2014 NFL Draft: Underrated Top Offensive Prospects Primed for Late-Season Rise
Even with all the coverage that the NFL draft gets nowadays, some college prospects seem to just slip through the cracks even if they're productive players on good teams.
This is not a list of little-known mid-round prospects from small schools; this is a list of guys with serious talent who have just not gotten their share of attention.
They all project as top 100 picks at this stage, and four of them are in the top 50 on my most recent big board.
A few of these prospects even have very good chances of being picked in the first round. So study up and give these guys the props they've earned.
Here are 10 underrated prospects who will continue to rise on boards and get picked a lot higher than you would expect.
James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Hurst was a top prospect coming out of high school but has not gotten much hype while playing left tackle for North Carolina even while bringing in a number of accolades.
He started all but one game as a true freshman and was named a Freshman All-America. He has started every game as a sophomore and a junior and is now an All-America candidate as a senior.
He is listed at either 6'6" or 6'7" but has good balance and quickness for a tall guy and was very impressive against Jadeveon Clowney in this season's opening game. He's a legitimate mid-first-round talent in my eyes.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Moncrief is an impressive blend of size (6'3", 226 lbs) and speed. He was the lone offensive star on Mississippi's offense and got off to a slow start in 2013, but he has been tearing it up since.
The junior had a monster game against Auburn, catching six passes for 122 yards and two scores, and another big one against Arkansas, catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Moncrief is strong and physical and has very strong hands. He is not especially quick but has good straight-ahead speed. He has a tough decision to make at the end of the year because this year's receiver class is deep, but he could end up being taken in the middle of the second round.
Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA
After starting all 13 games at left tackle as a freshman in 2009, Su'a-Filo left UCLA for two years on a Mormon mission.
Upon returning, he started every game at guard in 2012 at guard while also spending a little time at tackle, but he has yet to re-emerge on people's radars.
Su'a-Filo has been great yet again in 2013. The 6'3", 305-pounder is built more like a guard than a tackle and clearly appears more comfortable at the guard position. He's quick off the snap and pass blocks well, but he needs to work on holding blocks longer.
He should be the third guard off the board sometime in the second round.
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
In a draft class that has been dominated by a few high-profile names, Bortles has understandably struggled to get any attention while playing for UCF.
But Central Florida is currently ranked 18th in the BCS Standings due in large part to the inspired play of their quarterback.
Bortles has ideal size at 6'4", 230 pounds and possesses a live arm and good mechanics, which have helped him complete 68.1 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and just five interceptions this year.
There's a chance Bortles sneaks into the first round, depending on which other quarterback prospects declare for the 2014 draft.
Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
Grasu is an interesting prospect who has an even more interesting background. While he did not start playing football until high school, he has been a leader of Oregon's explosive offense for three years now.
He is an aggressive, athletic blocker whose experience on such a dominating team makes him the top center on my board. At what point he gets drafted will depend on how high a team is willing to take a center.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Like Moncrief, Robinson is largely a victim of a very talented receiver class. At 6'3", 210 lbs, he has the height and length that NFL teams look for in wideout prospects.
He's also extremely quick and elusive in small spaces and can be a threat with the ball in his hands. He isn't particularly strong and won't be a major red-zone target, but his athleticism is impressive.
The junior is able to consistently make big plays and is not just a limited home run threat. He has six games of 129 yards or more, and averages just over eight catches per game. I think he has the potential to move up to the very top of the second round after he impresses at the combine.
Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
It doesn't seem that playing offensive line for Iowa would be a glamor position. But while your average college football fan may overlook Hawkeye OL prospects, NFL scouts actually flock to them.
Scherff certainly has the potential to follow Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, two former Iowa tackles who were first-round picks in recent years.
At 6'5", 315 lbs, he has the ideal size to play tackle in the NFL. But his lack of elite athleticism may make him a better fit at guard, where he'll be able to rely more on his run-blocking strengths.
Regardless of which position he lines up at, he's right in the mix with Hurst and a couple others in that second tier of offensive line prospects.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
If you think Moncrief and Robinson have been overshadowed by other members of this strong receiver class, imagine what it's like for Colorado's Richardson, who has been putting up terrific numbers in one of the nation's most overlooked programs.
At 6'1", Richardson has adequate height and length, but his slender 170-pound frame will definitely have scouts worried. His toughness should not be questioned, however, as he has played on a sprained ankle for the past three weeks and still helped Colorado upset Cal this past Saturday.
Even as the lone star on Colorado's offense, Richardson still finds ways to produce. He has had games of 122, 132, 134, 140, 208 and 209 receiving yards, showcasing his ability as an absolutely dynamic playmaker. Richardson displays good hands and route-running ability, and he should be an early-to-mid second-round pick.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Playing in the Mountain West Conference makes it difficult to get attention, but Carr is certainly doing his best, leading Fresno State to a 9-0 record this season.
He's got the build (6'3", 218 lbs), the arm strength, the anticipation and the experience to make him an enticing prospect and a potential top-10 pick.
I think Carr has been vastly undersold by observers and analysts, and I could see him actually competing to be the second or third quarterback taken in the draft when it's all said and done.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Sankey has been the engine of a 6-4 Washington team that is a lot better than its record suggests. The do-it-all back has been one of the most consistent rushers in the nation.
He is sturdily built (5'10", 203 lbs) and has rushed for over 90 yards in all but two games this season, including two 200-plus yard performances.
There's no denying that he is talented and deserves a lot more attention, but I don't thing he's quite as physically impressive as some other running back prospects and may not be taken until the beginning of the third round.