clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Which 2017 NFL draft prospects are underrated, per college fans?

Here are the players we’d scoot up the draft board. How about you?

Getty and USA Today

College fans don’t always agree with NFL people on draft prospects.

We’ve watched these players on Saturdays and don’t care as much about NFL team needs, scheme translations, and anonymous scout chatter. That doesn’t necessarily make us more enlightened, but it does mean a different perspective.

Now that we all have a good idea of how the 2017 NFL draft’s early rounds are gonna go, let’s think about which players are especially popular among college fans. Who are our picks to be overlooked by NFL teams? Or, put another way, who are college fans most overrating, according to NFL mocks?

A bunch of us answered this question, but let’s hear from you in the comments, as well.

These are not our top-five overall picks, just our five players we’d be quickest to move up in the rankings.

The only rule: no picking Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett, because the expected No. 1 pick cannot possibly be undervalued. Guess that means we can’t pick potential No. 1 pick North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky either, not that, uh, we would.

Richard Johnson

1. O.J. Howard, Alabama TE: You know how in basketball, they just run the whole offense through the most dominant physical specimen on the team? Yeah, that's what Alabama more often shoulda done with Howard. He's the X Factor in every game he’s involved in, and even he was confused the Tide didn't give him the ball more often.

Whether decoy or main target in the progression, it'll be fun to see O.J. give defensive coordinators fits in the NFL. Oh, and he can block, too.
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
3. Jarrad Davis, Florida LB
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB
5. Adoree’ Jackson, USC CB

Bill Connelly

1. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt LB: One play never encapsulates a player. Two might, though.

That’s Cunningham, former star recruit, hurdling his 234 pounds over a mass of humanity and almost stealing the football before a kicker can even kick it.

That’s Cunningham, thought to be a bit too lanky for the SEC’s power schools, catching Isaiah McKenzie — a potential draft pick with a full head of steam — from behind and pulling him backward to seal an upset over Georgia.

Cunningham had 41 tackles for loss as a high school senior. He had 33 in his last two years as Vandy’s best defensive weapon. He is so much fun to watch. He combines elegant athleticism with a nasty streak. He was James Franklin’s parting gift to Derek Mason in Nashville, and he dragged an offense-free Vandy to a bowl in 2016.

Maybe he’s too small to be a true star in the NFL, but he’s a freak with an IQ higher than yours. I’ll take those guys any time.
2. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss QB
3. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB
4. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech QB/RB
5. Josh Augusta, Missouri DT

Luke Zimmermann

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: Quarterback wins may be a worthless stat. And "winners win" is the kind of logic used to justify bad decisions by teams across pro sports. And yet, Watson is a dang winner.

At every level, from seven-on-seven to back-to-back College Football Playoffs, Watson is the kind of quarterback you can go into battle with and feel comfortable about coming away victorious. For all the questions marks — decision making, system fit, ability to read defenses — no one wants it more than No. 4. And with a rare mix of athleticism, arm strength, and football acumen, you're going to get the results you're seeking.
2. O.J. Howard, Alabama TE
3. Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky OT
4. D’Onta Foreman, Texas RB
5. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State RB/WR

Dan Rubenstein

1. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB
2. Budda Baker, Washington S: 2017 is an impressively deep year for defensive backs, but don’t let that hide how great Baker will be.

I say this as an Oregon fan who’s still bummed Baker decommitted from the Ducks to sign with then-new Washington coach Chris Petersen: Baker is impossibly fun to watch, if you enjoy safeties playing one step ahead and giving offenses fits.

Draftniks will pick him apart as being undersized and strictly a center-field type, but watch him effortlessly step in front of deep receivers to nab deep balls and then roll up to set a quick boundary to end a wide run before it ever starts, and you'll fall in football love. Don't let him be the one that got away.
3. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan football player
4. Dorian Johnson, Pitt OL
5. D’Onta Foreman, Texas RB

Bud Elliott

1. Mike Williams, Clemson WR: If I told you you could have prime-career Plaxico Burress with a middle pick in the first round, you'd take that, right? Because I'm pretty sure that's who Williams is. He is a big guy who understands what his game is, and importantly, what it is not. He played in an ACC with many top defensive backs and also faced Alabama and Ohio State. He's someone my quarterback can depend on to make contested catches.
2. Adoree’ Jackson, USC CB
3. Ethan Pocic, LSU OL
4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma RB
5. Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA DT

How a broken neck made Mike Williams even better

Matt Brown

1. Zay Jones, East Carolina WR: Without big-time playmakers to take defensive attention off him, Jones still caught more passes than anybody else in FBS (158), finishing second nationally in receiving yards (1,746). In fact, no player in FBS history has caught more passes than Jones, EVER. Don't you want a wide receiver who is really good at catching the ball lots of times?
2. Hunter Dimick, Utah DE
3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB
4. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State RB
5. Taco Charlton, Michigan DE

Morgan Moriarty

1. Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: I’ll just leave this here:


Don’t believe me? How ‘bout now:

Auburn v LSU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
3. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB
4. Jonathan Allen, Alabama DT
5. Malik Hooker, Ohio State S

Alex Kirshner

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
2. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington WR, is the most prolific receiver in Division I history, and that's how he catches your eye. But he keeps your eye because of all the things he's done well and all the good teams he's done them against. Kupp played in the FCS, but torched Pac-12 opponents for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. He ran option routes that are now commonplace in the NFL, and he's done nothing but get buckets for four years.
3. Zay Jones, East Carolina WR
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB
5. Leonard Fournette, LSU RB

Wescott Eberts

1. D’Onta Foreman, Texas RB: Might I interest you in a 235-pound running back with 4.45 speed? That’s Foreman, who is fresh off a 2,000-yard season and posting this Physical Size and Athleticism Rating:

A two-star prospect by Rivals out of high school, Foreman has already made a career out of proving his doubters wrong, so here’s your chance to look smart when the big back has a huge rookie season.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB
3. Tyus Bowser, Houston LB
4. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin LB
5. Malik McDowell, Michigan State DL

Jason Kirk

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB: Cook should’ve twice been a Heisman finalist, ranking ahead of 2015 winner Derrick Henry in total yards per game and No. 3 in 2016, against a tougher schedule than those faced by No. 1 Foreman or No. 2 McCaffrey.

His explosiveness numbers top McCaffrey’s over the last two years (nearly doubling the potential Stanford first-rounder’s highlight yards per opportunity, or yards added to 5-yard gains, in 2015), and Cook was a more efficient receiver, based on yards per target.

But Cook had an underwhelming combine, you say?

3. Cam Robinson, Alabama OT
4. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State DE
5. Ben Boulware, Clemson LB


Slap those together, and you get:

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: If he’s not the No. 1 QB, a lot of college fans are gonna be mystified.
2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB
3. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB
4. O.J. Howard, Alabama TE
5. D’Onta Foreman, Texas RB, and Zay Jones, East Carolina WR

Lotta skill players there, but overall, we had 11 votes for linemen and eight for back-seven defenders in these small groups.

Your turn. Who’s your personal draft crush this year, based on college production?