Each and every year, there are a handful of players who are not recognized as much as some others. This is to no one's fault, as it is tough to watch every single player. Nevertheless, there are players who are underrated. Here are 10 of them on the defensive side of the football.
10. Caraun Reid, Defensive Tackle, Princeton
Reid was triple-teamed all season long at Princeton, and showed what he can do in Mobile. Reid is capable of playing anywhere on the defensive line, and will be a successful player at the next level. He possesses great quickness for a guy over 300 pounds, and that is valued at the next level.
9. Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker, Wisconsin
If Borland was two inches taller, he would be considered in the top 15 picks with C.J. Mosley and Khalil Mack. Borland can go sideline-to-sideline with the best of them, and is around the ball on every single play. Someone will get a good player later than expected because of his "size" restrictions.
8. Dion Bailey, Safety, USC
Bailey is a former linebacker, and it shows at the safety position. He can hit with the best of them, and is a sure-handed tackler. Look for him to be a contributor right away in the NFL, and can also be a great special teams player. When given a chance, Bailey will be a good player at the next level.
7. Zach Kerr, Defensive Tackle, Delaware
Kerr may be one of the better small-school prospects this year, but not many have seen him. Kerr is quick and powerful, and uses his hands with the best of them at the defensive tackle position. At Delaware he was an immovable object, and once the draft gets closer, more people will have seen this guy.
6. Jaylen Watkins, Cornerback, Florida
Watkins was not the best corner on his team, let alone in his conference. But since he has been given more of a shot at the Senior Bowl, he has shown that he deserves a top 75 pick in the NFL draft. Watkins held his own against all of the receivers in Mobile, including Jordan Matthews. If he performs well at the combine, it will be one of the quickest risers from fourth on the depth chart to a third round pick we have ever seen.
5. Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Easley is the best defensive tackle in this draft, when healthy. His injury is a valid concern, but some will dismiss Easley because of his play. He was one of the most powerful interior linemen in college football before his injury, and his quickness is vastly underrated. If healthy, Easley will be a top 20 pick in May.
4. Lamarcus Joyner, Defensive Back, Florida State
Lamarcus Joyner is not a corner at the next level. If he was, he would not be on this list. But in a Tyrann Mathieu role, he can, and will flourish. Joyner is a great football player, and has a knack for making plays. He should be taken in the top 40, and when he gets on the field, good things happen.
3. Jimmie Ward, Safety, Northern Illinois
Ward may be the fastest riser in the secondary this year. He can do everything a safety is asked to do, and has very good one-on-one coverage skills. That puts him ahead of some of the top safeties in this class, and he will be a good safety for a long time because of his skill set. Ward can tackle, cover a lot of ground, ball-hawk, and most of all, he takes great angles towards the ball carrier, which set him apart from some of the other safety prospects.
2. Yawin Smallwood, Inside Linebacker, Connecticut
Yawin Smallwood is the second best interior linebacker in this class (Mosley), and he will show why as soon as he hits the field. Smallwood flies around making tackles, and always finishes through his target. Some will downgrade him because of his weight (230 pounds), but other linebackers in the NFL have been successful at that size as well. Had Smallwood gone back to school, he would be a top 20 pick next season. He will start day one, unless he goes to an already stacked defense, and will contribute right away.
1. Dee Ford, Pass Rusher, Auburn
Ford is the best pass rusher in this class not named Clowney which is an incredible feat. Ford is the best edge rusher in the class, and if we have learned anything about the last few drafts, pass rushers are valued. Expect Ford to be a double-digit sack player at some point in his NFL career, and should he be drafted onto a team with a good defensive front, he will be one of the better players in this draft.