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Rang's Gang: Favorite underrated prospects at every position

by | The Sports Xchange/

Often overshadowed at Boise, Doug Martin is the draft's second-best back, Rang says. (Getty Images)  
Often overshadowed at Boise, Doug Martin is the draft's second-best back, Rang says. (Getty Images)  

In scouting hundreds of players in preparation for the NFL Draft, it's impossible not to develop some favorites.

"Rang's Gang" is the collective answer to the question I'm most often asked: "If you were running a team and you needed a (insert position), who would you take?"

There's only one rule -- no first-round prospects allowed. Anyone can compile a list of the top players per position.

The players that make up Rang's Gang are underrated, come from smaller programs or will make their impact in the NFL through hustle, determination and doing all the little things.

Others make the team simply because I've developed an affinity for the way they play the game.

QB: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, 6-3, 214, 4.93
Tough, smart and with better athletic tools than many give him credit for, Cousins may just be the quarterback from the 2012 draft class who makes a late rise up draft boards similar to the one Andy Dalton enjoyed a year ago. Cousins lacks the elite tools that will make Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill first-round picks, but this four-year starter has faced top competition in a pro-style offense and, as such, is relatively pro-ready.

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RB: Doug Martin, Boise State, 5-09, 223, 4.55
In terms of media coverage, Martin was overshadowed throughout much of his career by record-breaking quarterback Kellen Moore, but talent evaluators recognize his value to Boise State's success over the years. A natural runner with vision, burst and surprising power, Martin is my No. 2 rated running back behind only Alabama's Trent Richardson.

TE: Orson Charles, Georgia, 6-3, 251, 4.79
A surprisingly poor time in the 40-yard dash and a DUI arrest may scare off some, but Charles' tape is simply too good for me to overlook. He's a much more physical and passionate blocker than you'd think given his size and despite his poor timed speed, Charles was a matchup nightmare in the SEC.

WR: Marvin Jones, California, 6-2, 199, 4.46
I'll be the first to admit that I initially underrated Jones, though the poor quarterback play at Cal had a lot to do with it. Possessing good size, the strength to fight through tackles and enough speed to run away from them, Jones might have been a star elsewhere but his 2011 season at Cal didn't result in eye-popping statistics. Jones, however, was the most impressive receiver at the Senior Bowl. I haven't been this pleasantly surprised with a receiver from the Pac-12 (or Pac-10) in Mobile since some guy from Oregon State named Chad Johnson used the senior all-star game as a springboard into the second round of the 2001 draft.

WR: Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers, 6-2, 211, 4.67
Unlike Jones, Sanu has stood out on tape throughout his entire collegiate career. Unfortunately, also unlike Jones, Sanu has since slipped down draft boards because of poor workouts. I love Sanu's size, physicality and ability to line up inside or out. Say all you'd like about his poor time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, when he emerges as a quality starter early in his pro career, don't expect me to be surprised.

Slot WR: Devon Wylie, Fresno State, 5-09, 187, 4.39
Due to the proliferation of three- and four-receiver sets in the NFL, the specialization and need for slot receivers is greater than ever. The explosive Wylie ranks among this year's top prospects at the position. I'd like to see him catch the ball with greater consistency, but he's tough enough to handle playing inside and possesses the quickness to elude and speed to make the big play after the catch.

OT: Zebrie Sanders, Florida State, 6-6, 320, 5.21
Sanders has the length and athleticism I look for in a left tackle but was asked to play on the strong side for virtually all his career until fellow senior Andrew Datko's troublesome shoulders forced the Seminoles to shuffle their offensive line in 2011. Then, just as he was getting used to playing left tackle, he was moved back to the right side at the Senior Bowl, where he struggled, at times. A dedicated, durable performer capable of playing either position in the NFL, Sanders will prove to be a quality starter in the NFL.

OG: Senio Kelemete, Washington, 6-4, 307, 5.52
Recruited as a defensive tackle who wound up starting 26 games on the blind side, Kelemete has the type of tenacity and experience on the edge that I look for when looking for collegiate OTs who can successfully transition to guard in the pros.

C: Mike Brewster, Ohio State, 6-2, 312, 5.39
A four-year starter for the Buckeyes, Brewster has the experience against quality competition to go along with great size, strength and physicality. I love the fact that despite his starting 49 career games he elected to participate in the Senior Bowl. That's the kind of competitive spirit I want from the leader of my offensive line.

OG: James Brown, Troy, 6-3, 306, 5.20
Brown was a standout left tackle for Troy but his lack of height (6-3) and average lateral agility will push him inside at the NFL level. I like his pad level and leg drive as a run blocker. While he can be out-quicked, Brown plays with the physicality and aggression to endear him to any offensive line coach.

OT: Bobby Massie, Mississippi, 6-6, 313, 5.23
One of just two underclassmen on my list, I'm including Massie because I believe he has the size, strength and toughness to eventually rank as the top right tackle from the 2012 draft. There is no denying Massie will have to play with greater consistency in the NFL than he did at Mississippi, but when surrounded by greater talent and with a paycheck on the line, I believe he'll do precisely that.

DE: Vinny Curry, Marshall, 6-3, 263, 4.64
Curry possesses an explosive burst off the snap, and unlike most of the better pass rushers in this draft, he also provides strong effort against the run. His statistics (77 tackles, 22 TFL, 11 sacks, seven forced fumbles, three blocked kicks) were certainly a bit inflated playing in the MAC, but Curry had a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl against top competition and demonstrated explosive athleticism during his pro day.

DT: Mike Daniels, Iowa, 6-0, 291, 4.84
It seems every year I could feature an undersized Iowa defensive tackle in this spot, and Daniels certainly deserves to continue the tradition. At a shade under 6-1, 290 pounds, Daniels certainly lacks the size to hold up as a full-time defensive tackle. However, as the NFL becomes more and more focused on the passing game, undersized pass rushing specialists will continue to be able to carve out a niche. Daniels is an active penetrator who can chase down quarterbacks, as evidenced by the nine sacks he posted in 2011, the most of any defensive tackle in the Big Ten.

NG: Hebron Fangupo, BYU, 6-1, 323, 5.18
Given the stunning athleticism Memphis' Dontari Poe displayed at the combine, and the flashes of dominant play Washington's Alameda Ta'amu showed throughout his career, these two players have generated most of the hype as the draft's top nose guard prospects. For my money, the 6-1, 323-pound Fangupo is the safer bet, especially given the fact that he's likely to slip to the middle rounds. Don't expect this Southern Cal-transfer to pressure the quarterback, but his natural width and strength make him tough to move.

DE: Jack Crawford, Penn State, 6-5, 275, 4.85
Crawford doesn't possess the lightning first step most teams are looking for in a top pass rusher, but he has intriguing size and strength to be a base end in the 4-3 or even develop as a five technique end for the 3-4 scheme. Crawford, a native of England, arrived in America hoping to get a scholarship in basketball and played football for only one season before signing on with Penn State. As such, he doesn't recognize the action as quickly as more experienced players, but I like his upside, especially considering that the Penn State staff characterizes him as one of the team's hardest workers.

OLB: Shea McClellin, Boise State, 6-3, 260, 4.63
McClellin's burst off the edge helped him post 15 sacks of the past two seasons as a defensive end for the Broncos. While I certainly like the pass rush ability, it was McClellin's surprising balance and agility playing strictly linebacker at the Senior Bowl that intrigues me even more. I don't see how McClellin could slip through the second round and wouldn't be stunned if some team falls in love with his versatility and character so much that they take him late in the first.

ILB: Bobby Wagner, Utah State, 6-0, 241, 4.69
A three-time All-WAC pick, Wagner finished tied for fourth in the country with 147 tackles in 2011. Then he answered any concerns about his ability to play well against better competition by being named Defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl with seven tackles and an interception of Brandon Weeden.

OLB: Lavonte David, Nebraska, 6-1, 233, 4.65
Though smaller than we would all prefer, David's instincts, speed and reliable open field tackling skills make him a favorite of many in the scouting community. David may also be the draft's best linebacker in coverage. He's limited to playing weakside in a 4-3, but I believe he can be a standout at that position in the NFL relatively early in his career.

CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma, 5-11, 206, 4.53
Considering Oklahoma's status as one of the elite programs in the country, they rarely feature players I'd generally rank as "underrated," but in the case of Fleming, I believe the term applies. Fleming doesn't get the attention heaped upon Janoris Jenkins, Stephon Gilmore and Alfonzo Dennard as likely top-50 picks, but he should; he's as pro-ready in terms of zone coverage and run support as any of them.

CB: Trumaine Johnson, Montana, 6-2, 204, 4.61
Tall, smooth and fast enough, Johnson boasts all of the physical characteristics scouts look for in a press corner. He certainly plays faster than the 4.61 he was credited with by the NFL and I know of scouts who had him in the low 4.5s. Frankly, I have bigger concerns about Johnson's willingness to put in the work necessary to make the jump from the FCS to the NFL. Because of these concerns, Johnson might slip out of the top 50, at which point he could prove to be a steal.

SS: Duke Ihenacho, San Jose State, 6-0, 213, 4.68
Ihenacho is a classic in-the-box strong safety at his best attacking the ball. While he's not an elite athlete, Ihenacho anticipates well and was a turnover machine at San Jose State. Whether by intercepting passes, forcing fumbles or recovering them, Ihenacho played a part in 15 turnovers over his career.

FS: Harrison Smith, Notre Dame, 6-2, 213, 4.57
Alabama's Mark Barron is often cited as possessing the best instincts of this year's safety class, but Smith is right there with the All-American. Smith's athleticism, anticipation and ball skills make him a natural center fielder. He also has the size and toughness to play near the line of scrimmage. Battle-tested and versatile, Smith joins Barron as one of the few clean safety prospects in the 2012 draft.


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