It’s no secret that SEC football programs send more prospects to the NFL than any other conference. But while names like Myles Garrett and Leonard Fournette will be gone quickly, there is plenty of conference talent being overlooked.
Especially in the SEC, talented players may fail to post outlandish stats because they’re playing alongside and/or behind so much other talent. Other times, players are boxed into being “system” players and get overlooked. Just look at Dak Prescott coming out Mississippi State last year.
Here are five former SEC football players who are underrated heading into the 2017 NFL Draft.
WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
2016 stats: 61 catches for 1,039 yards, 12 TDs
While Christian Kirk got the majority of attention among Aggies wide receivers, Reynolds was quietly even better as a senior. Reynolds led the SEC in receiving yards after playing one of his best games in the Texas Bowl. He caught 12 passes for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Aggies’ 33-28 loss to Kansas State.
CBS Sports rates Reynolds just the No. 24 overall receiver and projects him as a fifth-round draft pick. However, Reynolds has the size and skill set to vastly exceed that potential. Listed at 6-foot-3, Reynolds posted a 37-inch vertical and 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He can develop into a dangerous all-around receiver with some additional coaching.
TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
2016 stats: 65 catches for 926 yards, 8 TDs
This class is surprisingly deep at tight end, but teams should keep an eye on Engram. Even though he might not have the bulk of an O.J. Howard or Jake Butt, Engram is potentially a perfect fit for the new wave of receiving NFL tight ends.
Had he not missed the Egg Bowl with a hamstring injury, Engram may have finished as the SEC’s season leader in receiving yards — despite being a tight end! Even so, he tied for No. 4 in receptions. At the NFL combine, he blew teams away with a 4.42 40-yard dash and shocking agility numbers at 234 pounds. Teams might choose to convert him into a wide receiver, but Engram has the potential to be a matchup nightmare at tight end.
QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
2016 stats: 225-357 for 2,946 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs; 150 carries for 831 yards, 12 TDs
While Dobbs seemed to have that natural playmaking ability and football IQ from the start, the accuracy never quite developed as many hoped.
However, the closing statement to Dobbs’ senior year was legendary. He completed 74.2 percent of his passes and averaged 10.2 yards per attempt in his last five games. More importantly, he completed 12 touchdowns and threw just 1 interception. While the learning curve to the NFL will be steep, Dobbs has the skills to do it if a team is willing to invest.
S Justin Evans, Texas A&M
2016 stats: 87 tackles, 5 TFLs, 8 pass breakups, 4 INTs
Fellow Aggies safety Armani Watts was expected to be the top NFL draft prospect after a strong sophomore year. However, Evans completely outshined him by season’s end. Evans set himself apart by making plays at multiple levels of the defense. He was critical in run support, but also was a standout cover safety.
Evans eventually led the Aggies with 4 interceptions, and tied for second with 8 pass breakups, behind only cornerback Nick Harvey. Because of his size, some NFL teams might consider him as a corner or nickel instead, but he has the playmaking ability to stand out.
WR ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
2016 stats: 54 catches for 864 yards, 8 TDs
Few expected Stewart to depart for the NFL after his junior year, but the Crimson Tide’s second-leading receiver in terms of catches decided he was ready. While it might slightly hold down his draft stock, Stewart’s production proves he is ready to compete at the next level.
Stewart posted a combined 1,564 yards and 12 touchdowns during his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa, despite playing behind star wide receiver Calvin Ridley. As a junior, he posted 4 100-yard games despite playing with a limited passing quarterback. That experience will serve him well as he tries to find a spot in the league.