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2012 NFL Draft: 4 Underrated Mid-round Defensive Players

Hype is a fickle beast. The underrated of today are hyped and become the overrated of tomorrow. The overrated of today are identified and punished, eventually becoming the underrated. The pitfalls of hype stick out like Rich Eisen running the 40 yard dash. But hype is not necessarily a bad thing. It is merely the outside force which moves a player up or down a draftboard.

The players in this post are presently underrated in my opinion. Whether they'll enter the draft that way is anyone's guess. After this I'll post overrated players and appropriately hyped players. All of the players I'll discuss in this, and the two follow up articles, are potential targets for the Seahawks.

CB Trumaine Johnson (6-2 205) Senior from Montana Projected Round: 3

Trumaine Johnson converted from WR to CB out of highschool and proceeded to dominate the Big Sky Conference. He does not possess elite speed (4.61 40 time) but compensates with quick feet and extraordinary balance. This helps him stay close - giving his size and own receiver skills a chance. What's particularly impressive is the awareness he shows playing the ball. He seemingly favors the pick and the bat-down equally. While he doesn't have much experience in press, he has all the tools to be a force there.

Johnson has slowly crept up the boards but scouts are cautious due to his past. He missed eight games to injury in his first two college seasons and one more game to team suspension because of a fight outside a party. Still, I see late first round ability in Johnson. If he can stay healthy and out of trouble then he should be an impact starter for years to come. He would be a deal for the Hawks in the third and a complete steal in the fourth.

Here is a highlight video. Below you can watch him against Central Arkansas and Northern Iowa this season.


OLB Travis Lewis (6-1 235) RS Senior from Oklahoma Projected Round: 5

Travis Lewis has suffered from over-hype in the wrong direction. Entering the 2011 season he was talked about as a possible first round pick. Now he's projected to go as late as the sixth - total madness I say. Lewis is a starting caliber WILL LB when healthy. He's a heady player who reacts and closes quickly against both the run and the pass. Undersized? For sure, yet he's very tough between the tackles - always willing to take on blockers. He also strikes that ever elusive balance between tackling with a pop and wrapping up.

Lewis broke his toe prior the 2011 season and was expected to miss several games. Instead, he came back after missing just one and still produced a respectable, if unspectacular, stat line. Came back too early? Probably. That showed toughness and commitment either way. Bowing out of the combine with a leg injury has further hurt his stock. Health is a significant concern but Lewis' well-rounded skill set might make him one of Pete's 12 LBs capable of starting right away.

Here are some highlights and below you can watch him against UCONN in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.


DE Jake Bequette (6-5 265) RS Senior from Arkansas Projected Round: 5

Jake Bequette is a project. There's no denying it. He has a limited pass rush repertoire and his technique is bloody-steak raw. However, he has all the potential of a top tier pass rusher. His unimpressive 4.78 40 time doesn't concern me. He's plenty athletic - tying Vinny Curry for tops among DEs in the 3 cone with a 6.90 and blowing the competition away in the short shuttle with a 4.07. That wouldn't mean much, except he has some production to back it up with 17 sacks over the past two seasons.

I see Jared Allen as a possible comparison. They have similar builds for one. Allen also had an unimpressive 40 time (4.72) but is clearly athletic. Both try to outwork blockers instead of occasionally winning with pre-planned moves. This has given Allen consistency turning out second effort sacks. There's still an explosive element though. Anticipating the snap count is so under-scouted and can be the most direct source of sacks for a DE. Bequette has shown this ability and Allen has lived it. The key difference between them is Allen's violent hands and understanding of leverage, but the resemblance is there. Bequette is a clean fit for the LEO position.

Here is a highlight video. Below you can watch him against Texas A&M last season, plus Ole Miss and South Carolina this season.


DT Akiem Hicks (6-5 320) RS Senior from Regina Projected Round: 6

Red Bryant failed at DT because he couldn't maintain leverage. He earned himself a fat new contract as a 5-tech because of his surprising quicks and a beastly physique and nature. Hicks probably has an even greater upside. His size and strength are comparable to Bryant's and his movement skills are jaw dropping. However, the same downsides for Bryant hold true for Hicks. He struggles with leverage and flexibility. Scouts are unwilling to give him a higher grade because of that and the weak competition he's faced.

The Seahawks might have a way around his deficiencies. Our 5-tech position is seemingly tailor made for Hicks. What's especially exciting about him is the lateral agility he shows. He's not just quick like Bryant. The big man has some wiggle. Combine that with his 84 inch wingspan and a club move he's already shown a liking for, and tackles will have a tough time keeping their hands on him.

Here is a highlight video. Below you can watch an interview with him, which includes highlights and his sack in the Shrine Game.


Big thanks as usual to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together. If it wasn't for their hard, unheralded and humble work, we'd be forced to watch those godawful horrible highlight videos with terrible soundtracks all day. So, thanks to Aaron Aloysius, JMPasq, JPDraftJedi, TTN2810, MARI0clp and the whole DraftBreakdown crew.