A quick disclaimer for this piece. If I say a player is overrated, it just means I think they get too much attention either in the media or amongst fans. It’s the opposite for the underrated group.
For example — I have Jordan Matthews as overrated and Brandon Coleman as underrated. I think both players probably go in the second round. The difference is one players gets talked about an awful lot, the other gets almost no attention. That’s the gist of the piece.
Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
A player it’s tough to imagine going in round one, despite a lot of mocks suggesting it’ll happen. Ford can run. He has a nice get off and if he gets a route to the quarterback he can be successful. But here’s the thing — one dimensional pass rushers very rarely work out at the next level. When Ford is forced to use his hands, shed a block or make a counter move — he comes unstuck. He struggled badly against Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and had a really quiet night against Alabama despite getting some favourable match-ups against their tight ends. He’ll need to play in an extreme wide-9 formation, rushing from a distinct angle straight to the quarterback. How many teams can really accommodate that? And for a 6-2, 244lbs rusher you’d expect better times than a 4.59 and a 4.54 at his pro-day. Speed-to-power is crucial for a defensive end. Watch Cliff Avril — he mixes it up. He can beat you off the edge, but he’s also willing to get stuck in with a bull rush. He counters, he sets up a lineman over 4-5 snaps. Ford is a million miles away from that and can only be projected as a specialist right now. He’s already 23 years old as a redshirt senior. If you’re taking a chance on a rotational pass rusher, target Marcus Smith or Demarcus Lawrence later in the draft.
David Yankey (G, Stanford)
In terms of pure size it’s hard to complain. Yankey’s 6-6 and 315lbs with 34 inch arms. He played some tackle at Stanford before kicking inside. He looks like a tackle. And he plays like a big lumbering guard. The combine backed that up — he ran a 5.48 with a 1.87 10-yard split. OK — guards don’t have to run fast. They don’t have to be great athletes. They need to be country strong and play with attitude. Well, Yankey’s 22 reps on the bench press ranked among the lowest for offensive linemen. So he’s not a great athlete, he’s not very strong. And on tape he spent most of his time doing what all Stanford guards do — pulling out of position and blocking from favourable angles. I hate the Cardinal blocking scheme — it’s backed up by multiple TE sets and technically so precise. It doesn’t translate to the next level. Yankey, quite frankly, fits only in a man-blocking scheme that values size — and yet he’s very likely to get shoved around by tougher, more athletic defensive linemen. He’s got John Moffitt written all over him and there are several better guards available in this draft. It’s hard to see him being much more than a third round pick, but he’s regularly touted as the best guard in the class or even a late first rounder.
Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
What is he? He lacks the size (6-1/6-2, 298lbs) to play nose tackle — and yet it’s probably his most natural fit for what he shows on tape. He has the size, however, of a three technique. And yet he has an average get off, he’s rarely in the backfield and he’s just not very good at rushing the passer. He had 4.5 sacks in 2013 — two of which came against Idaho. Stats aren’t everything, which is why you put on the tape. He just doesn’t have enough splash plays — and think about the talent he played with at FSU. It’s so hard to get excited about a player like this. He’s at his best taking up a couple of blockers and making life easier for others. But you can find players like that in the middle rounds. He’s strong — but still manages to be overpowered from time to time. You’ve also got to have serious question marks about his stamina. He was used as a rotational player at FSU and got tired way too easily. It was cringeworthy seeing him take himself out of the game right at the crucial moment of the BCS Championship. I don’t like his footwork either — too many wasted steps. For a guy who’s consistently mocked in the first round — there’s just something so underwhelming here. Aaron Donald is five times the player — constantly involved and a major impact prospect. Even in round two, Jernigan would be an underwhelming pick.
Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
If you just looked at stats and the combine, Matthews would be among the top players in the draft. He had a lot of production over multiple years at Vandy — and he showed off 4.46 speed, big hands and long arms in Indianapolis. He’s also a relative of Jerry Rice. Unfortunately the tape just isn’t that great. A lot of his production is generated by screen plays — and the success of these plays is totally reliant on whether the blocking’s good or not. Matthews isn’t elusive, he isn’t shifty in the open field. When he gets great blocking he’s got the speed to really exploit it. When he’s covered up, you’re in trouble — unlike, for example, a guy like Brandin Cooks. He drops more easy passes than people believe. Yes — he tries to catch the ball away from his body for the most part and he’s also capable of making some spectacular grabs. But he also has drops that’ll make Kelvin Benjamin blush and he lets the ball get into his pads too often. Despite the size (6-3, 212lbs) he’s not overly physical down the sideline and he has marginal impact in the red zone. He doesn’t win too many contested passes. He’s pretty ‘finesse’. He’s not a bad receiver by any means, but he’s not quite as good as some people will have you believe. A grade in the round 2/3 range seems fair.
Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Yeah, he had a combine to forget. He clearly wasn’t 100% and ran a shocking 4.77 as a consequence. He probably should’ve just waited until the LSU pro day which takes place on April 9th. Here’s the thing though — football is predominantly about guys you want to go to war with. You need to accumulate a bunch of players you know are going to turn up every day and work to improve. You need players who will lead by example, put the team first and be prepared to do the ugly things (blocking, special teams). Crucially at receiver, you also need a guy that on 3rd and 5 you can trust to make a play. Jarvis Landry ticks every one of those boxes. He’s a fierce competitor, a special teams demon, a clutch receiver on key downs and he’s also capable of making the ‘wow’ plays downfield. He high points the ball superby, he has huge 10 inch hands and doesn’t drop the ball. He has one of the best highlight reels in the 2014 draft (see above) with the #1 moment a tremendous one-handed touchdown grab against Arkansas that has to be seen to be believed. There are very few negative plays on tape — he’s a picture of consistency. The only issue really is the bad combine and the serious doubts now about whether he’s athletic enough to make it at the next level. I think we need to learn from players like Anquan Boldin — who also fell as a consequence of a 4.7 forty. Sometimes you just need to trust the tape and take a chance on a guy who deserves a shot. Whoever gets Landry next month won’t regret it. If I’m a good team needing a receiver, I’m not ruling out the late first.
Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
What’s the difference between Coleman and Kelvin Benjamin? Easy. Jameis Winston. Athletically there’s very little difference. Benjamin’s heavier (240lbs vs 225lbs), while Coleman ran a better forty (4.56 vs 4.61) and had more reps on the bench press (21 vs 13). But they had the same vertical (32.5 inches) and three cone (7.33). Benjamin has slightly longer arms (34 7/8 inches vs 34 inches). On tape you see similar positives and negatives. Neither player high points the football well enough and this’ll be a teaching point as a rookie. Both players have careless drops. And yet both players are just insane, incredible athletes with the potential to become dominating #1 receivers. One players is graded as a likely top-20 pick, the other is graded anywhere from rounds 2-4. And that brings me back to the main difference. Benjamin had a Heisman winning quarterback throwing darts against weak ACC defenses. Coleman had Gary Nova lobbing ducks in possibly the worst passing offense in the NCAA. Words cannot sufficiently describe how bad Rutgers were on offense last year. Here’s the bottom line — there just aren’t many humans like Brandon Coleman. He has devastating potential — how many 6-6, 225lbs receivers run away from secondary’s that include first round picks for an 80-yard touchdown scamper? If he lands on the right team — watch out. He could be another Josh Gordon.
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
I’m not quite sure what Bitonio has to do to get a little love. Even Mike Mayock recently naming him as the #5 tackle on his board hasn’t led to any extra attention. It’s quite staggering really that players like Xavier Su’a-Filo get first round grades as frequently as they do — and yet Bitonio is a presumed second or third rounder at best. For me, there’s a significant talent gap between the two. For starters, the tape is excellent. Bitonio held his own against a Florida State defense that basically tee’d off after building a commanding advantage. You sit there waiting for the breaking point. When is he gonna cave? And it never happens, even in a blow out. He easily handled — and occasionally dominated — UCLA’s Anthony Barr. And against lesser opponents he’s also looked the part. I want to go back and review his performance against Demarcus Lawrence — because from memory he had a terrific game against Nevada (although from memory, he mostly rushed the right side). Athletically he’s almost identical to Logan Mankins entering the NFL, with an exact replica of a college career too. That gives you confidence he can develop into a top guard. But he tested so well at the combine — as well as any of the top left tackle prospects — so why wouldn’t you try him at tackle first? And then there’s his blue collar attitude and flawless character. Just draft the guy. He looks like an 8-10-year starter and a very safe pick for any team needing a stalwart on the offensive line.