2012 NFL Draft: Most Underrated Players Available

Jon DoveContributor IJanuary 11, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Most Underrated Players Available

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    Each year the NFL draft features players who skyrocket up the board because of hype. Conversely, some players also drop in the draft due to a lack of attention. This is how teams find steals like Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

    The 2012 NFL draft boasts a ton of players not receiving the proper attention. These players could be middle-round prospects who deserve go higher or first-round prospects that deserve to get top-10 attention.

Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Michigan State

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    Current Draft Stock: Round 3-4

    Michigan State's Kirk Cousins reminds a little bit of Andy Dalton. He is an experienced player who possesses great leadership ability. Cousins has shown improved play and decision making in each of the past few seasons.

    His numbers might look a little low compared to the rest of the quarterback class, but a lot of that had to do with Michigan State's offense. The Spartans employed a balanced offense that tended to lean toward featuring the run.  This kept Cousins from padding his stats like the quarterbacks in a spread system.

    Cousins may never develop into an elite quarterback, but he has potential. He could top out as a slightly better player than someone like Kyle Orton. At the very least, Cousins could serve as an excellent backup.

Jaymes Brooks- Offensive Line, Virginia Tech

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    Current Draft Stock: Round 3-4

    Guard prospects tend to gain less attention than the other positions. The past few drafts have seen the likes of Mike Iupati selected in the first round, but the majority of guards land in the middle rounds. It is in those rounds where Pro Bowlers like Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were selected.

    Virginia Tech's Jaymes Brooks possesses the tools necessary to develop into an excellent NFL player. His combination of size, strength and explosiveness instantly makes him an above-average run blocker. Brooks is a decent athlete who plays with balance and a natural bend. The key to his NFL success will be his ability to improve his footwork.

    Brooks appears likely to come off the board in the middle rounds, but it wouldn't be a reach if someone selected him in the second round.

Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers

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    Current Draft Stock: Early Round 2

    Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu is a raw prospect who is only scratching the surface of his potential. He combines good size and quickness to make plays all over the field. Sanu does an excellent job when in space and knows how to pick up yards after the catch.

    His skills allow him to lineup on the outside or in the slot; NFL teams love this type of versatility. Sanu's stock is a little low because of his rawness. The more he improves his route-running and ability to read a defense, the higher his stock will climb.

    Sanu has a chance to sneak into the first round, but looks more likely to come off the board in the second round. With the right development, he can easily approach No. 1 receiver-type production.

Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue

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    Current Draft Stock: Round 3-4

    We could see only two defensive tackles come off the board in the first round, but this position has some depth. Purdue's Kawann Short is one of those players who isn't getting enough attention, but has the potential to be an excellent NFL player.

    Short's ability to control the line of scrimmage and occupy blockers makes him ideal nose tackle candidate. However, he also boasts an explosive first step that allows him to penetrate and disrupt the offense. His skill set would be best suited for a 4-3 alignment, where he can rotate back and forth from nose tackle and 3-technique.

    It wouldn't be a stretch for Short to come off the board in the second round, but he seems more likely to drop into the third.

Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College

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    Current Draft Stock: Middle of Round 1

    Boston College's Luke Kuechly often gets overlooked because a lack of media attention and elite athleticism. Most football fans don't know much about Kuechly, mainly because of Boston College's struggles and lack of TV coverage.

    However, he possesses the talent to be the steal of the draft. His instincts and high football IQ allow him to make plays all over the field. It also helps him overcome his lack of elite athleticism. Kuechly's stock is more likely to drop than climb. He isn't going to blow people away at the combine or in individual workouts.

    Kuechly should come off the board in the No. 10-15 range, but might slip into the mid 20s.

Shea McClellin, Outside Linebacker, Boise State

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    Current Draft Stock: Late Round 2 to Early Round 3

    NFL teams are always on the lookout for the next great pass-rusher. The evaluation of the 3-4 defense has put a premium on explosive outside linebacker types. It has also allowed mid-round tweener types to make a major impact.

    Boise State's Shea McClellin has the potential to develop into a top-notch pass-rusher capable of registering double-digit sacks. He uses a combination of quickness and time to generate pressure. His ideal spot would be as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina

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    Current Draft Stock: Mid-Late Round 1

    Most evaluators point to LSU's Morris Claiborne, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick, North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins and Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard as the top of the cornerback class. However, South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore also boasts top-notch cover skills.

    Gilmore plays an aggressive style of defense and isn't afraid to come up and support the run. He is a fluid athlete with a quick break on the ball. Because of his ball skills, he possesses the ability to pull down interceptions.

    He will likely be the fifth cornerback off the board, but it wouldn't be a shocker to see him selected before Jenkins and Dennard. Gilmore would be an excellent fit in a Cover 2 scheme, maybe at No. 19 with the Chicago Bears.

Kendall Reyes, Defensive Line, Connecticut

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    Current Draft Stock: Late Round 1 to Early Round 2

    Connecticut's Kendall Reyes is another prospect who is hurt by his school's lack of TV coverage. However, Reyes possesses the physical abilities to excel at the next level. He combines his athleticism with high motor, which puts him consistently around the football.

    Reyes is a versatile player, who can fit multiple positions or schemes. His ideal position might be at the 5-technique in a 3-4 alignment. However, he also possesses the quickness to move inside an play the 3-technique on a four-man front.

    A team like the Green Bay Packers could use an upgrade at defensive end and might pull the trigger on Reyes in the first round.

Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker, Alabama

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    Current Draft Stock: Middle Round 1

    Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is a better all-around prospect than Von Miller was at this point last year. His ability to rush the passer, play the run and drop into coverage really separates him from the rest of this linebacker class.

    It is rare to find a player that possesses the size, speed and toughness of Upshaw. Because of his exceptional skills, he gets my early vote as the rookie of the year. I could see him recording double-digit sacks and leading his team in tackles.

    The Buffalo Bills seem like an ideal fit for Upshaw, but a team like the Arizona Cardinals might jump ahead of them to land his services.

Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle, Florida State

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    Current Draft Stock: Late Round 1 to Early Round 2

    Most of Zebrie Sanders' career was spent in the shadow of Andrew Datko. However, the Florida State player will have a better pro career and could potentially come off the board two full rounds ahead of Datko.

    He plays with good quickness and balance, which makes him an ideal fit at left tackle. His quick shuffle and slide helps him protect the edge against speed rushers. In the running game, Sanders keeps low and plays with leverage.  This allows him to generate a push and turn the defender from the play.

    A team like the Baltimore Ravens will have a tough time passing on him late in the first round.

Zach Brown, Linebacker, North Carolina

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    Current Draft Stock: Middle Round 1

    A linebacker's ability to make plays from sideline to sideline is one of the most important skills. In order to cover this amount of ground, a linebacker must have good quickness and burst. North Carolina's Zach Brown possesses a ton of explosiveness, and is more than capable of chasing down the NFL's fastest players.

    Most feel that Brown is exclusively a 4-3 linebacker, but his quickness also gives them the potential to fit in a 3-4 system. Brown's ability to explode out of his stance will allow him to attack the edge and create pressure on the quarterback. His transition would be no different than asking an undersized defensive end to move outside linebacker.

    If teams feel Brown can create pressure his stock would soar. He is the type of athlete that will turn heads at the combine. Don't be surprised if a team like the Buffalo Bills or Arizona Cardinals take a chance on Brown.

Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State

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    Current Draft Stock: Round 2

    Boise State's Doug Martin doesn't possess eye-popping measurables, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with quickness. His ability to press the line allows him quickly get through the hole. He is a true home run threat, capable scoring from anywhere on the field.

    Martin's experience in the passing game will keep him on the field in third-down situations. He may not have excellent size but he isn't afraid to step up and take on a blitzing linebacker. Because of his reliable hands, he could start his career as a third-down back.

    The St. Louis Rams could use a good complement to Stephen Jackson and might target Martin early in the second round.

Nick Foles, Quarterback, Arizona

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    Current Draft Stock: Round 2

    Arizona's Nick Foles possesses a lot similar attributes to last year's No. 10 overall pick, Blaine Gabbert. His size, athleticism and arm strength are all equal or better than Gabbert. He boasts a lot of potential and should be in the first-round discussion.

    Foles has shown the capability to accurately deliver the football to all levels of the field. Each year he has improved his ability to attack the deep part of the field. In the right system, Foles could step on the field and make an early impact in the NFL.

    The Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks will all consider adding Foles somewhere in the second round. Whichever of these three teams loses out on Robert Griffin III needs to make an aggressive move to add Foles.