You know my buddy Jon? Jon Ledyard? Great scout, better writer, tremendously fun dude (except for when the Steelers are playing poorly and he has access to a computer). He’s also the Negative Nancy of our motley crew here, never afraid of telling the harsh truths when it comes to Draft prospects. (He will deny this; don’t listen.)
Jon dropped his list of 5 Overrated Prospects For The 2019 NFL Draft this morning, which included two Pac-12 players in a direct attack against me. All in all, Jon makes a solid case for every name, and I agree with him on most fronts. But for overrated prospect, there has to be an underrated one, and that’s where I like to come in. These are the players I’ve seen regularly undervalued by the NFL Draft community.
1. Boston College iOL Chris Lindstrom
What if I told you there was an NFL-sized guard, who could block in a zone-heavy or power-heavy scheme, without a significant red flag or weakness anywhere on his eval. What if I told you he had almost 50 consecutive starts over four years at school, with some at guard and some at tackle? And you could just plug him in somewhere on your interior and never think about the position again for another 10 years?
Where would you draft that guy?
The answer should be Round 1, and the dude is — this may shock you — Chris Lindstrom, the Boston College stalwart. The best interior offensive lineman in this class, Lindstrom reminds me of Brandon Scherff, who may never return on the Redskins’ lofty investment in him, but is a high-quality NFL guard in his own right.
2. Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler
But I landed on Butler because I think he actually has a deceptively high floor. There are inconsistencies right now in his route and in his hands, which typically make a WR prospect high-risk. But Butler has an ace-in-the-hole physical trait (size/length), an ace-in-the-hole on-field trait (high-point/contested catch), and experience at both slot and outside alignments. It’s gonna be hard for him not to find a role at the NFL level with that profile, which will make it hard for him to bust. Accordingly, he’ll stick in the starting rotation early, which will give him time to develop.
3. Michigan EDGE Chase Winovich
Somebody was talking about this on Twitter the other day — I can’t remember who — but there’s this weird tone around Winovich’s evaluation that tags him as this high-motor rusher who wins late in the down with his energy and relentlessness. And Winovich has that color to his game, no doubt; but it grossly understates his ability.
Winovich can win with first-step quickness. He can win with multiple hand strikes, secondary counters, and a long arm. With his hands, he can soften the outside shoulder, and win by rushing with tilt. He is not a tremendous athlete, and should not be the primary rusher on a defense — but he is an NFL starting-caliber player who is ready to contribute on Day 1. A lot of EDGEs coming out nowadays need time; Winovich does not.
4. Georgia EDGE D’Andre Walker
Speaking of EDGEs coming out of school who need time to develop, D’Andre Walker’s stance is a mess and it’s burying his stock under a pile of disappointing reps. Walker plays with his hips piked up in a 3-point stance and piked back in a 2-point stance; as a result, his shoulder dip down and his weight falls forward at the snap. He stumbles; he doesn’t explode.
Fix that and we’re golden. Georgia often played him with coverage responsibilities first, not as a true rusher, so the flashes are limited: But when he gains ground with his first step he has the ability to turn a corner, convert speed to power, and cross back inside against oversets. He could be more active with his hands as a rusher, but for a one-year starter who plays a utility-tool role on the defense, you can understand the lack of polish.
Get Walker in the building as a team with stand-up 9-tech rushers, teach him how to get off the line, and prosper.
5. Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger
Last but certainly not least, my man crush of the week has been Jace Sternberger, the Kansas transfer and one-year wonder for the Aggies. A true seam-buster with great vertical push for a 250+ pound player, Sternberger has explosive play ability that few TEs in this class possess. If we break up the group into in-line TEs and flex TEs, Sternberger would be second only to Iowa’s Noah Fant within the flex category.
The only reason Sternberger doesn’t have big-media hype right now is because of how anomalous his production seems, in Jimbo Fisher’s first year with the Aggies, as a Kansas transfer via JUCO, et cetera et cetera. He profiles exactly like a guy who was just in the right place at the right time for a program in flux — that couldn’t be further from the case.
Miss me by a mile if you have Stanford’s Kaden Smith over Sternberger — Sternberger does everything Smith is lauded for doing, only better, against better competition. Anyone without Sternberger in their Top 5 TEs can come and catch these hands at a time of their choosing.