Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl north squad offensive lineman David Quessenberry of San Jose State (76) prior to kickoff of a game against the Senior Bowl south squad at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Draft: Overrated, Underrated and Sleepers


Every year, draftniks, fans, and teams will overrate and underrate various prospects for any number of different reasons.  Measurables, testing, potential, and perceived character concerns can have a big impact on these situations.  With the bigger school prospects, somewhat small issues can be blown out of proportion whereas with small school prospects, misinformation or a lack of information can have a huge impact on a player’s draft stock, especially with fans and draftniks.  So, here is a list and explanation for some overrated and underrated prospects spanning every position with sleepers mixed in as guys to keep an eye out for during the third day of the draft who could have an impact at the next level.

Quarterback

Overrated – E.J. Manuel, Florida State

There is no question that Manuel has impressive physical skills and the aptitude to be a great quarterback at the next level, but he is not there yet.  While he has a big arm, he typically has been a dink and dunk type quarterback during his career at Florida State with occasional flashes of brilliance that make people wonder if he cannot be a franchise quarterback.  He has the potential to develop into something in a year or two, but if anyone expects him to come in and take over the team now, they are going to be disappointed.  The question that people need to ask themselves with Manuel is if he did not have the athleticism, where would he rate as a passer?  Manuel will probably be selected in the second round with an outside chance of going in the first but grades out as a third or fourth round prospect that, with proper development, could be a big time player.

­Underrated – Zac Dysert, Miami

Dysert did not fare all that well in his trip to the Senior Bowl which caused more than a few to almost completely forget about him, moving him into the third day of the draft.  Dysert has not been impressive in shorts but he is fun to watch on tape.  With a less than stellar supporting cast, Dysert took a beating in terms of sacks and hits because he refused to give up on plays, which resulted in some bad decisions, but also with some spectacular throws.  His teammates will love his toughness and his willingness to let his receivers go up and make plays.  He needs to learn when to give up on a play, but he has great tools and the ability to develop into a good, starting quarterback in the NFL.

Sleeper – Brad Sorenson, Southern Utah

Overhyped early in the process by some, Sorenson has gone from overrated to an afterthought.  While he is not quite the prospect some thought he would be, he does project as a guy who is a fantastic candidate as a toolsy, developmental type quarterback teams tend to like to grab on day three of the draft.  He is the type of guy who might not be heard from in a couple years but if he puts in the work and receives the right coaching, could develop into a solid quarterback down the road.

Running Back

Overrated – Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Ball is a meat and potatoes style runner who should be a consistent yardage eater in the NFL.  He is not going to break many big plays but he is not going to lose yards either.  There is certainly value to having that type of back but because he does have the mileage he has and because he is not going to give many spectacular plays, it is difficult to argue drafting him over many of the other backs in this draft with more of a specialty.  Ball is going to be an attractive player for teams who want to win now and provides a value if he is in the third round or later.  He is an underwhelming blocker at this point.

Underrated ­– Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

On the field, Taylor is a great back.  Because of Stanford’s offense that lines up with a ton of tight ends with tight splits, Taylor has been regarded as slow by critics.  The combine did nothing to help that belief.  On the tape though, Taylor does not get caught from behind.  When he has open field, he is taking it to the end zone.  He is also the best pass protecting back in the draft and takes pride in it, bringing a mean streak and punishing opponents who come his way.  He is also a better receiving option than given credit.  He was great at the Senior Bowl, but focus on measurables has many people dropping him significantly.  He can be a three down back in the NFL and become a great player at the next level.

Sleeper – Latavius Murray, Central Florida

Possibly just coming into his own as a player, Murray finally took over as the feature back in the Central Florida offense.  No stranger to the end zone, Murray scored 44 touchdowns during his career including the one that ultimately won the first ever bowl in UCF history against Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.  Murray has an impressive combination of size, strength and speed and has shown he can contribute as a runner, receiver, and a blocker.  He needs to be more decisive as a runner but he could be a guy that everyone regrets passing on down the line.

Wide Receiver

Overrated – Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

He is football plutonium.  With the ball in his hands, he is reminiscent of Barry Sanders.  As a wide receiver, Patterson has no earthly idea what he is doing yet.  From his stance to route running to his hand usage, he is at square one.  The question of why has to be asked.  Fit and going to a stable organization is extremely important and developed the right way, which will be a process, Patterson could end up the best receiver in this class, but he is a gamble.  With the wrong team, he is not only likely to be a bust, but cost several front office people their jobs.

Underrated – Justin Hunter, Tennessee

All of a sudden, the world finally seems to remembering that Hunter is a tremendous receiving prospect.  In terms of triangle numbers, he is the prototype receiver with #1 potential.  Hunter is not only a deep threat with the ability to go up and high point the football with some spectacular displays of hands, but he can make plays with the ball in his hands underneath.  He has had issues with dropped balls, but they are a result of concentration as opposed to a technical flaw.  This is certainly correctable and the fact he has so many incredible catches in his career should make that clear.  In addition, he should only get better next year another year removed from the ACL injury.

Overrated – Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Tavon Austin is an incredibly talented player who can do quite a bit for an offense, but like with Ezekiel Ansah a month ago, he is becoming more myth than reality.  Austin is incredibly fast and quick in short areas, but he was massacring the Big XII, a conference that has decided defense is an optional part of the game.  Reggie Bush was supposed to be a game changer as well and he has been a bust.  LaMichael James had some of the same type of game changing speed and agility but has been underwhelming thus far.  Maybe Austin is going to be everything and more that people think he can be, but he is a 175lb speed threat in a league filled with 300lb men who can move.  In addition, he is a specialist who can play the slot, running back, and return kicks, but his touches will need to be limited and there is a real chance he could be a comet in the league; put up huge numbers for a few years and then be done, so if he drafted to a team trying to rebuild, he might be used up by the time they matter.  Austin warrants a 1st round pick but people are projecting him as high as the Top 10 and the expectations being put on him at this point are unrealistic.

Underrated – Keenan Allen, Cal

If the reports of the positive drug test are true, it is disappointing and frankly stupid.  Nevertheless, purely on ability and understanding of the position, Allen is the best wide receiver in the draft.  The PCL injury should not hold him back at the next level and he will get back to being the player he was in college.  He is not slow nor does he play slow.  Go watch the tape where he was matched up against Desmond Trufant, where he was dominant.  He is a great route runner who does a fantastic job of transitioning from pass catcher to run after the catch making him a big time threat for yards after the catch.  Again, if the drug test reports are true, all of a sudden there are some issues to vet out with him, but as a player, he is the best in the class.

Sleeper – Connor Vernon, Duke

Vernon is not an overly physical football player, but he just knows how to run routes, get open and catch the ball.  That can sometimes be overlooked in the draft process and he could go undrafted, but he will find his way to a roster and get his shot; it would not be surprising if he contributes faster than a number of the other players selected ahead of him.

Tight End

Overrated – Zach Ertz, Stanford

This is starting to feel like piling on, but nevertheless, Ertz is a talented prospect but there is nothing he does consistently; even when it comes to effort.  From his hands to blocking to route running to motor, Ertz has work to do in every area and while he does have a good deal of talent and potential, there are too many other tight ends in this class that are either more ready to contribute now or have higher upside as a project.  In a different draft, the story might be different, but in this one, he should be a day three pick.

Underrated – Ryan Otten, San Jose State

It is unclear how this guy is still rated so low by many at this point, but between his production for the Spartans as well as his skill set, physical skill, and potential for the next level, Otten is a substantially better prospect than many will give credit.  He has the 6’6” size and is about 250lbs with the ability to contribute all over the field as a receiving threat that can stretch the field.  And while he needs to get stronger to improve his blocking, his understanding and technique are impressive.  He practiced through the flu at the Senior Bowl and then worked through a staph infection during the process, but he was impressive on his pro day and the production on the field was fantastic. It would not be a surprise if he goes far earlier than expected, but if he is sitting there on day three of the draft, he should be a steal.

Sleeper – Joseph Fauria, UCLA

At some point the process, Fauria has gone MIA for most draftniks.  Fauria is a walking mismatch that should at least be able to be a red zone threat and specialist.  His athleticism at his size is remarkable and he can block, but his effort is not consistent.  If Fauria chooses, he has the ability to be as good as any tight end in this class but should at least be a valuable platoon guy.  It would not be a surprise to see a team like the Patriots grab him while Gronkowski recovers and when he comes back, use any combination of their tight ends and laugh as teams try to stop them.

Offensive Line

Overrated – Menelik Watson, Florida State

This is not a denial that Watson could be a productive left tackle in the league; clearly people feel he has the tools to do the job.  The question is how a still not ready prospect that will turn 25 during the season somehow went from a fringe second to third round prospect to not just a first round prospect, but seems to be creeping up into the teens.  Perhaps a credit to what might be a charming British accent, it is difficult to warrant such a high grade on him while not having the same consideration for a similarly athletic prospect who is still learning in Terron Armstead from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Underrated – David Quessenberry, San Jose State

It seems like due to a lack of research or whatever, people do not realize that Quessenberry was battling all year on a high ankle sprain.  He had played 27 straight games before it finally caused him to a miss a game and it was a tactical move to try to get him healthier for the stretch run; he would have played.  Quessenberry looked much better at the Senior Bowl when he was healthy, but he also carries value because he can play all five positions along the line.  At the very least, he is a valuable backup that can save roster space, but he is a guy who will find a place to start somewhere.  If he ends up going higher on draft day than many expect, those are the reasons for it.

Overrated – Kyle Long, Oregon

Long is an incredibly athletic player with great measurables and a ton of potential.  He actually played with Watson at Saddleback College before playing at Oregon after being a college pitcher.  Long has the potential to be a valuable asset at a few different positions, but he is not there yet and it seems like too much credit is being given because of his last name.  He could be a great pro, but the first round?  That is pricey given where he is in his development.

Underrated – Reid Fragel, Ohio State

This is not the first time this has been asked, but what makes Fragel rank below a number of other prospects in this year’s NFL Draft?  Fragel had an impressive transition from tight end to left tackle this past year and really picked up his play down the stretch.  It seemed like he was about to make a big rise up the board at the Senior Bowl, but he did not have the breakout performance many projected.  It seems like that might be getting held against him now, but he has great feet and showed how hard he has been working in the weight room.  He still needs some time developing and showing more functional strength but it is unclear what makes Fragel any worse than any other of the raw offensive tackles in this draft that can play on the left side.

Sleeper – Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific

With hard work and passion for the game, Marquardt found his way to the NFL Draft despite playing NAIA football.  With impressive size at 6’8” 315lbs that plays with a mean streak, Marquardt is a fantastic candidate for a team looking for a swing tackle that can developed.  He has tremendous potential in the long term at either side of the line, but will likely find his path to the field on the right side, at least initially.  He has the feet to play left tackle but while he works on improving his technique to slide over there, his willingness to be a dominant physical player in the run game could be difficult to keep him off the field.

Defensive Line

Overrated – Margus Hunt, SMU

His triangle numbers and physical potential are incredible’ Hunt is an incredible physical specimen.  His height works against him though as he has terrible leverage and loses a ton of power in his play because he is too high and ends up playing with all arms.  And outside of his tremendous ability to block kicks, which does have value, his career comes down to two bowl games; one of which was him, a soon to be 26 year old man, beating up on a 19 year old tackle from Fresno State.  His potential is remarkable, but at this point he is not much of a football player.  If he can learn to bend and make the most of what he has, he could be a great weapon, but it is also possible he will be little more than a guy who can block kicks in a couple years.

Underrated – Sam Montgomery, LSU

Montgomery offers so much ability on the field and was projected by many to be a top 10 pick coming into the season.  It is unclear when, but many seem to be of the opinion that somewhere during the season, he completely forgot how to play football despite some impressive performances like against Alabama.  While teams should vet the issues, most everything being attributed to Montgomery is pretty contrived as a character concern and if he can improve his snap anticipation, he could be an enormous steal and still possesses the potential to be the best defensive end in the class.

Sleeper – Mike Catapano, Princeton

In terms of his physical ability, he has plenty to work with, he is only 22 years old, and has been productive.  He shows an impressive motor and a drive to get better at the game.  He warrants consideration on the early part of day three, but could be sitting there in the late rounds of the draft providing a potential steal in a guy who should be able to at least contribute as a rotational player with the potential to be far more.  There is something to be said for guys from the Ivy League who were able to carry a full course load and play a sport like football with no athletic scholarship money.

Overrated – John Jenkins, Georgia

There is no question Jenkins has the ability to be a run stopper and a 2-down nose tackle in the middle of a defense, but concerns with ballooning weight and academic struggles that forced him to miss their bowl games raise questions about work ethic.  His tape for his junior year was also much better than his senior year as added weight caused him to have issues with balance.  If he can keep his weight under control and motivated, he could be a great player, but the play on the field this past year warranted a day three pick.

Underrated – Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

Perhaps a case of out of sight, out of mind, but when games were being played, Hankins was considered a top half of the first round pick and many projected him to be a top 10 pick.  Not being pretty in shorts as well as the fact he has not played a game since November seem to have him dropping for no apparent reason.  Hankins shows the ability to contribute as a nose in the 4-3 or 3-4, he needs to improve his consistency and improve his balance, but he flashes the ability to dominate up front and cause huge problems for opponents and create opportunities for his teammates.

Linebacker

Overrated – Alec Ogletree, Georgia

Yes, Ogletree is talented and will make splash plays on the field as well as the ability to be a great asset in coverage with the speed to chase down plays all over the field.  The problem is he does not react well to physical contact and struggles to take on and shed blocks.  He also has a tendency to freelance and will create running lanes by being out of position.  That is all on the field and with no mention of his character concerns.  He was overrated before you take those into account; far more when those enter the equation.  He could develop into a tremendous player at either the weak side or in the middle, but he has a ways to go.

Underrated – Zaviar Gooden, Missouri

Like Ogletree, Gooden is a converted safety playing linebacker who can be a tremendous asset in coverage.  The difference is he is faster, stronger, and not a knucklehead, but an asset to the locker room as opposed to a potential liability.  Everything Ogletree brings to the table, Gooden can bring but at a cost of a round or two cheaper.  At the very least, he should be someone who can be a tremendous weak side linebacker who can be an asset in nickel, but he could develop into far more.

Sleeper – Vince Williams, Florida State

It seemed like Williams would get a big boost from a fantastic week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, but Williams is still largely overlooked.  For teams who want a thumper in the middle with range, Williams is an intriguing prospect that could be an immediately contributor as a 2-down linebacker and run stopping specialist.

Cornerback

Overrated – Dee Milliner, Alabama

While possessing incredible physical tools and the potential to be a franchise corner at the next level, Milliner is not ready to step in and be a shutdown corner.  The Alabama defensive scheme employs a shuffle technique, so Milliner is still learning how to back pedal and he was struggling at the combine.  His lack of ball skills is concerning as teams were not afraid to throw at him.  He had an impressive number of pass deflections, but until he cashes in more interceptions, teams will not avoid targeting him.  He has the ability to be a dominating run defender and tackler, but he is inconsistent in his accuracy as a tackler and will lunge and miss far too often.  These are all areas where he could improve, but the fact remains he is closer to Malcolm Jenkins as a prospect than he is guys like Joe Haden and Morris Claiborne.  His long term potential is impressive, but it would not be a surprise to see him struggle to adjust as a rookie.

Underrated – Robert Alford, SELU

If not for playing in the Southland Conference and being 25 years old, Alford is likely a first round pick and on the field, he displays first round talent.  There is a minor concern with Crohn’s disease as well, but in terms of a straight man to man corner that is willing to go up and hit someone in the running game, Alford is among the best.  His game compares favorably to that of Janoris Jenkins and he projects as a plug and play guy who should be effective immediately in the NFL.

Overrated – Darius Slay, Mississippi State

There is a lot to love about Slay and given the fact he was invited to attend the NFL Draft, it appears as though he could go very high.  Slay’s measurables and willingness to contribute against the run are fantastic for the corner position and make him an attractive prospect, but he still has some developing to do as a corner.  He still has a small amount of stage fright when it comes to securing interceptions on the big stage, but should be able to get better in that area.  The larger problem is that he is not comfortable playing in the hip pocket of receivers yet and will give up far too much space to them in coverage.  As a result, he finds himself out of position and times and makes it easy for opponents to make plays against him.  Many of the issues will be fixed with experience but he is still a little raw and for whatever reason, the Bulldog coaching staff saw fit to not play him as much as his measurables suggest he should.

Underrated – Johnthan Banks, Mississpipi State

It is important to note that in terms of how they play, Banks and Slay are almost complete polar opposites.  Slay is a straight man corner who can support the run while Banks is a balanced corner with length that can play all types of coverage.  While there are those who will argue he is slow due to his 40 time, on the field, he plays much faster than Xavier Rhodes, who had a much better 40.  Banks is thin as a rail and almost nonexistent as a run defender but he has great length and tremendous ball skills to cause turnovers.  Purely on tape, there was a time that Banks was nipping at Milliner’s heels for the top spot among corners.  He needs to improve his strength and be a bigger factor against the run, but he is a fantastic corner in coverage.

Sleeper B.W. Webb, William and Mary

The oldest college in the country puts out a good, well rounded corner prospect who was not challenged all that often as a member of the Tribe.  Webb held his own at the Senior Bowl and could find himself a role as a second corner at the next level.

Safety

Overrated – Matt Elam, Florida

There is no question Elam has the talent to be great in the NFL, but he has what equates to football ADHD.  He gets himself in position to make so many plays but then will not finish.  All of the near miss plays in Elam’s career would have had an incredible career in their own right.  Depending on the viewpoint, Elam is either right on the cusp of being a breakout player or he is an inconsistent player that will not live up to his high billing.

Underrated – Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

If Jefferson does not improve his issues and consistency with tackling, his career will not amount to much.  However, his instincts for the game of football and his ability in coverage are tremendous.  Not only is he comfortable in space, he has tremendous feet and can play man to man coverage if needed.  He might be a guy who needs a year to develop in the NFL, but if he can improve his tackling and continue building on what he did at Oklahoma, Jefferson could be an impact player and a steal.

Sleeper – Josh Evans, Florida

Evans is not quite as talented as his counterpart, Matt Elam and he still has some developing to do in coverage as well as consistency with tackling, but he gives an incredible amount of effort every single play he is on the field and has a number of big plays caused purely because he never gives up on the play.  Early in his career, he is likely to be depth, but with his work ethic and drive for the game, he could develop into a starter and a quality player in the NFL.  He is the type of guy coaches will love and want to bet on to develop.

 

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