2020 NFL Draft: Identifying underrated draft prospects

In what has become commonplace around this time every year, sleeper prospects will soon emerge and make their cases for early-round consideration. Here are nine underrated draft prospects poised for success at the next level.

In what has become normalcy around this time each year, talented prospects get overlooked and under-scouted for a multitude of reasons, and ultimately wind up providing long-term value for teams wise enough to invest in them. These players may not have the desired measurables or college pedigree of the coveted blue-chip prospects, but in many cases, have gone on to have just as much success. I went beneath the surface and identified nine 2020 underrated draft prospects poised for productive careers at the next level.

Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State

From the moment he took over for an injured Jalin Moore in 2018, it was evident that Darrynton Evans was special.

Though Appalachian State got a lot of mileage out of Evans over his three years, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back has the intangibles to become a three-down back at the next level. Evans’ speed makes him a home-run threat to score any time he finds a crease, but it’s his vision and patience that really sets himself apart. Working against Evans, however — besides his 434 carries in two years — is the fact that he has little production as a pass catcher; in three years, Evans accumulated just 39 receptions.

In recent years, teams have placed less of a priority in securing a running back early in the draft, finding value on the second and third days. In other words, a tantalizing prospect like Evans can likely be added on Day 3, which is exactly where I have him slated. I currently have a fifth-round grade on the Mountaineers running back.

Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M

Caught in the midst of a logjam of talent at the wide receiver position, Quartney Davis has been casually glossed over in the early stages of the evaluation process.

Arguably one of the more pro-ready pass catchers in the 2020 NFL Draft, Davis has reeled off consistent production against the most formidable competition in college football. Davis is a twitchy receiver that gets in and out of breaks with as few steps as possible, can manufacture yards after the catch, and possesses an innate understanding of different coverages. I’d even argue that Davis was underutilized and misused at Texas A&M, and hasn’t yet scratched the surface of his capabilities.

While some may look at his modest totals the past two seasons and limit his ceiling at the next level, I see Davis as a player with intriguing upside. I have a third-round grade on Davis, and down the road, I anticipate Davis out-producing many of the pass catchers picked before him.

James Proche, WR, Southern Methodist

James Proche may not have the size or speed of some of the premier wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft, but the former SMU standout is every bit as reliable.

The sure-handed Proche has experience running an expansive route tree, and is outstanding at creating separation at the top of his routes and manipulating his body to make every route appear the same. Proche is more quick than he is fast, and projects as a dynamic slot receiver at the next level.

In a exceptionally deep 2020 receiver class, a player like Proche will go later than he ordinarily would, so I have a fourth-round grade on the SMU star.

Aaron Parker, WR, Rhode Island

Aaron Parker is an immensely gifted prospect that is bound to get overlooked throughout the pre-draft process, solely due to the competition he faced in college. If you followed along with my Shrine Bowl notes, however, you know how he fared playing against some of the nation’s top talent.

When you watch Parker play, the first thing that stands out is how effortless he makes everything look. The former Ram is known for attacking defensive backs with his savvy route running and his aggressiveness when the ball is in the air. His “above the rim” mentality and tremendous body control made him a preferred option in the passing attack as the week wore on in St. Petersburg. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Parker also has plenty of speed to find success downfield, and says he expects to run between a 4.48 and a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month.

McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas

McTelvin Agim racked up 38 tackles (8.5 for loss), five sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for the Razorbacks in 2019. His breakout senior campaign prompted an invite to the prestigious East-West Shrine Bowl.

Agim proved to be as good as advertised in St. Pete. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound mauler was a force to be reckoned with during 1-on-1 periods, blowing past offensive linemen with regularity with explosiveness and leverage, while showcasing a variety of moves and a relentless motor. The former Razorback has the versatility and athleticism to fit any scheme and boasts tremendous upside. I currently have a fourth-round grade on Agim.

Bravvion Roy, DT, Baylor

Bravvion Roy is an interesting case, in that he doesn’t have the prototypical build for an interior defensive lineman. He does, however, possess incredible strength and an innate understanding of how to use his leverage to his advantage.

While Roy’s impact wasn’t always reflected in the stat sheet during his four-year career at Baylor, the 6-foot-1, 333-pound wrecking ball turned in a career season in 2019, amassing 61 tackles, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick. 

Another East-West Shrine Bowl invite, Roy quickly emerged as the top talent on a loaded West defensive line. Along with his remarkably quick first-step off the ball, hand usage, and strong base, Roy also flashed surprising athleticism for a man his size. His lack of length will likely cause him to slip down draft boards, but if he lands in the right system, he should ascend up the depth chart and carve out a prominent rotational role in training camp. I currently have a fifth-round grade on Roy.

Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte

It’s not often that someone who ended the 2019 season ranked third in the nation in sacks (15.0) and second in tackles for loss (21.5) qualifies for the underrated label, but alas, here we are.

Alex Highsmith (6-foot-4, 242) wins with violent hands and sound technique off the edge. He is armed with a wide array of pass rush moves and never quits on a play. A Senior Bowl snub, Highsmith instead used his Shrine Bowl opportunity to firmly establish himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was evident from Day 1 that he was the best player on the field.

Whether he is a 4-3 defensive end or ultimately becomes a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level, Highsmith has the character and intangibles to sustain a long, prosperous pro career. I have Highsmith rated as a Top 100 player in the 2020 NFL Draft, and I fully anticipate his stock to climb throughout the pre-draft process.

AJ Green, CB, Oklahoma State

The first of two Senior Bowl cornerbacks on this list, AJ Green is among my favorite defensive backs in the 2020 draft class.

A lengthier cornerback at 6-foot-1, 199 pounds, Green has the desired size teams covet for boundary defenders. Green is technically sound, a fluid mover transitioning in and out of his back pedal, consistent with his pad level, and is well-versed in a variety of coverages. While he looks most comfortable coming up and challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage, Green will need to improve his play strength to prepare for the challenges he will inevitably face at the next level, however.

Though currently overshadowed by an abundance of first-round talent at his position, Green is another player who is primed to rise up draft boards when the dust begins to settle. I have a second-round grade on Green, a player who I believe will be a Week 1 starter as a rookie.

Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern

Kindle Vildor, a Sun Belt standout, is one of the best-kept secrets in the 2020 NFL Draft.

At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Vildor’s size would appear to limit him to a nickel role at the next level, but his diverse skill set indicates otherwise. The first-team All-Sun Belt star is a fundamentally sound cornerback that is at his best when challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage, using his hands to disrupt the timing of the route. Vildor is an instinctive defender, and he has the tendency to closely mirror his opponent, often running the route for the wide receiver while staying in his hip pocket throughout the pattern.

I currently have a fifth-round grade on the gritty, small-school defensive back from Georgia Southern.

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