Bucky Brooks’ Most Overrated Includes Tavon Austin and Star Lotulelei

The past several weeks have seen several prospects jump up draft boards, in the likes of Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, while others suffered from the fluctuations of pundit analysis–see Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner and California receiver Keenan Allen.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks is back to break down his top-five most overrated and underrated prospects in a recent piece. Let’s jump right in.

1. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin

Brooks starts off his list with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin–a receiver NFL Films’ Greg Cosell claims is a versatile, explosive player in the likes of Percy Harvin.

In what Brooks calls a “meteoric rise” since the NFL Combine, Austin has gone from a mid-round pick to nearing top-ten status as the NFL Draft approaches. Although Brooks acknowledges that Austin has the potential to be a “role player” in the sense of DeSean Jackson, he also argues that the first-round is no place for a role player to be selected–especially a player who stands at only 5’8″ tall–and that’s why the argument is made that Austin is the single most overrated player in this year’s draft class.

The argument is best summed up in Brooks’ own words:

“The NFL remains a big man’s game, and it’s hard for a diminutive pass catcher to function as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. I believe Austin can be an explosive complementary player, but you don’t take role players early in the draft.”

2. Utah DT Star Lotulelei

One of the reasons that Lotulelei is on this list is that Brooks credits much of his success as being due to physically overpowering smaller linemen–which is not to say he won’t be able to do this to some degree at the professional level. Like Dontari Poe coming out of Memphis, the assumption is that Lotulelei will have to develop technique as an addition to his play style if he’s going to play up to his draft stock.

Brooks doesn’t go as far as to say Lotulelei shouldn’t be a first-round pick, but he claims that the Utah product is one of the most overrated players in the draft (similarly to some other NFL insiders). Of more question than his first-round status at this point is his work ethic and motor in games–which many scouts have questioned after reviewing game tape.

3. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib

Nassib is an interesting addition to this list, as he’s largely considered to be a second-round pick (whereas each other in this top-five very likely could go in the top-32).

Brooks notes that Nassib has climbed up draft boards drastically, going from at best a mid-round pick to bordering on the first-round. His play style in college was fast-paced and less complicated than most professional systems–allowing him to read defenses while they try to adjust to Syracuse’s offensive style. While Nassib has the accuracy demanded of a professional quarterback, Brooks claims he doesn’t have the arm strength to consistently make deep passes–something that is corroborated by many scouts–and tends to leave deep passes up for receivers (and defenders) to make plays.

Brooks has Nassib on the least simply because he feels the Orange product would be a very overrated first-round pick.

4. Florida International S John Cyprien

Cyprien is an athletic, tough-hitting safety, who plays physically (even in practice). If you doubt me, take a look at his Senior Bowl tape below–there’s plenty of high motor in Cyprien, who’s drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu for his athletic prowess.

Brooks believes that the Senior Bowl propelled Cyprien above his true draft status, somewhere in the second-round. It’s a combination of that toughness and football knowledge that Brooks believes will drag the FIU safety down in the NFL–he plays over-aggressively at times and shows that he needs to learn more about the game, and those extremely physical tendencies could lead to problems with penalties.

5. UCLA DE Datone Jones

Size and production stand out for Brooks when evaluating Datone Jones.

The biggest criticisms are that he’s always benefited from a strong supporting cast (Brooks throws out names like Anthony Barr, Brian Price and Akeem Ayers) and throughout his college career he hasn’t been too productive in getting to the quarterback (only 6.5 sacks in 2012).

Many scouts like his high-motor playing style and quickness off the snap, comparing him to 4-3 pass-rushing ends in the sense of Justin Tuck, but Brooks focuses on his size (6’4″ 283 lbs) as being more of a tweener–meaning Brooks thinks he’ll need to either shed some weight or put some muscle on his frame if he’s going to play either 4-3 end or 3-4 end/4-3 tackle.

To add to the criticism, Brooks claims that Jones has a tendency to get “rag-dolled” by physical linemen when he goes up against guards or centers–something that would hurt his chances of playing tackle or end in a 3-4 and most certainly tackle in a 4-3.

Brook’s Most Underrated:

  • Mississippi St. CB Darius Slay – Recently invited to the NFL Draft, Slay is a dynamic corner that Brooks compares to Johnathan Joseph
  • Florida St. QB E.J. Manuel – Size and athleticism led Brooks to claim comparisons to Josh Freeman and Daunte Culpepper
  • Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins – He might not be a blazer, but Hopkins has the tools to be an impact receiver
  • Michigan St. RB Le’Veon Bell – Having drawn comparisons to LeGarrette Blount by some, Bell will need prove himself as a pass-catcher and blocker if he’s going to escape a repeat of Blount’s early-NFL struggles
  • Nevada S Duke Williams – He’s got a ton of ability, but Williams needs to get smarter on the field and stay out of trouble off-the-field
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