Every week, there are new 2024 NFL Draft prospects who pop up, with some flying under the radar. Each week, I’ll highlight a few prospects needing more attention. On this edition of Scouting the Nation, we look at the best offensive lineman in Florida, an Iowa defensive lineman poised to break out, and a Senior Bowl candidate in the Northeast.
Underrated NFL Draft Prospects for CFB Week 1
Austin Barber, OT, Florida
Only a third-year player, Florida’s Austin Barber flashed immense upside on film in 2022. He played both tackle spots for the Gators last season and is taking over full-time as their left tackle this season.
Barber possesses high-end foot quickness and athleticism to mirror SEC pass rushers. He’s a knee bender who plays with excellent pad level, preventing defenders from winning with speed and bend against him. Barber did a good job refitting his hands against bull rushers and was able to anchor down against power, a rare quality for a younger player.
In the run game, Barber works well in space and down the line, where his athleticism is on full display. He’s explosive off the ball and has the natural power to displace defenders.
Even though he’s young, it’s easy to see that Barber has early-round tools and will be one of the top left tackles in the country this season.
Yahya Black, DT, Iowa
It seems as if Iowa has a player come out of nowhere every year, and this year, it’s Yahya Black. Black is a massive 6’5″ 315-pound defensive tackle with elite play strength. He overwhelms interior offensive linemen with power and length, collapsing the pocket.
Black excels at stacking, shedding, and then using his explosiveness to make a play on the ball carrier. His ability to anchor down and hold the point in the run game was fantastic.
The biggest thing Black needs to continue to improve on is his pad level, which is usually a problem for taller defensive tackles. Black is tough to stop as a rusher and run defender when his pad level is low.
Size, power, and length are three traits teams covet at defensive tackle. Black has all three and, in limited playing time in 2022, showed he could be a dominant force along the interior. Expect Black to have a similar rise to Lukas Van Ness last season.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see Iowa have two defenders drafted in the first round again next April, with Black and defensive back Cooper DeJean.
M.J. Devonshire, CB, Pittsburgh
Pitt has done a fantastic job developing defensive backs, and M.J. Devonshire is up next.
A Kentucky transfer, Devonshire broke out for the Panthers last season. He has over 33-inch arms and impressive long speed on film. Devonshire showed zero strain when tested vertically and should run in the low 4.40s.
Pitt asked Devonshire to play a lot of press man coverage, where his length and physicality at the line of scrimmage were on full display last season. He disrupts receivers’ routes at the line of scrimmage consistently. If Devonshire can get stronger, his press man ability will reach another level.
There are times when Devonshire can get outmuscled downfield, but he flashed natural instincts and the acceleration to make plays on the football. Devonshire has ball skills and is effective after the catch. His punt-return skills will also help his next-level value, as he projects as a quality punt returner.
Devonshire is a Day 2 talent who should be invited to the Senior Bowl and could work his way into the top 75 with another good season.
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