10 underrated NFL draft prospects who could be steals

10 underrated NFL draft prospects who could be steals

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10 underrated NFL draft prospects who could be steals

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By now, you probably have a pretty good idea who you want your team to take Thursday night during the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.

Don’t forget, though, that there are two more days and six more rounds of the draft. Chances are your team will draft someone on Friday or Saturday who you haven’t heard of. There’s also a chance that player helps your team win games in a few years.

It could be one of these 10 guys.

Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State

Senior, 6’4″, 231 pounds

Jacoby Brissett would be the third North Carolina State quarterback drafted since 2004, and he has the ability to have a career that’s closer to that of Philip Rivers than Mike Glennon. One of Brissett’s traits brings to mind another quarterback drafted in 2004. He can escape pressure and make throws like Ben Roethlisberger. While Roethlisberger might be an awfully high standard to set for Brissett, one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he thinks Brissett is better than Teddy Bridgewater. Brissett threw 43 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in two years at N.C. State after transferring from Florida. He has the leadership skills to command a huddle and the look of an NFL starter. Brissett was pressured a lot in college. It will be interesting to see what he can do when he’s not running for his life.

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Senior, 6’4″, 251 pounds

Shilique Calhoun filled up the stat sheet at Michigan State. In four years he had 44 tackles for negative yardage, 27 sacks, five passes defended, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and one interception. He ranked among the top three in the Big Ten in sacks in each of the last three seasons, and according to NFL.com he had 128 quarterback pressures during that time. A couple of questions have tamed the Calhoun hype. One is whether or not he can make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL and the other is whether he can improve against the run.

Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech

Senior, 6’5″, 316 pounds

Le’Raven Clark has the resumé. He started 51 straight games at Texas Tech, including the last three at left tackle. He’s been named All-Big 12 three times. What’s probably keeping Clark out of the first round on a lot of draft boards is Texas Tech’s up-tempo offense and doubts about whether he can make the transition to an NFL offense. But his 36 1/8″ arms and 11 7/8″ hands as well as his ability to get to the second level make him an intriguing prospect. He also has the versatility to move to guard if it doesn’t work out at tackle.

Sean Davis, DB, Maryland

Senior, 6’1″, 201 pounds

Sean Davis is a safety disguised as a cornerback, and that’s why he could be a hidden gem on draft day. He’s better at getting into the mix and making tackles than he is at covering receivers, though he did intercept three passes last season. Davis proved his tenacity with five forced fumbles last season, second in the nation. He led the Big Ten with 80 solo tackles in 2014. Davis also topped the cornerback class at the NFL Scouting Combine with 21 reps in the bench press, and when lumping safeties into the equation he still was second. Teams looking for a safety should jump on Davis as early as the second round.

Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State

Junior, 6’6″, 310 pounds

Because of his inconsistent body of work in college, Chris Jones isn’t on everyone’s first-round board. He had 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in three years at Mississippi, and Pro Football Focus gave him the highest pass-rushing grade of any SEC player in the draft. Jones also broke up 10 passes, which suggests that he can use his height to bat down throws. Jones has been all over the place in mock drafts, which parallels his up-and-down play. He’s not a finished product, but if that product ever is finished, he could be high in the first round when the 2016 redraft articles come out in a few years.

Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA

Senior, 6’1″, 207 pounds

Jordan Payton’s 201 catches are the most in school history. He’s not a flashy prospect despite checking several boxes. He has reliable hands. He’s a precise route runner. He’s tough as a blocker and he stays healthy. But he projects as more of a possession receiver at the next level and that might be why he’s not getting as much attention as other receivers. There isn’t much Payton will have to learn in the NFL, and he has the potential to make a living moving the sticks.

Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State

Senior, 6’4″, 254 pounds

Joshua Perry wasn’t as heralded as many of his teammates, but he was the glue of the Buckeyes’ 2014 national-championship defense. He led the team with 124 tackles. He added 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble. Perry followed up his 2014 season with 105 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and four passes defended in 2015, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. Perry is a hardworking leader who seems like a jack of all trades, master of none. He makes sense as a Day 2 pick with the potential to be a consistent hammer at inside or middle linebacker for the next decade.

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C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

Junior, 6’0″, 220 pounds

Learning quickly is one of the keys to success in the NFL for any draft prospect, and C.J. Prosise showed he can do that by running for 1,029 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns in 2015 after moving from wide receiver to running back. Prosise came to Notre Dame as a safety but switched to wide receiver for his first two seasons. While he needs to improve as a blocker, Prosise’s moves when carrying the ball make it look like he grew up playing running back. It can’t hurt that he has experience in various positional meeting rooms, and he was Notre Dame’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2014. That’s a skill that will keep him on a roster until he proves himself as a running back.
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Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Mississippi

Senior, 5’11”, 192 pounds

Most of Kalan Reed’s numbers increased in each of his four years at Southern Miss, culminating in four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 17 passes defended in 2015. Reed shows a non-stop motor on tape. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and make the tackle and he doesn’t give up when the runner breaks into the open field, making at least a couple of touchdown-saving tackles. NFL Draft Scout projects Reed to be drafted in the fifth or sixth round. It’s hard to imagine him lasting that long.

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Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

Junior, 6’3″, 212 pounds

Michael Thomas hasn’t been talked about among the first tier of receivers in this draft, but the bloodlines are there. He’s a nephew of Keyshawn Johnson. He led Ohio State in receiving in each of the last two years, with 54 catches for the national champs in 2014 and 56 last season. He also was second in the Big Ten with nine receiving touchdowns in 2015. Thomas needs some polishing to succeed in the NFL and has “boom or bust” written all over him. But his size and college production could translate into a second-round steal.

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