2012 NFL Draft: 5 Most Underrated Prospects

Padraig O' Halloran @@PodgeOHCorrespondent IApril 16, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 5 Most Underrated Prospects

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    Last week I looked at prospects in the upcoming draft who were overrated. Now it’s time to do the opposite and look at which prospects are underrated.

    Unlike overrated prospects who get far too much attention, underrated prospects struggle to get the attention that they truly deserve. Some players don’t get enough attention because they played at a smaller college or they fail to put up flashy numbers at the scouting combine.

    Take last year’s draft for example. Many eyebrows were raised when the San Francisco 49ers drafted Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick, but he went on to shock everyone with an amazing rookie season and finished the year with 14 sacks.

    Aldon Smith didn’t get the same attention as his Missouri teammate Blaine Gabbert did, but he did have a far better rookie season. Smith is just one example of a great player who was underrated leading up to the draft.

    Which prospects are flying under the radar this year? Here are just a prospects who may get overlooked in the draft.

5. Brandon Weeden—Quarterback, Oklahoma State

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    Why he’s underrated

    The reason why Weeden is underrated is simple: It’s because he’s 28 years old. There is no doubt that his age has hurt his draft stock but that doesn’t mean he can’t go on to become a success in the NFL.

    It took me a while to realize it, but once you ignore his age and put on his college film, Weeden is a really good quarterback. There aren’t many throws that he cannot make, and he is certainly more NFL-ready than his fellow quarterback prospect Ryan Tannehill.

    If he can land with the right team and get a chance to play early on, I can see him surprising quite a few people in the NFL.

4. Nate Potter—Offensive Tackle, Boise State

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    Why he’s underrated

    As I already highlighted in my draft targets for the San Diego Chargers, I’m a fan of Nate Potter. He hasn’t received as much attention as other offensive tackles in this class and perhaps it’s because he played in the Mountain West Conference.

    Potter isn’t ideally suited to play at left tackle in the NFL, but he could still be a solid right tackle for years to come. Once the top five tackles are off the board, expect to hear Potter’s name called soon after.

    Potter will be a steal for any team if he falls all the way to the fourth round.

3. Jaye Howard—Defensive Tackle, Florida

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    Why he’s underrated

    Yet another one of my draft targets for the San Diego Chargers makes it onto my list of underrated prospects. The main reason that Howard is underrated is because of the Florida Gators' struggles last season.

    Despite the fact that Howard had a solid year, nobody is really considering him to be among the best defensive tackles in this class. Howard isn’t the most athletic athlete to ever play at the defensive tackle position, but that doesn’t mean he can’t go on to have a solid future in the NFL.

    Expect to see him succeed in the NFL if he’s given an opportunity to start due to his tremendous toughness and physical strength.

2. Kelechi Osemele—Guard, Iowa State

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    Why he’s underrated

    Not many scouts can confidently say that they were aware of Osemele at the beginning of last season, but they’re certainly aware of him now. The 6'6" 333 lbs monster from Iowa State has been climbing up draft boards recently and has a great chance of hearing his name called in the first round.

    Osemele is a versatile offensive lineman who played at both guard and tackle during his time in college. Despite being projected more as a guard, he may be asked to play at tackle in the NFL depending on which team he is picked by.

    Don’t be surprised to see a team take a risk on Osemele and pick him in the top 20.

1. Mark Barron—Safety, Alabama

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    Why he’s underrated

    I believe that Alabama safety Mark Barron is the most underrated player in this year’s draft. Barron isn’t underrated because he went to a small college, he’s actually underrated for the complete opposite reason.

    Barron played on an Alabama defense that could have a possible four first-round picks in this year’s draft. In my opinion, Barron is the best player from that defense and the hard hitting safety should hear his name called early in the first round.

    Barron is my most underrated prospect in this year’s draft, and don’t be surprised if a team like the Dallas Cowboys takes a chance on him at No. 14.

    Those are my top five most underrated prospects.

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