2019 NFL Draft: Prospects Still Being Underrated Only Days from Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2019

2019 NFL Draft: Prospects Still Being Underrated Only Days from Draft

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    The 2019 NFL draft is mere days away, and while we don't know exactly what teams are planning, we do have a general idea of which players will be off the board early.

    Prospects like Kyler Murray, Quinnen Williams, Nick Bosa and Josh Allen have gotten plenty of buzz heading into draft week. While these players are being heavily hyped, others are being severely underrated.

    Here, you'll find some 2019 prospects who are still being underrated with the draft on the immediate horizon. This isn't a look at late-round sleepers, but high-end prospects who haven't been getting the kind of media attention they rightfully deserve up to this point. Think eventual NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard and his quiet path to being the 36th overall pick last year.

    Just keep in mind that just because these prospects haven't spent a lot of time in the pre-draft spotlight doesn't mean that they aren't ranked highly on individual team draft boards.

           

Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    There are a couple reasons why Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins hasn't received much pre-draft attention. For one, the buzz has heavily been concentrated on defensive prospects and the polarizing crop of quarterbacks. Secondly, Jenkins plays center.

    While the center position is a vital one, the prospect of drafting a center typically doesn't excite a fanbase. Casual fans would rather see a disruptive pass-rusher or game-breaking receiver going to their favorite team in a mock draft. 

    None of this means that Jenkins won't be a high draft pick, though. Centers Frank Ragnow and Billy Price were undervalued heading into the 2018 draft, and both ended up being selected inside the first 21 picks.

    Jenkins is the top center prospect in this draft, and one of the top offensive linemen overall. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed all of five quarterback pressures last season. What NFL quarterback wouldn't want to have an elite and reliable pass-blocker directly in front of him on Sundays? Don't be surprised if Jenkins slips into the first round.

Dawson Knox, TE, Mississippi

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    There are some truly intriguing tight end prospects in this year's class, most notably Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. is another potential first-rounder, and these three are far from the only tight ends who will be coveted early in the draft.

    "Half the league is legitimately doing serious work on tight ends in this draft, either as projected starters or No. 2 types," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote. "I could see seven of them going in the first two rounds."

    Mississippi's Dawson Knox is a raw prospect who didn't have a ton of production in college, but his measurables are incredible. He measured in at the combine at 6'4" and 254 pounds. At Mississippi's pro day, he ran an unofficial 4.51-second 40.

    Knox is more than just measurables, though. He put some strong blocking on film and was able to stretch the field when the ball came his way. Though he had just 15 receptions in 2018, he averaged 18.9 yards per catch.

    While Knox has been overshadowed to this point, he does have the potential to be an NFL star.

Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

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    In a different draft, Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones might receive more pre-draft attention. However, this year's stellar class of defensive linemen—including fellow Buckeye Nick Bosa—has kept Jones largely out of the first-round conversation.

    Teams may be higher on Jones than the media, though. He's an athletic interior defender who can pressure the quarterback and chase down ball-carriers in traffic. As more NFL teams adopt offenses that try to space out defenses, such players become more valuable.

    "He can change direction really fast," Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson said, per Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram. "That’s the thing he does really well, is really attack the line of scrimmage. So when it’s a pass he’s already at full speed, he doesn’t have to restart his feet."

    Jones had 13.0 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 2018 to go with 43 tackles, an interception and a defensive touchdown.

Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Kansas State's Dalton Risner played both center and right tackle in college. Neither are positions that generate draft buzz, which is why Risner hasn't received much of it over the past couple months.

    This doesn't mean he hasn't gotten any—NFL Media's Charles Davis, for example, mocked him as a first-round pick. However, Risner has been outshined by offensive line prospects like Jonah Williams, Cody Ford and Jawaan Taylor.

    Right tackles are important in today's NFL, though. The top edge-rushers no longer attack the quarterback's blind side exclusively. While Risner isn't particularly fast or athletic, he's big (6'5", 312 lbs), strong and technically savvy enough to win matchups at the pro level.

    "Just a real solid, good football player," NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah said, per Riley Gates of 247Sports. "I think he’s going to start very early and have a good career."

    While "solid, good" players don't receive a lot of draft hype, there's value in adding a reliable long-term starter.

Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Michigan's Chase Winovich is not a pure edge-rusher or an elite athletic specimen. This is why he hasn't found himself in the same conversation as fellow Wolverine and near first-round lock Rashan Gary. However, Winovich should not be as overlooked as he has been.

    Winovich is a disruptive defender who can make high-impact plays and who is willing to battle through injuries. Despite suffering several in 2018, he still managed to play in 13 games and amass 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks.

    While Winovich isn't viewed as an athletic marvel, he has some impressive traits. He ran the 40 in Indianapolis in 4.59 seconds at 6'3" and 256 pounds. He also produced a 6.94-second three-cone drill.

    According to Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus, only 11 other players have ever had a 4.6-second 40 and a seven-second three-cone at 250 pounds or more this century. Among them are Brian Urlacher, Leighton Vander Esch, Cliff Avril, Connor Barwin and DeMarcus Ware.

    There's obviously no guarantee that Winovich will be the next Urlacher or Ware, but he is definitely an underrated prospect.

Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    There hasn't been a ton of buzz surrounding cornerback in general leading up to the draft, largely due to the abundance of defensive line talent likely to dominate the first round. However, guys like LSU's Greedy Williams, Georgia's Deandre Baker and Washington's Byron Murphy have gotten some Round 1 buzz.

    Central Michigan's Sean Bunting isn't widely viewed as a top-tier cornerback prospect, but perhaps he should be. He has a desirable combination of length (6'0", 195 lbs) and speed (4.42 40), plus tremendous ball skills and technique.

    Bunting is also a student of the game and an avid fan of film study.

    "I take a lot of pride in film study and just knowing the receiver, knowing him more than he knows himself," he said, per Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus.

    Bunting has the skill set and the work ethic to make an early impact as a pro.

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell is an intriguing player whose value lies in his potential. A 6'0", 205-pound pass-catcher with 4.31 speed, Campbell has the skill set to be a major impact player at the pro level.

    However, he has been overshadowed by the likes of Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown, Oklahoma's Marquise Brown and Arizona State's N'Keal Harry. This is largely because Campbell is a raw prospect who didn't start playing the position until he reached college.

    While this likely hurts Campbell in the eyes of teams who value pro-readiness, it also means that he has a tremendous amount of upside. The converted running back still managed to produce more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2018 with much of his damage coming after the catch. As he continues to learn the nuances of the position and improve his route-running, Campbell could become an elite offensive weapon.

    "I think my ceiling is high for the position,” Campbell said, per Clifton Brown of the Baltimore Ravens' official website. "I made the transition when I got to college. It was a struggle for me early on, but I continued to work."

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    West Virginia's Will Grier has sort of become the forgotten quarterback in this draft class. Murray has commanded most of the attention, obviously, and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins has had his time in the spotlight—even if it's recently been because teams may not be as high on him as earlier believed.

    Duke's Daniel Jones and Missouri's Drew Lock are also both firmly in the Round 1 conversation—NFL Media's Lance Zierlein has mocked both as first-rounders. Grier, meanwhile, has taken a back seat to the big four.

    However, the West Virginia signal-caller is a tremendous quarterback prospect who flashes vision, accuracy and the ability to throw receivers open on film. He has adequate height at 6'2" and while he did play in a wide-open West Virginia offense, he has shown the ability to make NFL throws from the pocket.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter called Grier "a riser" after the quarterback "put on a show" at West Virginia's pro day.

    It shouldn't come as a shock if a team is quietly high on Grier and snaps him up near the back of Round 1.