2018 NFL Draft: 10 underrated prospects primed to break out this season

We go into each college football season with a general understanding of the top NFL prospects, but every year a number of players parlay outstanding final campaigns into loads of attention come draft time. 

Two years ago, there was little-to-no buzz surrounding Carson Wentz before the season, yet when the 2015 draft season was in full force, he was the talk of that class, even more so than Jared Goff.  How about Corey Davis? Going into his last season at Western Michigan, he was super-productive MAC wideout who most knew would play on Sundays. Not many had him as the No. 5 overall selection in the draft. Former Temple star Haason Reddick, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has a similar story. 

Everyone listed below was not included in my preseason Top 100 but when all is said and done, they very well could be one of the first 100 selections in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jester Weah, WR, Pittsburgh

Weah has taken time to mature into a stud for Pittsburgh, but in 2016, he was a dazzling high-pointer who flashed scary long speed. He recorded his first collegiate statistics as a redshirt junior a season ago, and really, was dominant in the Panthers offense. 

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has an NFL-ready body and wins in most contested-catch situations, has impressive balance, and covers a lot of ground quickly as a runner. He averaged 24.2 yards per reception and scored 10 touchdowns last year. With USC transfer Max Browne at quarterback, Weah should have ample opportunity to have another explosive campaign.

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Weah has the prototypical build for an NFL receiver.  USATSI

Nick Stevens, QB, Colorado State

Josh Allen is the Mountain West quarterback in the spotlight, but Stevens could piece together a better season statistically. In 2016, the Rams starter had the fifth-highest passer efficiency rating in the entire country (170.8) as he completed 63.7 percent of passes at 9.6 yards per attempt with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

Stevens plays in a pro-style offense, so he's accustomed to operating play-action from under center and has a quality arm.  

Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

On film, Okorafor looks like Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith -- he's a tall and sculpted offensive tackle with fluid athleticism and fine balance. Okorafor was so good last season, he kept 2017 second-round pick Taylor Moton at right tackle for the Broncos. 

With another strong season, Okorafor should garner legitimate first-round consideration. He's comfortable in pass protection and has the feet to demolish linebackers at the second level. 

Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee

As a freshman in 2015, the 5-foot-9 James racked up 1,334 yards and eight touchdowns on 107 catches. In 2016, he had 105 grabs, 1,625 yards and 12 receiving scores. Talk about production. Per Pro Football Focus, "James led the 2018 draft class with 17 deep (20-plus yard) receptions in last season." 

James hits top gear as rapidly as any wideout in the country and was also used as a running back at times due to his electric elusiveness in the open field.

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Good luck catching James in a foot race. USATSI

Andrew Brown, DL, Virginia

In 2014, Brown was the No. 1 defensive tackle recruit in the country per 247Sports, and was just outside the national top 10 that included Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, and Jabrill Peppers

He didn't acclimate to the college game as quickly as most expected, but a season ago, his immense talent begin to shine through. He amassed 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in 11 games. At 6-foot-4 and 282 pounds, Brown has an NFL-caliber defensive end body.

Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss

Smith proved he could play with the big boys against LSU last season, when he had 110 yards from scrimmage and one score on 22 touches in Baton Rouge. In his other game against an SEC opponent, Smith gashed Kentucky for 173 yards on 36 carries and added 40 more yards on five receptions. 

His jump-cut ability is LeSean McCoy-like, and he's extremely reliable as a receiver. After back-to-back seasons with over 1,600 yards from scrimmage for Southern Miss, Smith might eclipse the 2000-yard mark this season. 

Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

Another former top recruit -- 247Sports' No. 14 overall player in the 2015 class -- Mack has battled weight issues as Texas A&M but has been a disruptive force on the interior of the Aggies defensive line. At 6-foot-1 and 335 pounds, Mack's measureables may scream "space-eating nose tackle". He's not that type of player. He possesses an almost unfair burst off the ball and is supremely strong at the point of attack.

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Mack is surprisingly quick for a man of his size.  USATSI

Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee

As a sophomore in 2016, Jennings had 40 catches for 580 yards and seven touchdowns. That stat line included 11 gains of 20-plus yards, per 247Sports. He's the wideout who came down with the high-point grab on the Josh Dobbs Hail Mary to stun Georgia

At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Jennings has the size to play on the boundary and the athleticism to thrive after the catch. He'll be the go-to target for the Volunteers this season.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma

A relentless, rocket-fueled edge-rusher, Okoronkwo is a fun prospect to watch. Though relatively small for his position -- around 6'1" and 240 pounds -- he gets the job done with speed and bend around the corner. In 2016, he had 12 tackles for loss and nine sacks -- both team highs.

Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana

Another prospect who some will ding due to his lack of size, Fant is an ultra-feisty cornerback who stands down from no one and routinely gets his hands on the football. He has 44 pass breakups in his three-year career at Indiana, which includes 22 in 2015 and 17 a season ago. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder also had three interceptions last year. He gets his first litmus test against Ohio State this weekend.

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