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In the NFL Draft, the names of Barkley, Darnold, Rosen, and Mayfield are commonly placed at the top of mock drafts. But not every superstar player is well known when the draft starts. Why these future stars are missed by NFL teams can vary. Some are unable to show what talent they truly possess due to level of competition in college, and some are not as big or strong, but can be better football players. This article will touch on 5 players I believe to be underrated.
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
Washington State’s QB situation has been in the news lately for some very sad reasons, but Luke Falk’s career and NFL potential is something Washington State fans can still celebrate after what has been a trying 2018. Falk registered a 68.3% completion percentage for 14,481 yards, 119 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions for the Cougars. That completion percentage is 13th all time in the NCAA and 1st in the Pac-12, which has featured QB talent such as Marcus Mariota, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Brock Osweil… well… NFL QBs at least! Falk has surpassed them all in accuracy. His offense had some to do with it, as it relied on many short passes and screens, but Falk led the Cougars to 3 8+ win seasons in his tenure after they were a dismal 3-9 in his freshman year. I am a believer in winning football games, and Falk did just that, even beating fellow NFL draft pick Sam Darnold head to head in 2017. Likely slotted in the later half of the first round, I believe Luke Falk should be among the top names drafted in 2018.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa
When Saquon Barkley got national recognition for a monster game against Iowa in a Penn State victory, I noticed something more than Barkley’s dominance – Akrum Wadley scoring the go ahead touchdown with just two minutes left. Wadley’s athleticism and soft hands surprised me, and he looks like another Alvin Kamara on tape. 5’11” and 195 pounds, Wadley could be seen as undersized, but he started every game in his junior and senior years at Iowa. While not as big as Saquon Barkley, Akrum Wadley was able to average 5.4 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch in college, on an offense known for their NFL style. Wherever he ends up drafted, Akrum Wadley may end up being the star running back coming from the 2018 draft.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
In what was the best football game of 2017, Anthony Miller and Riley Ferguson hooked up 14 times for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the final tying score in regulation and the first score in overtime, in a 55-61 loss to UCF. Miller’s impact on a resurgent Memphis offense was felt to the tune of 96 receptions for 1482 yards and 18 touchdowns, leading to him being a Belitnikoff Award Semifinalist. At just 5’11” and 185 pounds, Miller profiles as a slot receiver in the NFL, but Antonio Brown was 5’11” and 180 pounds coming out of college. Miller’s route running ability and nose for the end zone lead me to believe that Anthony Miller could be another Antonio Brown type of transformative precision route running wide receiver with a nose for the end zone. Wherever he goes during the NFL draft, it may end up being called a steal.
Dorian O’Daniel, OLB, Clemson
It was going to be tough for a Clemson fan to not put a Clemson player in this article, but if anyone has ever watched the Clemson defense play from 2015 through 2017, they would know that number 6 made that defense elite. O’Daniel put together a staggering 21.5 tackles for loss in the last two seasons, making him instinctually strong against the run. He terrorized Georgia Tech’s outside-run option offense to the tune of 32 tackles in 4 seasons, which shows he can set the edge at linebacker and make tackles in space. He was also utilized in coverage as Clemson’s LB/S hybrid spot, netting him two pick-6’s and 5 passes defended as a linebacker in 2017. Look for O’Daniel to shoot up draft boards as the combine comes, as his athleticism will shine. While he is currently called a 2nd-3rd round pick by experts, look for the senior to become a valuable asset to NFL defenses.
Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
The ACC was a hotbed for defensive end talent in 2018, as Bradley Chubb, Harold Landry, Josh Sweat, Austin Bryant, and Clelin Ferrell were all eligible for the NFL draft. Bryant and Ferrell stayed at Clemson, and the others are headed to the NFL, but forgotten among those college stars is Duke Ejiofor from Wake Forest. A versatile and strong DE/DL, Ejiofor had been the primary focus of offensive lines, and only the strongest were able to contain him. Ejiofor picked up 17 tackles for loss in both his junior and senior year at Wake, 10.5 and 7 of which were sacks. Ejiofor’s disruptiveness and build place him as a future DE in the NFL, in the mold of Michael Bennett from Seattle (both are 6’4″ and 275 pounds). This looks like a first round talent hidden at Wake Forest, where he was the focal point of most offenses. Unless he begins to be ranked as a first round pick, Ejiofor seems underrated.