NFL Draft 2017: Underrated prospects include Duke Riley, Nathan Peterman

Prospects get underrated during the NFL Draft process for many reasons. Teams under-appreciate them because they lack certain standout characteristics, for example, or because they hail from smaller schools.

Those who cover the NFL Draft also tend to shrug off prospects who have not received national attention or did not stand out at the NFL Combine and/or Senior Bowl.

MORE: Mock Draft | Overrated prospects

These players have fallen victim to such under-appreciation ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are this year's 10 most underrated prospects, one for each position group.

NFL Draft 2017: Underrated prospects

— Quarterback: Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh

The former Tennessee transfer had one of the most impressive Senior Bowl performances of the last 10 years. He showcased his NFL-ready footwork and decision-making skills in front of NFL scouts.

Peterman compares favorably to Kirk Cousins, and his character and mental make-up check the boxes. He’ll be drafted higher than many believe, as teams like the Redskins, 49ers, Jaguars, Saints and Chiefs all are bullish on his NFL potential.


— Running back: Marlon Mack, South Florida

Despite three years of production and experience as a multi-level runner and third-down option, Mack has not received the hype he deserves.

A fluid runner with balance and body control, he will make an instant impact in the NFL as a perimeter and third-down back. His running style, similar to a smoother version of LeSean McCoy, should wow early in his career.

MORE: Top 10 RBs in NFL Draft

— Wide receiver: Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech

Our No. 4-rated receiver in the draft, Ford has flown under the radar in what is a mediocre class for the position. Ford doesn’t have elite vertical speed, but he thrives as a mid-range and build-up speed receiver who catches defensive backs off balance.

Ford reminds of Stefon Diggs, and while letting him fall past the early third round would be a mistake, it’s possible based on his NFL grades. He’ll be a fantasy football sleeper as a rookie.

— Tight end: Michael Roberts, Toledo

The productive red-zone tight end will enter the NFL with some of the league’s largest hands and one of the largest wingspans. He’s built like an NFL tight end, and his efficiency and finishing ability in-air give him instant value.

Roberts doesn’t have great short-area athleticism and is a mid-range, build-up speed athlete who likely won’t be able to put up 80-plus-yard performances. But his immediate value as a red-zone target, interior blocker and short-area pass catcher should make him a top-100 pick.

MORE: Top 10 TEs in NFL Draft

— Offensive line: Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt

In one of the worst offensive tackle classes in recent history, Holden is a name to know. He might crash the third round despite little-to-no NFL excitement going into the draft process.

Holden, a late addition to the Senior Bowl, proved his worth as an edge protecting and balanced exterior offensive lineman. He has the length, athleticism and skill set to play in the NFL.

— Defensive tackle: Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte

If you don’t know the name, now is the time to learn. Ogunjobi (pronounced O-gun-JOE-bee) is a favorite among NFL teams. And while none (I’ve spoken to) have first-round grades on him, many view him as a top-three defensive tackle in this class and a second-round prospect.

He’s scheme-versatile, and he penetrates in one-on-one situations and through double teams. His motor surely gives NFL teams optimism about his projection.

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— Defensive end: Jordan Willis, Kansas State

Despite a productive college career, praise from coaches and testing numbers that put him atop the edge rusher class, Willis somehow remains underrated.

Teams that value athleticism covet him as a late first round option. Teams that are looking for a safe, reliable pass rusher who can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 also want him. And while he won’t be drafted in the top 20 picks, Willis will be a worthwhile top-40 selection.

MORE NFL DRAFT: Big Board, top 100

— Linebacker: Duke Riley, LSU

Following in the footsteps of Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones as undersized LSU linebackers set for NFL success, Riley took advantage of his first year as starter in 2016.

With special teams experience, remarkable coverage balance and great range to the perimeter, Riley will find a home in the NFL. Teams might have pause about his bulk and work on the interior, but the one that takes him before the fourth round will get an NFL starter.

— Cornerback: Tre’Davious White, LSU

Cornerback is one of the deepest position groups in the 2017 NFL Draft, and after the pair of Ohio State corners are off the board, there will be debate over who else deserves to go in Round 1.

Like Jason Verrett encountered in the 2015 NFL Draft, White’s height and length are being held against him as a first-round prospect. But, like Verrett, White will make teams regret passing on him and his Pro Bowl potential.

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— Safety: John Johnson, Boston College

With experience at cornerback and both safety spots, Johnson quietly has become a favorite among NFL teams and likely will be drafted earlier than our current fourth-round grade.

Johnson, who tested well at the Combine and provides high character and versatility to his projection, could be a second-round crasher thanks to his value as a utility player and safeness as a projected NFL contributor.


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