The Underrated
Every player has a story come Draft time
Every player has a story come Draft time

Posted Apr 11, 2003


You don’t know me. The NFL pre-draft publications are ignoring me and focusing on players that I lapped in college. I’m not projected to be a first round pick, but I’m a good football player. Really!

Welcome to the same club that includes Donnie Edwards, Dat Nguyen, Tom Brady, Frank Wycheck, Zach Thomas, and Lawyer Milloy. These guys were all great college players who dropped for some reason. Not all these guys pan out, but if the NFL looked solely at production and ability, they would be rated higher than they currently are rated.

Instead draft time comes and player personnel guys look for holes rather than production. Players like William Joseph (DT, Miami) and Julian Battle (S, Tennessee) become the rage and very good football players fall for some reason or another. Guys that dominated the college level, but aren’t given love because they are too short, too slow, or don’t look like they were weaned on a nautilus. Some of these guys fall because of off the field stuff. Before the Senior Bowl, prospects like Kevin Williams, Eric Steinbach, and Michael Haynes were on that list. Now they are first rounders and highly regarded (though I still believe Steinbach is underrated). I just wanted to give you a list of 6 players rated as the draft’s most “underrated” prospects.

Mike Nattiel, LB, Florida … People seem to be gravitating towards the speed LB who can cover running backs out of the backfield and makes plays all over the field. Nattiel, the nephew of former Denver WR Ricky Nattiel, is one of those LB’s. He is a tough, ultra-competitive LB who shows up with an attitude. At 5’11.5”, he is shorter than the ideal; but as a developmental weak side LB, I expect him to eventually be a starter. He needs to gain about 10 pounds, but when the same teams that are propping Pisa Tinoisamoa should be propping Mike Nattiel who currently carries a 5th round grade from Pro Football Weekly.

Ken Hamlin, S, Arkansas … OK, I know he is rated as a second round pick by Pro Football Weekly. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason he is rated that low is the off the field issues (two DUI arrests) though people who know him consider him a team leader and class kid who was embarrassed by those events. There is no safety in this draft with Hamlin’s talent. He’s a big, physical, athletic player who is dominant against the run and has the range to play the pass. I expect him to get a fine or two because of his play, but he is an intimidator in that secondary who has good quickness and can change direction on the fly. I don’t see much difference between him and several 1st round picks in previous years like Ed Reed in terms of overall ability. I can’t believe some people rate Michael Doss ahead of him. I think he is going to be a great player and everything about the kid suggests he has grown from the mistakes. If the Chargers get him in round 2, this is a supreme steal.

Calvin Pace, DE, Wake Forest … Rated as the 17th best DE in the draft by Pro Football Weekly and the 143rd best player in this draft (5th rounder), I shake my head. At 6’4” 270 pounds, he was a 3 year starter at Wake Forest who averaged 10 sacks a year. He is a good athlete with extremely good quickness who plays with leverage and knows how to use his hands. There are not 17 better DE’s in this draft. I’d be surprised if there were 7 that were better. He has some health issues, but come on. This guy is a productive football player and can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

Kassim Osgood, WR, San Diego State … Osgood has size and quickness to go with outstanding ball control and very good hands. He knows how to use his body to shield himself from the DB. In many ways, he is reminiscent of Orande Gadsen, but bigger and a little faster. I think he is going to be a very solid possession WR in the pros.

Anthony Floyd, FS, Louisville … OK, I have a thing for the 17th rated player at their position. Pro Football Weekly rates Floyd as the 17th best safety! Cato June? Antowain Sanders? Donnie Nickey? Ummm … OK. Floyd is a shorter safety at 5’9.5”, but he is a super productive player who is always around the ball. He might not be a great man cover guy, but he is a very good 2 deep safety who excels in zone coverage. He makes great reads, reacts very quickly, is a solid tackler, and is a playmaker. Mike Minter (Carolina) was a 2nd round pick and he’s built like Floyd with similar speed. They are comparable players, yet Floyd is a 5th or 6th rounder? That makes no sense to me.

BJ Askew, FB, Michigan … I had a love-hate relationship with BJ Askew in college. He was a team-oriented player his first two years who let his ego get in the way and said he only wanted to play RB as a junior. He wised up as a senior and became a team leader. He’s a big, powerful back with solid athleticism for the position. He also has good hands and could be a solid third down back, which is rare for a FB. He needs to step up as a blocker, but he certainly has that ability if he puts his mind to it. He really has some qualities for a FB and could be a very interesting late round pick.

Rob Curtis writes exclusively at Chargers Update covering the NFL Draft and can be reached at the following link: Rob Curtis or at rcurtis3355@yahoo.com

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QB Tom Brady (profile)
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SS Lawyer Milloy (profile)
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MLB Dat Nguyen (profile)
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