I have my own personal list of the top 1,000 players in this draft. The players below represent the ones I consider to be the most underrated on defense (On Monday, I covered the most underrated offensive players in the draft). These are prospects that will get drafted lower than they should, but ones I believe will enjoy long, impactful careers in the NFL.
Most underrated defensive prospects
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech: Butler (6-foot-3 5/8, 323 pounds, 5.33-second 40-yard dash) is an inside player who plays well vs. the run. He's tall, athletic and strong (26 bench lifts). His best position is nose tackle. He was a standout at the Reese's Senior Bowl, and could be one at the next level.
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska: Collins (6-1 7/8, 311, 5.03) is very athletic with speed and strength (25 bench lifts). He has very good ability to get off blocks and make plays. He has long arms. If you want to get a starting nose tackle in the second round, this is your guy.
Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State: Jones (6-5 3/4, 310, 5.03) has all the ability in the world, but it doesn't always show up on every play. He's an outstanding athlete, strong (26 bench lifts), and has long arms (34 1/2). He's young (played just three years at MSU). He could be a very good NFL player but needs to work harder on every down.
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn: The only negative on Jones (5-9 1/8, 186, 4.33) is his lack of height. He plays a lot like Senquez Golson, who was taken by the Steelers in the second round last year. He's strong (19 bench lifts) and very athletic (36-inch vertical jump). Jones has good coverage skills; he had six interceptions in 2014.
Keanu Neal, SS, Florida: Neal (6-0 1/2, 211, 4.62) is ultra-athletic and strong; he had a 38-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot broad jump and 17 bench lifts last month at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has coverage ability. A good pro-day workout on Tuesday could possibly get him into the bottom of the first round.
Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois: Ward (6-5 1/8, 297, 5.17) was a high school wide receiver and defensive back who started at a junior college before transferring to Illinois. He has an unbelievable backstory of perseverance. He played just two years with the Illini with only one spring practice. He's strong and a very good competitor. He'll improve with experience and NFL coaching.