The thoughts of the people close to the NFL and different draft experts are all over the map on prospects. Some will be valued more highly by experts than by the league and vice versa. The shock and awe of certain prospects going higher than you thought or falling down the board is something that makes the NFL Draft so intoxicating. On both sides of the coin, however, there are overrated and underrated prospects that cause debate all draft season. Here are some of the guys that I am higher and lower on than most.
Overrated: Penn State EDGE, Yetur Gross-Matos
This one might be the most controversial one on the list. Gross-Matos is an uber-athletic, high upside prospect that gets a ton of love for his upside. However, my issue with him is that he is quite literally all upside. At his best, Gross-Matos is a run defender who does a great job of setting the edge. That is what he can do from day one for a team. However, he is going to a very steep learning curve to offer pass rush presence when he is not schemed open.
His hand usage is a mess in the pass rush. It is not that his hands are not active, because they are, he just seems to not go in with any plan of how to win. Even then, he has a minuscule repertoire of counters that causes him to be locked up far too often. His motor does not run all that hot, and he did not take a big step from his sophomore to his junior year. Progression is not always linear, but that does concern me. The first-round hype he gets is too rich for me. His upside is there, but I would not touch Gross-Matos until the second round.
Underrated: Charlotte EDGE, Alex Highsmith
Maybe there is something to me loving twitched-up pass rushers that can bend around the edge well, but I love Highsmith’s game. You see him go in the fourth or sometimes even fifth round at this point, but I think he should go in the top-100 of the draft with ease.
If Highsmith’s character did not sell you on him, the tape will back up his high character just as much. On every play, you see Highsmith’s motor run extremely hot, Highsmith has a useful toolbox of counters and moves, including a dip-rip and chop-rip combination. The pass rush plan needs to improve, but he has the goods to succeed here. I love how he dips his shoulder to reduce his surface area around the edge. More so, his hips are fluid and allow him to buzz out to the flat if needed. He is a pass rusher that can contribute day one and be an eventual starter in this league.
Overrated: Notre Dame WR, Chase Claypool
I wrote earlier this week about how I view Claypool more of a wide receiver than a tight end, given what he will do at the next level. That role will see him stress the middle of defenses with his size, athleticism, and physicality. However, some of the hype Claypool is garnering due to his testing numbers is too much.
I like Claypool’s game a lot. There are things he can do that not a lot of receivers his size can do. Still, I do not view him as a top-10 guy in this receiver class, and he is undoubtedly not a top-50 player. I would take Claypool around the middle of the fourth round. That is where he best fits.
He is not a game-breaker, but he is a big, reliable target with some real limitations due to route running concerns. There is nothing too dynamic about Claypool after the catch either, which does hinder his value. So, at some of the current projections, with some even saying he could be a fringe first-rounder, I am out on that hype. I believe he is a mid-late second-day guy. However, as a top-50 player, he is one of the more overrated NFL Draft prospects.
Underrated: McKendree WR, Matt Cole
I know, you are probably asking yourself who in the world is Matt Cole?
Cole is from the small college of McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, where only 4,500 live. However, he has garnered significant NFL attention due to his dynamic skill-set. At Northwestern’s Pro Day, Cole ran a 4.48 40 yard dash with a 37 1/2 inch vertical jump to boot. He was on the radar of NFL scouts beforehand, but now he has made himself a name.
His main calling card is electricity after the catch. On tape, Cole housed catches on mesh plays and screens with ease due to his suddenness and quickness. As a route runner, Cole is subtle and efficient. In the NFL, expect Cole to be a slot receiver who can be dangerous after the catch. With return ability and 18 special teams tackles as a junior, Cole has a legitimate chance to make a roster.
Overrated: Boston College RB, AJ Dillon
There is some love going around in the draft community for Dillon. I understand it completely. Dillon has some moments where he drags guys on tape and just mauls them as well. He plays with heart and has terrific straight-line athleticism for his size. In the vision department, Dillon is decisive and does a nice job of reading his blockers to hit the correct hole. Still, however, he is a throwback and not a modern NFL running back.
He lacks great lateral quickness and short-area burst. That, unfortunately, matters a ton. Dillon does not have great elusiveness or wiggle, and as a result, I wish he was far more dynamic than he is on tape. As a pass-catcher, he only offers a modest upside with less than desirable hands and labored route running. At best, Dillon is an excellent secondary back who can grind out some yards for you. However, he should not be taken until day three of the draft due to his limited skill-set, which makes him one of the overrated NFL Draft prospects.
Underrated: Applachian State RB, Darrynton Evans
Man, I am a fan of Evans’ game. A home run hitter, Evans was dynamic on zone runs and showed off great elusiveness last season for the Mountaineers. The issue with a lot of speed backs who fizzle is that it is all they are, speed. However, Evans has significant nuance to his game.
Evans has a great feel and anticipation of defenders at the second level. That allows him to press the line and defeat angles well in the open field. Even more so, he has good decision-making and vision. For a speed back, that is not always common, but Evans has that to his credit. As an electric returner as well, Evans has more value than just being a running back. He flashed some receiving ability as well, with Appalachian State flexing him out wide often as well. This is a guy who can be a contributor in a running back by committee backfield and could be taken in the fourth round of the draft.
Overrated: Clemson CB, A.J. Terrell
Earlier in the draft process, I liked Terell a fair bit. That even was up through the combine that I was a fan of his game to a degree. However, I always say that this process is a fluid one, and as I have watched more players on the Clemson defense, more warts in Terrell’s game have stuck out. It was not at all the national championship game either.
Terrell is not strong enough to mesh with his physical style of play. That causes him to get pushed around more than you would like to see on tape. In addition, Terrell is fluid, but he does not keep his hips disciplined and often fires with the wrong hand in press coverage. Even more so, I would love to see more ball production from him. There were moments where he tracked the ball well, but it was not consistent. You have to have consistent ball skills in the league. Those are things that could hold Terrell back at the next level. I am not super low on him, but I have a lot more questions than I would like to have with his game.
Underrated: Iowa CB, Michael Ojemudia
Man, this guy stunned me when I watched his tape. Ojemudia is super sharp and one of the smartest cornerbacks I have studied all draft season. Iowa has a pretty complex defensive scheme with a lot of diverse rules. He had to be quick-witted in the match-man quarters scheme that the Hawkeyes often employ. As a result, his zone coverage skills are fantastic. He reads route combinations and closes windows fast with more closing burst than you would expect.
His 4.45 40 at the combine was big time. On tape, he does not have great long speed, and it is still a question for him, but he showed he has it. In the drills, he was fluid and smooth in transitions. His length is apparent when going for pass breakups, and he tracks the ball well in the air. Ojemudia will come up and make tackles in run support and play with a ton of fire. There is a lot to like about Ojemudia, who I think is one of the biggest risers in the cornerback class and will go on the second day of the draft.