Inside the War Room: All-Underrated Defensive Team

By John Blair | @QBcoachblair 

This week saw the regular season wrap-up for most of the teams in college football. To conclude the season, Inside the War Room names the second part of its All-Underrated Team, this time taking a look at the defensive side of the ball. The group is headlined by two outstanding pass rushers and one of our favorite players in the draft at middle linebacker. In addition, we highlight some of the mid-round quarterbacks that could be good value picks, a senior who had the worst year of his career and much more…

NFL DRAFT BIBLE ALL-UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Defensive End-CeCe Jefferson, Florida

Despite having a down year and seeing his sack production drop this season, Jefferson, who battled a foot injury for most of the season, could ultimately end up as one of the steals of the draft. What stands out about Jefferson is his burst on the outside and flexibility to turn the edge. On the downside, he is undersized coming in at only 6-1 242 pounds and might have to move to outside linebacker in the NFL or be a situational pass rusher in the NFL. It is also worth noting that Jefferson is only a junior but all indications are that he will enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

Defensive Tackle-P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State

If you’re looking for an ultra-productive defensive lineman, then you’ll definitely want to look into Hall, who has had over 15 tackles for loss each year of his college career and has also dominated on special teams as a kick blocker for the Bearkats. While Hall has proved himself at the FCS level, scouts are still not sold on him since he lacks the pure strength to play defensive tackle and the speed to be much of a pass rusher as a defensive end. In addition, he was also suspended by the team for violation of team rules. Due to these concerns, look for Hall to be a late-round draft pick at best, but he is a player who could find a home as a 3-4 defensive tackle at the next level.

Defensive Tackle-Folorunso Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut

While Hall is more of your pass-rushing, undersized defensive tackle, Connecticut’s Folorunso Fatukasi is your big body run stuffer. Fatukasi does a good job of plugging up the middle of most team offensive lines due to his 6-4, 303-pound size and impressive strength. Unfortunately, he does lack the quickness to be much of a pass rusher and doesn’t have the agility to be anything more than a run-stuffing defensive tackle. Like Hall, look for Fatukasi to be a late-round pick in this shallow defensive tackle class.

Defensive End-Marcus Davenport, UTSA

UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport is the highest rated player on this list, as he came into the season with a late round draft grade but now has been getting talk as a late first round pick due to his outstanding play this season. One of the main reasons scouts have been impressed with Davenport is his impressive measurables, as he comes in at 6-7 255 pounds, and should be able to post one of the best 40-yard dashes of any defensive end in the draft. One question with Davenport is where does he play, as he has split time this year as an outside linebacker and defensive end for the Roadrunners.

Outside Linebacker-Davin Bellamy, Georgia

Like CeCe Jefferson, Georgia outside linebacker Davin Bellamy is an SEC prospect who is having a down year, yet made this list due to impressive athletic ability. Bellamy has seen his production drop significantly in both tackle and tackles for loss this season and has also saw a dip in his sack production. However, he is an athletic edge pass rusher who if put in the right situation could develop into a better pro player than college player.

Middle Linebacker-Josey Jewell, Iowa

One of the biggest questions, when award lists came out, is how in the heck did Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell not make the finalist list for the Butkus Award list. Despite missing one game this season, he still led the Big Ten in tackles with 123 and also finished fifth in the conference in tackles for loss with 13.5. In terms of his draft stock look for Jewell to be a late second to early third-round draft pick as he lacks the great athletic ability to earn a higher grade but whoever does draft him will be getting a player who could start in the NFL for a long time.

Outside Linebacker-Naashon Hughes, Texas

While Texas linebacker Naashon Hughes might be a tweener prospect at the next level, he is a prospect who will likely outperform his draft stock if used correctly. If a team is wise they will have Hughes add a few pounds so that he can move from a college linebacker to NFL defensive end. This would be a wise choice for Hughes as he shows the strength to hold up against offensive tackles and has a good burst off the ball for a 4-3 defensive end. I would worry about him as an outside linebacker though as he is somewhat stiff and will have trouble in coverage at this position.

Cornerback-Johnathan Alston, North Carolina State

In only his one year of playing cornerback, North Carolina State’s Johnathan Alston has proven he is a legitimate NFL prospect. This former wide receiver has impressed scouts with his fluid athletic ability, 6-0 210-pound size, and ability to play the run. Look for Alston to make a name on special teams next season and to eventually develop into a solid cornerback eventually.

Safety-Siran Neal, Jacksonville State

A small school defensive back, people will surely know know the name Siran Neal come draft time. During his time at Jacksonville State, Neal has seen time at both safety and cornerback and should be the ideal prospect for a team looking to add a developmental free safety on day three.  When evaluating Neal, several things stand out about him including his ball skills. This past season, he broke up 11 passes and also showed the ability to consistently hold up in coverage. He is an aggressive run defender as well who has no problem laying ball carriers out.

Safety-Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama

One of the most productive safeties in college football has been South Alabama’s Jeremy Reaves. In 2017, he led the team in tackles (97), tackles for loss (7), and interceptions (3), and finished second in pass breakups (8). Despite being on the small side coming in at only 5-11, he shows the aggression and playmaking ability defensive coordinators will love. Unfortunately, his lack of height will be one of the reasons he will hear his name called late in the draft or possibly go undrafted.

Cornerback- Davontae Harris, Illinois State

Davontae Harris, like Siren Neal are two small school players who made this list, that will also be playing in the Senior Bowl. While Harris may lack the overall athletic ability of Neal, he does possess the skill set to at least earn a priority free agent grade. These skills include his ability to break on the ball as he had 13 pass breakups this season and the size to hold up against bigger wide receivers.

SCOUTING NOTES

The most well-rounded player in this draft is Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. As a runner, he shows the elusive running style that makes him a dangerous threat in the open field. Even though, he may not be the most powerful runner in the draft, he does display excellent balance, which allows him to constantly bounce off tackles. In addition to his skills as a runner, he also holds up well in the passing game as both a receiver and blocker. This season, he caught 47 passes which placed him fourth on the team in receptions. He also shows the ability to consistently pickup the blitzing linebacker in pass protection. One knock some people have on Barkley is that he has been shut down in some games like he was vs. Rutgers when he only rushed for 35 yards on fourteen carries. However, in this game, it must be noted that he had very few running lanes available and defenders were able to get in the backfield consistently. Two teams that should strongly consider Barkley that will likely be picking in the top ten include the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.

A player who would be wise to attend a lower level All-Star game is Hampton defensive tackle Owen Obasuyi. Despite getting little attention from draft pundits, Obasuyi has had a strong year this season, as he recorded 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, to go along with his 45 tackles. In addition, to his production he has the size to gain the NFL’s interest coming in at 6-4 and 308 pounds. Even though he is not very highly rated, currently if he impresses this offseason he could earn a priority free agent grade.

A rookie who is quietly having an outstanding rookie year, especially for someone drafted in the fifth round is San Diego Chargers’ Desmond King. This season King has been able to slow down some of the top slot receivers in the NFL, as he has yet to give up a touchdown reception and is one of the surest tackling cornerbacks in the NFL. He also has been a playmaker on the ball, including a pick-six against Dallas on Thanksgiving. The main reason King fell in the draft was a lack of great testing numbers as scouts said he lacked the size and speed to play in the NFL, which King has definitely proving wrong this year.

When watching the Alabama vs Auburn game, it became clear that the difference between these two teams was the passing game. While Alabama struggled to move the ball through the air behind Jalen Hurts, Auburn was led by a possible future first-round draft pick in Jarrett Stidham. Stidham showed all the tools you want to see out of a potential draft pick in this game including impressive arm strength, an accurate arm and nice mobility for a pro-style quarterback. Even though Stidham could fly up the draft board this offseason, he would be best off by returning to Auburn next season where he would return as one of the top-five quarterbacks in college football.

NFL DRAFT STOCK MARKET

Stock Up

Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo

Even though Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside lacks the skill-set to develop into a starting quarterback, he should offer good value on draft day as a quality backup. The reason he offers such a good value is that his lack of arm strength and height will likely cause him to go no earlier than the fifth round. This is not a bad value for someone who makes outstanding decisions on the field and shows good accuracy in the short to intermediate passing game.

Brett Taylor, MLB, Western Illinois

The small school version of Josey Jewell is Western Illinois linebacker Brett Taylor. Like Jewell, Taylor has been a tackling machine during his college career. This past season he led the FCS with 150 tackles, and he has had over 130 tackles each of the past three seasons. While it is doubtful Taylor is drafted look for him to earn a spot in training camp where he could impress coaches as a special teams player.

Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida

Despite losing a tough game to Central Florida, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers had an outstanding game. In his game against the top rated group of five teams, Flowers threw for 503 yard and four touchdowns, he also rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. In this game, Flowers looked more like a prospect who deserved a look at quarterback in an NFL camp, instead of being switch automatically to running back or wide receiver.

Stock Down

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

One of the most improved players in college football is West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. Unfortunately, Grier had his season end early when he suffered a broken right middle finger against Texas. This injury could keep him out of the team’s bowl game as well. During the 2017 season, Grier established himself as the second-best quarterback in the Big 12 behind only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, as he completed 64% of his passes while throwing for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns. If Grier enters the draft, look for him to be a late second day or early third-day draft pick.

Arden Key, DE, LSU

This year has been a big disappointment for LSU defensive end Arden Key. His year started off with him taking a leave of absence from the football team this spring. He then came back to start the season only to suffer a shoulder injury which kept him out of the first two games of the season. After that, he came back to play in eight games before suffering a knee injury which he is currently out with. On the positive side when he did return he was able to post some solid film including his performance against Ole Miss when he had six tackles and two sacks.

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

For the second consecutive year, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk threw three interceptions in the Apple Cup. His poor performance against Washington solidified him having the worst year of his career this season, as he threw the most interceptions of his career, and also had the lowest completion percentage, touchdowns, yards and quarterback rating of his career.

CLOSING NOTES

It sounds like it is a pretty much a sure thing that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen will enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Look for him to be a first-round pick, and possibly a top-five pick. … Three players to make ITWR’s All-Underrated Offensive Team accepted Senior Bowl invites last week including Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, and Austin Corbett. … Speaking of players named to the All-Underrated Offensive Team being honored our choice for the quarterback of this team Kyle Lauletta was named All-CAA Offensive Player of the Year. …. Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio will bypass his last year of college and not return to Florida next season. … South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler was named Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. … San Jose State linebacker Frank Ginda will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. …. Morningside running back Bubba Jenkins became only the second player in school history to rush for over 2,000 yards, with his 183-yard performance against St. Xavier. …

 

*CLICK HERE: Inside The War Room: All-Underrated Offensive Team

Rick Serritella

Established in 2002, NFL Draft Bible Founder Ric Serritella began his independent scouting service as a publication used by all 32 NFL teams. Eventually, it would evolve into an online scouting resource that reaches millions of people each month. An early adaptor to technology, the NFL Draft Bible produced the first ever livestream video show and live podcast on location from the NFL Draft. The NFL Draft Bible network extends to professional football leagues all over the world and includes general managers, executives, scouts, coaches, agents, trainers, advisors, along with other media outlets and draftniks. In addition to owning the NFL Draft Bible, Serritella has also served as executive producer of the T.Ocho Show (2010) on NBC Sports, producer for The Mike & The Mad Dog Show (2002) on YES Network, producer for NFL Now with Mike Francesa, one of the only nationally syndicated NFL shows at that time (2003), producer on ESPN Hollywoood (2005) and helped start up the Wall Street Journal YouTube channel (2007). He has interviewed the likes of Donald Trump, Roger Goodell, Archie Manning, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Danica Patrick, Venus Williams, Howard Stern, Don King, Jay-Z, Madonna, Bon Jovi and hundreds of other celebrities/athletes. Other involvements include helping build the fiber-optic system for MLB Network during his time as manager at HTN Communications, writing for USA TODAY, working for CBS and AEG Live. Since 2015, he has served as the Director of Media for the Parabolic Performance NFL Draft Prep program. In 2017, Serritella served as the Director of Player Personnel for the College Gridiron Showcase & Symposium. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University (JWU) in Providence, RI, Serritella earned a B.A. in Sports Entertainment & Event Management and was honored with the Inaugural Sports Entertainment & Event Management Success Board Achievement Award by the school in 2009. While attending JWU, he interned for the New England Patriots and ESPN X-Games. A proud member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Serritella currently resides in his home state of New Jersey.

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