL potential but do not get enough hype. These are names to look out for who could pop up in the middle rounds that should get you excited.

Quarterback: Alek Torgersen, Penn

This quarterback class has a lot of intrigue and good prospects so it is not surprising that an Ivy League prospect would have a hard time getting a lot of hype. Torgersen is well built at 6'3" and 230 pounds and he has an incredibly impressive arm with athleticism to move in the pocket and create offense with his feet. He is an aggressive deep passer who can stretch the field for an offense. He is still working on his footwork and accuracy with a  steep learning curve coming from the Ivy league, but he is a physically gifted prospect who should intrigue in the later rounds.

Running Back: Jeremy McNichols, Boise State and I'tavius Mathers, MTSU

While McNichols is a bigger school prospect, it is pretty astounding how little hype he is getting. Yes, this is a deep running back class, but McNichols rushed for over 3000 yards and 43 touchdowns over the last two years at an FBS program and there is not a peep about him. He followed up a productive career with a solid outing at the combine and still nothing. McNichols is a shorter back, but he has nice agility, long speed, vision and third down ability, so it is hard to see why a team would not want him around.

I'tavius Mathers transferred from Ole Miss and after finally getting his chance at MTSU, was one of the most productive backs in the country. Mathers scored 17 touchdowns on the ground but more impressively was a major threat on third down and MTSU moved him all over the place to create mismatches. Mathers is a smaller, older prospect so it makes sense that he would not get a ton of run in this class. Regardless, he is a dynamic chess piece for an offense and will end up being a good player in the NFL.

Wide Receiver: Jerome Lane, Akron and Kenny Golladay, NIU

Jerome Lane is very, very new to the position of wide receiver. Lane was originally going to be a basketball player like his father (who played at Pitt), but ended up playing linebacker for the Akron Zips. After a short, productive stint on the defensive side of the ball, the 6'2", 226 pound Lane ended up at receiver. Within two years of the position change, Lane eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving. Lane plays offense with the mentality of a basketball player or a defender. He is very strong and incredibly physical dealing with defenders and when the ball is in the air, he has the mentality of Russell Westbrook looking for his next rebound. Lane is raw and not the fastest prospect, but his physicality and strong hands would make him an excellent slot receiver.

Kenny Golladay is another player who blossomed on a bigger stage. Golladay transferred from the FCS level University of North Dakota to NIU after his coach was fired. After sitting a season, Golladay rattled off two straight 1,000 yard seasons. The 6'4", 218 pound receiver has morel than ideal size for the position and made himself even more intriguing after running 4.5 at the combine. Golladay made his name winning contested catches, but also has the speed to run past defenses at the next level. NIU's quarterback really limited him so it will be exciting to see if he gets a bigger chance in the NFL.

Tight End: Michael Roberts, Toledo

This is one of the deepest tight end classes in memory so it is not a huge surprise that Michael Roberts is not getting his due. Regardless, the senior tight end scored a ridiculous 16 touchdowns this season on only 45 catches. This means he averaged a touchdown on every third catch. That is an unheard of rate. Roberts is also a massive player at 6'4", 270 pounds with 11.5 inch hands. He is an awesome blocker and while he does not have great speed, he is a physical, powerful runner. With all the athletic freaks in this class, it is easy for a more traditional type of tight end to fly under the radar, but Roberts is a gifted player who should help a team early and often in the NFL.

Tackles: Will Holden, Vanderbilt and Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell

Will Holden was a three year starer in the SEC at tackle, an impressive feat in itself. Holden played both tackle positions and the 6'7", 311 pounder mostly held his own. There are concerns about his relatively short arms, but Holden did a good job compensating with impressive technique and a good motor. Holden is at his best in the run game, using his overwhelming strength to drive defenders back. It is to be seen if NFL teams think he can play outside with shorter arms, but Holden certainly has the tape to suggest that it is possible.

Julie'n Davenport looks like he was built in a lab. At 6'7" and 318 pounds with long arms, it is hard to say Davenport does not look the part. He is a good athlete as well who absolutely dominated at Bucknell due to his physical superiority. However, despite his athletic ability, Davenport has a lot to work on in terms of technique, but it is hard not to like such a physical specimen past the first three rounds of the draft.

Guards: Dorian Johnson, Pitt and Nico Siragusa, SDSU

Dorian Johnson is a slightly bigger name but still feels like he does not get the due respect. Johnson is not only a good athlete, but he is an incredibly sound pass protector and a physical run blocker. The 6'5", 300 pounder is scheme versatile and will be one of many players in this class to seriously outplay their draft stock.

It is hard to make offensive line play exciting, but Nico Siragusa (no relation to Tony) is a site to behold at the guard position. The 6'4", 319 pound three year starter is a big reason the Aztecs had such a prolific running game. He is an athletic, downhill blocker with hulk strength and a high motor. He lacks polish as a pass protector, but his physical tools and nasty attitude will make him a contributor for an NFL team in the near future.

Center: Chase Roullier, Wyoming

In a not so overcrowded center class, it still feels like the same two names are being said over and over again. Meanwhile, Chase Roullier was a key player in Wyoming's offensive resurgence this season. Roullier is undersized with short arms, which will worry a lot of teams, but he is a solid athlete and plays with great strength and attitude. I would expect him to get looks from zone oriented teams in the later rounds and he could end up being a solid starter down the road.

Interior Defensive Line: Charles Walker, Oklahoma and Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte

Charles Walker had a slightly tumultuous career with the Sooners, walking away from the team early due to injuries and hoping to preserve himself for the NFL draft. While some may question his dedication to the game, others will call that career sense. At 310 pounds, Walker not only has good size but is also explosive as well. He was up and down as a player, but his flashes were brilliant and tantalizing. It will be up to a team to take a chance on him despite consistency and injury history, but the payoff could be large.

Larry Ogunjobi has a very unique story leading to the NFL. A Nigerian immigrant, Ogunjobi was only playing football for three years before going to Charlotte and playing with their inaugural football team. That's right, Ogunjobi not only started with the program, but played in every single game of Charlotte's football history. Ogunjobi was massively productive as a defensive tackle, wracking up 29 tackles for a loss in his last two seasons. Ogunjobi is a very good athlete and an outstanding run defender. While there will be a major learning curve moving to the NFL, Ogunjobi has showed he is a quick learner.

Edge Defenders: Carroll Phillips, Illinois and Tarrell Basham, Ohio

In a stacked defensive line class, there are a ton of choices for under the radar guys, but Carroll Phillips is a guy who got overshadowed at Illinois by another guy who is arguably underrated in Duwane Smoot. Phillips is somewhat of a one year wonder, not really being talked about until a 19 TFL, nine sack final season at Illinois. However, Phillips is also a good athlete and though a bit light, has shown he can get after the passer. He is best suited standing up in the NFL, but it is hard not to see him find a role somewhere on an NFL defense.

Tarrell Basham had a very good final season at Ohio, winning the MAC Defensive Player of the Year after picking up 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. At 6'4" and 269 pounds with long arms, Basham looks like a defensive end and has the athletic ability and strength to match. Basham is most impressive against the run as he loves setting the edge and working through traffic to find the ball carriers. While he has good straight-line speed, he lacks natural bend, limiting him as a pass rusher. This is not to say he can't rush the passer, more that it is not his strongest feature. Overall Basham is a very solid, well rounded defender and he could start on an NFL defense for a long time and be steady.

Linebackers: Alex Anzalone, Florida, Anthony Walker, Northwestern and Blair Brown, Ohio

Alex Anzalone would probably be a star if he could just stay healthy. The Gator missed a ton of time over the course of his career, a damn shame considering how gifted he is. The 6'3", 240 pound backer has ideal size and speed and flashed playmaking ability when he was on the field. While he could get swallowed up against the run, Anzalone would have major splash plays that showed off his upside. Hopefully he can stay healthy in the NFL because he could be a star.

Anthony Walker left school early after a productive career making plays for the Wildcats. Walker is shorter, but well built at nearly 240 pounds. He is an explosive athlete who does well in space and is a playmaker against the run and pass. He struggles with consistency and tends to let his overaggressiveness hurt his game, but it also creates opportunities for game changing plays. With shorter arms, teams will probably be a bit nervous about Walker so he could be had in the middle rounds and is a day one starter at linebacker.

Blair Brown is another smaller linebacker, not even eclipsing six feet tall, but he is built like a bowling ball and plays like one too. He is a smart, instinctive running back who packs a punch and has good athletic ability. His biggest issue is dealing with blockers in the run game, as he often tries to make blockers miss instead of working through traffic. His size will probably deter some teams, but he is an intelligent playmaker who deserves a shot.

Cornerbacks: Jeremy Cutrer, MTSU and Akhello Witherspoon, Colorado

Jeremy Cutrer was bound for LSU as a four star prospect before ending up taking the JUCO path and landing at Middle Tennessee State. The 6'2" Louisiana native comes from a tough background, overcoming a lot to get to where he is with an opportunity to play in the NFL. Cutrer is a long, physical cornerback who can ballhawk and also play the run. While some teams may have him as a safety, his length would be a huge asset at cornerback.

Akhello Witherspoon has been overshadowed for much of his career by Chidobe Awuzie, but may have asserted himself as the better prospect at the combine. 6'3" with 33 inch arms is a pretty rare profile in the NFL. Factor in how well he ran (4.45) and jumped (40.5 Vertical and 10'7" broad) and it is difficult not to want Witherspoon on your football team. In 2016, Witherspoon was second in the country with a ridiculous 21 broken up passes which is a testament to his rare size and ball skills. He has the size and speed to match up with mostly anyone and, in a deep cornerback class, he has been massively underrated.

Safety: Marcus Williams, Utah and Josh Jones, NC State

With all the talk of Jamaal Adams, Malik Hooker, Budda Baker and Obi Melifonwu; a lot of very good safeties are flying under the radar in this draft class. Marcus Williams had an outstanding combine which should get people to take notice of the career ballhawk as a top level safety prospect. With 10 interceptions in the last two years, Williams is a proven playmaker and now that he has the on paper athletic ability to match, it is hard to see him lasting very long when the draft roles around.

Where Marcus Williams is more of a pure free safety, Josh Jones is a guy you want closer to the line of scrimmage. At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Josh Jones is built like a linebacker and plays like one too. In 2016, Jones was the Wolfpack's best defender contributing in the run game (109 tackles, 4 TFLs) and pass game (3 INTs, 8 PDs, 1 Sack). Jones has great speed and flies all over the field. He is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage where he can be a tone setter as a tackler and cover shorter zones, so while he may be a bit more pigeonholed, he has the makings of a playmaking NFL strong safety.


In a deep draft class, it is easy for names to get lost, especially when draft media will regularly focus on the same ten guys every day. These names are not necessarily the most hidden of the hidden gems, rather some guys who deserve a bit more publicity during the process. As for the players who are overrated... those names will be coming your way soon.

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