10 Underrated Picks for This Year’s NFL Draft

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April 21st, 2011 in Entertainment, Feature

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A team's draft fortune is often determined by its least celebrated selections. Every football fan is familiar with the stories of Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison and Donald Driver, each of whom were late-round draft picks not expected to make significant impacts. There were draft day unknowns such as Jerry Rice, who honed their skills at small, lesser known colleges and blossomed into Pro Football Hall of Famers. As you follow your team's every move on draft day, keep the following potential diamonds in the rough in mind — one just might propel your team to the next level.

  1. Will Rackley, OL — Lehigh: The transition from blocking FCS defensive linemen to blocking NFL offensive linemen can be steep, but at 6'4, 307 pounds, Rackley appears to be up to the task. His combination of size and textbook technique enabled him to dominate the Patriot League and enabled his offense to rank among the best in the conference. He's earned numerous All-American and first-team selections, but perhaps most impressive, he was a member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
  2. Pat Devlin, QB — Delaware: Devlin's involvement in a murky quarterback situation at Penn State prompted his transfer to Delaware, where Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco previously developed into a first-round selection. The move paid off, as he emerged as perhaps the FCS's most potent passer. In 2010, he was named CAA Football Offensive Player of the Year after tallying 3,032 yards, 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His completion percentage of 68 led the nation and his quarterback rating of 151.64 ranked fifth. Possessing a fluid throwing motion and excellent accuracy, he could develop into an NFL starter in the right situation.
  3. Graig Cooper, RB — Miami: A torn ACL sustained in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl — after leading the team with 695 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry and 1,417 all-purpose yards during the regular season — knocked Cooper from the top of draft boards, limiting his production in the 2010 season. He did show improvement during the combine, however, running a 4.6 40-yard dash and posting a 6.66 3-cone drill. As a result, some scouts are optimistic that he'll return to pre-injury form.
  4. Rob Housler, TE — Florida Atlantic: Given his size, speed and production, Housler is one of the most exciting unknowns of this year's draft. He's 6'5, 248 pounds and he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine. With an 80-inch wingspan, he exhibits good blocking potential. Last season, he posted 629 yards on 39 catches with four touchdowns, not bad for the former 225-pound receiver.
  5. ZaVious Robbins, WR — Hardin-Simmons: Often compared to DeSean Jackson, Robbins has blistering speed — he ran in the 4.3s during pro day — and the elusiveness to make big plays with regularity. At 5'9, 175 pounds, he figures to be inserted into the slot as a receiver, and, of course, he'll be utilized as a potentially dangerous kick returner — he made a few long returns during his college career. In his senior season, he tallied 1,271 yards on 89 receptions, 12 of which were touchdowns. Another plus for Robbins: he was named to the 2010 ESPN Academic All-America Football Team with a 3.92 GPA.
  6. Ricky Elmore, DE — Arizona: Leading the Pac 10 in sacks with 11, Elmore anchored a solid Arizona defense that surrendered just 21.6 points per game last season. He's adept at getting into the backfield using his excellent technique and relentless energy, qualities that good, consistent NFL defensive ends must possess.
  7. Kenrick Ellis, DT — Hampton: Who knew the FCS could produce such monstrous linemen? Standing at 6'5 and weighing in at 346 pounds, Ellis originally occupied a spot on South Carolina's roster, but was kicked off the team for repeatedly violating team rules. He rebounded nicely at Hampton, accumulating 22.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in two season, garnering first-team All-MEAC honors. A promising prospect, he'll need to keep his attitude in check in order to forge a productive NFL career.
  8. Chris Carter, LB — Fresno State: Fresno State is associated with high-powered offenses, but one of its defensive players, Carter, drew rave reviews for his performances over the last couple of years. Named the 2010 WAC Defensive Player of the Year and twice named first-team All-WAC, he tallied 19.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss during his career. He's expected to move from defensive end to linebacker because of his size — 6'1, 248 — where he could be an effective pass rusher. During his attention-grabbing combine performance, he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, a 6.88 3-cone drill and benched 225 pounds 27 times.
  9. Justin Rogers, CB — Richmond: Good corners are always difficult to come by, which is why scouts have taken notice of Rogers, another FCS standout. In four seasons at Richmond, he received first-team All-CAA honors four times. His versatility is most remarkable — not only did he record 12 interceptions during his career, but he also participated in several offensive possessions and broke Brian Westbrook's CAA record in career kickoff return yards. He has the speed to smother NFL receivers, running a 4.45 40-yard dash, 4.2 20-yard shuttle and 7.21 3-cone drill.
  10. Jeron Johnson, S — Boise State: Defense is a primary reason Boise State has won so many games in such a short amount of time, and Johnson was a big part of it. Starting 44 games during his career, he led the team in tackles three times with 98, 91 and 82, garnering him a first-team All-WAC selection in 2010 and second-team All-WAC selections in 2008 and 2009. He may not have the measurables that would indicate he'll be an elite safety at the next level, but he has shown the consistency and toughness that NFL teams covet from the position.

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