NFL Draft 2013: The SEC's Most Underrated Players

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

Okay, we talked about the overrated guys, but how about some SEC players that I think are a little underrated?

Larry Warford

He played on some bad Kentucky teams the last two seasons, but Warford always stood out. Granted, that can be easy for good players on a shitty team, but not for offensive linemen. He always managed to get push for Kentucky's limited running game, and also consistently respected by opposing coaches and players. He's not likely going to be a very high pick, but I would be surprised if he doesn't push for a starting job quickly and have an impact.

Jarvis Jones

Yes, there's an injury concern, and it's clearly one that hindered Jones from being one of the best defensive playmakers in the country these last two seasons, right? Granted, spinal stenosis is nothing to take likely, but if he's medically cleared, the question is answered as far as I'm concerned. Players like Michael Irvin and Rob Gronkowski have overcome such issues. As for the workouts, believe me, I'm never one to completely discount them, but they mostly should be confirming what you saw on film. If I was worried about Jones' speed, a slow 40 would jump out on me. But I'm not. The guy was a man amongst boys in this league as the prototype 3-4 outside linebacker the last two seasons. I'm more or less praying that Jones falls to the Saints at the 15th pick. Jones will be perfect in the 3-4. Even if he doesn't turn out to be the same great pass-rusher he was in college, he'll at least fit in on the strong side as a run defender and curl-area cover guy. Jones' question marks may affect his ceiling, but his floor is so high I'd have no qualms about drafting him.

Bacarri Rambo

He's an athletic safety with good size that was incredibly productive in the SEC. Yes, there's some discipline risk, but that concern's a bit alleviated by the fact that he'll likely be a third- or fourth-round pick. If he's still a problem, you can always just cut him. If not, you get a hungry player with a chip on his shoulder that's eager to prove himself against the best.

Barrett Jones

I've been critical of Barrett Jones a lot on this site. And I stand by the statement that his 2012 awards were won on reputation. He's not that great of a center, and shouldn't play it on the NFL level. That said, he completely earned all of those accolades in 2010 and '11, and could be one hell of a mauling guard. He's tough, plays through pain and can be a powerful blocker. And while I wouldn't plan on him playing center or tackle, having a guy with experience at all those spots is definitely a plus in a league with 53-man rosters. And it's good value for a guy that again, isn't likely to get drafted in the first round.

Matt Elam

If you're a fan of the classic head-hunting, in-the-box strong safety, you couldn't help but love watching Matt Elam at Florida this season. He's a heat-seeking missile with a great nose for contact and willingness to contribute in a lot of areas, including special teams. And while he's not the kind of freak safety that gets drafted in the first round, he still performed admirably at the combine with a 35-inch vertical and a 4.5 40, which is certainly fast enough. And, he's a leader -- an emotional guy that plays at full-speed on every snap. I have a soft spot for guys like that. Roman Harper's name will draw a curse from just about every Saints fan, Elam reminds me a lot of him just...you know...not slow and unathletic.

Kevin Minter

Minter just might have been the best true "Mike" linebacker in the country last season. A tackling machine that made plays both between and outside the tackles. Solid in coverage, rarely out of position. He literally kept LSU in the Florida game near single-handed for three quarters -- it was one of the best single-game performances I've ever seen from a linebacker. He's a little shorter than ideal, and didn't test as well as most would've expected at the Combine, but he'll fit well in any 4-3 scheme, especially one that will allow him to roam behind some space-eating defensive tackles.

Alec Ogeltree

There are definitely some valid red flags on Ogeltree. The suspension he served during the 2012 season, and then the very, very stupid DUI he was arrested for in 2013. He's a bit light in the ass for a linebacker, a weakness that we all saw Alabama exploit big time in the SEC Championship Game. That said, he's a guy that's always stood out to me in just about every Georgia game I've watched in the last two seasons. Great in space and pursuit. Probably better off on the weakside in a 4-3, or in some other style of defense where he can be protected from blockers by bigger linemen. The personal issues are something that every team has to decide on based on his interviews and how they feel about their locker room and influences, but in my opinion, Ogeltree can be a very successful NFL player.

Tyler Wilson

When Wilson took over for Ryan Mallett, I had high expectations for him in Bobby Petrino's offense, and he delivered with a huge 2011. He doesn't have the tools that jump off the screen and yell star quarterback the way Mallett did, but has my favorite tool for any NFL passer: accuracy. Wilson gets the ball out quickly, puts it on the money and has some very quick feet in the pocket. Not necessarily the kind of mobility NFL teams always look for, but that Brees-Brady-Manning-like ability to shuffle around and avoid a rush. I'm not saying Wilson should be a first-round choice, or even a second. But to me, he could be a very good developmental prospect for a team with an established starter and a need for a backup now that could develop into a potential asset for the future.

Cobi Hamilton

Honestly, I'm a little surprised Hamilton isn't getting more pub. Even when surrounded with guys like Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, he managed to find a way to stand out as an explosive deep threat, and in his one year as the go-to guy he didn't disappoint. He broke Josh Reed's single-game receiving record, something I truly didn't think was possible, and still put up some strong numbers despite having next to no accompaniment. And I can't lie; he always seemed to bring it against LSU. He's got size, good hands and speed, and seems to know the passing game really well. That just screams middle-round value for his position, like a Jordy Nelson-type.

Tyrann Mathieu

Yes, I'm aware the young man has his issues. He's also not going to be a high enough draft pick to carry tremendous risk in this department. What remains amazing to me are the number of people ready to line up and tell you just how overrated Mathieu is as a player. For starters, he'd upgrade half the special team units in the NFL right away solely for his abilities as a gunner and a return man. And name me another third-to-fourth-round player in this draft that has accomplished half of what Mathieu did in his two years at LSU. True, he doesn't have the ideal height, and his unique skillset is a better fit as something of a defensive Swiss Army knife than a true corner, but he's better in man-to-man coverage than he's credited for. The fact remains, he didn't give up a single touchdown the entire season his last year at LSU, and most of the incompletions he allowed were in zone coverage on third and long. What's more, he was a leader in the locker room and a trend-setter on the field -- the Tigers fed off of his energy, and the lack of it was evident last year. Play him as a safety that who moves into a nickel/dime role in certain situations, or move him around as a corner. There's any number of things I could see a creative coordinator like Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers, the Ryan brothers or Bill Belichick doing with Mathieu.

Part of me would love to see him wind up in black and gold, but I'm guessing a change of scenery would be best. Distance from some of his older "friends," that sought the older habits. Sometimes that's the best thing in these situations.

Honorable Mention: Sam Montgomery, Jonathan Banks, Mike Gillislee, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Herman Lathers, Cameron Lawrence

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