Welcome to the second edition of the Yahoo Sports all-underrated NFL draft team. This is an exercise in analyzing the imprecise collision of NFL front-office opinions and a player’s collegiate production. We attempted to identify draft steals – and two players who went undrafted – through the prism of the college football coaches who played, studied and game-planned against them.
Yahoo Sports reached out to approximately 100 college coaches and assistants from all 10 of the FBS conferences. We asked them to give a name or two they couldn’t believe dipped in the draft considering how that player performed against them during his career. What we didn't want is the coaches to get bogged down in testing times, injury history or the very real factors the NFL teams take into account. Just what they saw across the sideline.
The only rule is that we asked coaches not to pick one of their own players. We tried to divide up the asks between offensive and defensive coaches to get a variety of positions and perspectives.
We’d love to tell you there’s some intricate formula here or comprehensive analytical equation. But what we really wanted was a bar conversation — “Man, I can’t believe that guy went in the fourth round.” And then queried what they liked specifically about the player.
Here’s our team, with comments from the coaches who voted for them. (Some comments merge more than one coach's opinion.)
QB Davis Mills (Stanford), Houston Texans, third round – “I think he’s a steal. His game fits the NFL really well. With the offense they run, he really gets through his progressions. He’s decisive and has above-average ability to anticipate and hit windows. His game can translate quickly to a pocket passer.”
WR Jaelon Darden (North Texas), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fourth round – “He’s teeny [listed at 5-foot-9, 174 at UNT], but he’s a great little player. His route running is impressive, and he’s got speed, good hands and was a game-changer. He can return punts, too. I just loved watching him play.”
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), Detroit Lions, fourth round – “He dominated the Pac-12, has a family pedigree and is a great route runner. He’s everything that you would want from a Sunday wide receiver. He’s a game-plan challenge in the slot.
WR Simi Fehoko (Stanford), Dallas Cowboys, fifth round – “He can really have a big impact for a guy who went in the fifth round, as he has the tools to be a long-term pro. He’s big [6-foot-3, 220] and he’s sneaky fast.”
RB Kylin Hill (Mississippi State), Green Bay Packers, seventh round – “He would have been a third-rounder if he came out the year before. I’m not sure what happened last year. But he’s super talented. He can make you miss, he’s an inside-outside slasher and was a pass-catching space matchup issue.”
RB Elijah Mitchell (Louisiana), San Francisco 49ers, sixth round – “He has all the tools – speed, size and power. Hands just solid, but he’s all the NFL needs in a running back.”
OT James Hudson (Cincinnati), Cleveland Browns, fourth round – “Big sleeper. One of the best offensive linemen that I’ve coached against. He’s a great athlete who is physical. He’s got great feet and times his punch well. Lot of upside.”
G Aaron Banks (Notre Dame), San Francisco 49ers, second round – "Very well coached, anticipates movement or blitz well. Uses hands well. Strong and always under control. Was not the mauler they’ve had in the past, but very efficient run blocker and above-average pass blocker.”
C Drake Jackson (Kentucky), Detroit Lions, undrafted free agent – “Flip on the film, he had no problem blocking the best defensive linemen in the country week in and week out. If he was a little taller [than 6-foot-2], he’d have been gone in Round 2. I’m shocked that he didn’t get drafted. Great communicator and such a good adjustment maker that I’ve adjusted some things [coaching] based on what he showed me on tape.” (Jackson got the most mentions, by far, of undrafted players.)
C/G Trey Hill (Georgia), Cincinnati Bengals, sixth round – “He’s going to have the flexibility to move to guard. He’s got thick lower legs, a big backside and still has fast feet. He only gave up two QB pressures in 433 pass block snaps.”
*We only had one tackle, in part because of the astute observation of one coach. There are so few tackle prospects that most were reaches, so it was hard to identify underrated ones when many went higher than expected.
FB Ben Mason (Michigan), Baltimore Ravens, fifth round – “He was a lot of fun to watch in college. I think there will be a bit more of a resurgence of the fullback with what San Francisco has been doing with Kyle Juszczyk.”
TE Brevin Jordan (Miami), Houston Texans, fifth round – “I love the way he moves for a tight end. He’s way more talented than a fifth-rounder. The way he can flex out and play receiver complements the way that the game is going. He reminds me of Evan Engram [New York Giants], and could be a strong red-zone weapon.”
DT Alim McNeill (N.C. State), Detroit Lions, third round – “He’s a true two-gap run defender. We couldn’t move him or block him. He was the best interior lineman we played last year. He’s a freak.”
DT Jay Tufele (USC), Jacksonville Jaguars, fourth round – “He was dominant at USC. But they were so thin at that spot, they had him in a ton and he got worn down in games. He’s not as long-levered as you like, but man is he powerful and quick-twitched.”
DT Milton Williams (Louisiana Tech), Philadelphia Eagles, third round – “He’s twitchy with good pass rush ability and good change of direction. Disruptive. For an interior lineman, he pass rushes at an elite level. He was raw coming out, he’ll continue to get better.”
OLB/EDGE Shaka Toney (Penn State), Washington Football Team, seventh round – “Washington got a steal. He’s a productive pass rusher who performed at the highest level and did it for four years. He played his absolute best in the biggest moments. Great motor. Very instinctive.”
OLB/EDGE Chris Rumph (Duke), Los Angeles Chargers, fourth round – “He’s twitchy, explosive, a good pass rusher, plays hard. They used him in multiple ways and all over the field, including special teams. He’s a football player.”
OLB/EDGE Quincy Roche (Miami), Pittsburgh Steelers, sixth round – “He’s going to be a steal. He ended up in a great situation. He’s got flaws, but he has a dominant trait — he can rush the passer. It’s hard to argue with his productivity with 54.0 career TFLs.”
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame), Cleveland Browns, second round – “He’s always aware of the ball, very Charles Tillman-like. He can’t be blocked one-on-one in space. He can cover WRs, TEs and RBs in man coverage. One of the most explosive players I’ve seen on film. Perfect for a division with three young, mobile quarterbacks.”
DB Shemar Jean-Charles (Appalachian State), Green Bay Packers, fifth round – “By far the best defensive back in the Sun Belt. He’s aggressive when the ball is in the air and at the point of contact when he’s tackling. Instinctive with excellent feet. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 185, but looked bigger in pads. He talks smack, but backs it up.”
DB Tre Norwood (Oklahoma), Pittsburgh Steelers, seventh round – “He’s got natural ball skills and length. He’s more of a natural zone player, but he can also play man-to-man. That’s a really good get at this spot on the last day.”
S Joshuah Bledsoe (Missouri), New England Patriots, sixth round – “He can be a starter on every special teams unit. He has man-to-man coverage skills, high football IQ and will be physical in the run game.”
S Camryn Bynum (Cal), Minnesota Vikings, fourth round – “He’s tough as nails, a great run-stopper. The Vikings see him as a safety, and he’s got a very high football IQ, a very instinctive player.”
P James Smith (Cincinnati), Tennessee Titans, undrafted free agent – “He’s one of the best punters I’ve seen. He can put the ball anywhere. He has virtually no touchbacks, and you can count on pinning them back. As an athlete, he feels pressure and can adjust tempo as needed without impacting results. Also, a big leg.”
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