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2013 NFL Draft all-underrated team: Xavier Nixon a sleeper on the offensive line

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Between now and April 25, we will be unveiling our All-Underrated and All-Overrated teams for the 2013 NFL Draft. Each team will be revealed position by position with a first-team selection, second-team selection and honorable mentions as we see fit. We continue with the All-Underrated offensive linemen.


The offensive line could dominate the first 10-15 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft. With left tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson and guards Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack, this draft class has no shortage of talent in the trenches.

But how deep will that talent run?

Once teams delve into the later rounds, the offensive line prospects are incomplete and may need to change positions to find success in the NFL. That's especially the case with a few of the potential gems in this year's crop of offensive linemen. When breaking down skill sets, here are a few guys that may outperform their draft position at the next level.

Xavier Nixon, offensive tackle, Florida

Nixon gets knocked often for his inconsistency, and that's fair for the most part. He struggled to string together strong performances at Florida, despite flashing tons of physical ability. But when it came time to shut down top pass rushers, Nixon did so. Against Damontre Moore and Jadeveon Clowney, Nixon had some of his best performances of the season. Nixon is still developing the mental aspect of his game. He also needs to fire into his stance more quickly and develop consistent hand use. While he's done everything well at some point, it's a matter of putting it all together.

J.C. Tretter, Guard, Cornell

A starter at left tackle for Cornell, Tretter will likely be asked to kick inside to guard at the next level. His athleticism is lacking a bit to play tackle in the NFL, but Tretter has the build and skills to translate well to guard. Tretter needs to get a bit stronger, but he plays as fundamentally sound as any offensive lineman I've watched this year and has the versatility to play multiple positions. Give him some time, and Tretter will be an NFL starter.

Hugh Thornton, Tackle/Guard, Illinois

Thornton started at left tackle for Illinois as a senior and was a mixed bag. On the one hand, he has the athleticism to play tackle in the NFL, but he lacks the size to succeed there. That doesn't mean he won't find a spot at the next level, though. Thornton has the coordination to pull and engage defenders on the second level of the defense. He's a solid player in space, but the best part of his game is the mean streak he shows on a consistent basis. Thornton is always fighting until the whistle and would make a ton of sense inside at guard in the NFL.

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