Top 6 underrated Signing Day Bearcats of last 6 years

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Every year the obsession over rankings, stars and grainy YouTube videos takes over the Internettings. I'm always here to tell you to slow down. So often the most stars turn out to have as much a chance at success as the fewest stars. Don't believe me, check out the research by the Post and Courier unearthing a 42 percent "bust rate" among even the top 100 recruits in the nation each year.

[2013 Signing Day Central]

With so many teams, systems, coaches, players and more the variables on spotting a true predictor of success in high school are so many it becomes very difficult truly know who will succeed. For the Bearcats, finding the underrated diamond in the rough and developing them have been the key to five 10-win seasons in six years.

Here's my list of the top six underrated Bearcats National Signing Day steals of those last six years. Developing these players and extracting their potential more than any star acquisition produced four Big East championships. And look no further than the 2008 class, which should be looked back upon as one of the great diamond in the rough classes in college football the last five years.

6) Deven Drane
Class: 2010
Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN Not Rated, Scout 2
Current Status: At UC, Senior
Hometown: Plantation, Fla.
Impact: 5 INTS last two years, tied for lead on 2012 team in passes defensed/break-ups, 76-yard fumble return for TD, two-year starter returning in 2013.
Why he's here: Glossed over by most when running down that Class of 2010, he broke onto the scene midway through the 2011 season with key interceptions to secure wins, most notably late against South Florida. He's developed into one of the top corners on the team and should be the No. 1 CB on the depth chart come spring.
Future: Drane has NFL potential and is among a group of of the returning players drawing some eyes from the league.

5) Ralph David Abernathy IV
Class: 2011
Stars: Rivals 3, ESPN 3, Scout 2
Current Status: At UC, junior starting RB
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Impact: Last season compiled 69 rushes for 366 yards, 28 receptions for 341 yards, 25-yard average kickoff return, 7 TDs. This came after a freshman year where he broke onto the scene as a kickoff returner and had a memorable go-ahead TD in the Liberty Bowl.
Why he's here: The potential. He averaged 7.3 yards per touch and established himself as the most explosive player on the team. On Signing Day in 2011 he was a distant third mentioned among the RB commits, but proven to be one of the steals of the day out of Atlanta and also one of the biggest keys to the next two seasons in Cincinnati.
Future: Returns in what should be the primary RB role in 2013. After two seasons seeing touches limited by Isaiah Pead and George Winn his times seems to have come and the sample size of his results say they should be memorable.

4) Isaiah Pead
Class: 2008
Stars: Rivals 3, ESPN 2, Scout 3
Current Status: RB/PR, St. Louis Rams
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Impact: Arguably the greatest RB in UC history. An impact player on the undefeated Sugar Bowl team and enjoyed one of the great senior years of all-time where he rushed for 1,259 yards, had 319 receiving and led the team in punt return average in limited attempts.
Why he's here: He may have not been underrated in the Bearcats class of 2008, but he was underrated as a whole. To jump from a three-star prospect out of high school to the 45th selection in the NFL Draft and the type of career he churned out at UC, he can't be left off an underrated list.
Future: Played in a surprisingly limited role with the Rams his rookie year, but he'll receive more opportunities as he picks up the NFL speed and Steven Jackson's career fades.

3) Armon Binns
Class: 2007
Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN 2, Scout 2
Current Status: WR Miami Dolphins
Hometown: Pasadena, Calif.
Impact: Caught the pass in the greatest play in UC football history. It could end there, if necessary. It doesn't. Compiled 1,909 receiving yards his final two seasons at UC with 21 touchdowns.
Why he's here: Only two stars and a relative unknown kid out of California, Binns developed into an NFL wide receiver and a central figure on one of the great offenses in schools history and undefeated Sugar Bowl season.
Future: Officially broke into the active NFL players last year rising to a starter with the Bengals. He eventually was picked up by the Miami Dolphins late in the year and takes on a wide open receiver position next season.

2) Derek Wolfe
Class: 2008
Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN Not Rated, Scout 3
Current Status: Starting DL Denver Broncos
Hometown: Lisbon, Ohio
Impact: His senior season he rose up NFL Draft boards thanks to a college football high among DTs, 21.5 tackles for loss. That went with 9.5 sacks and as disruptive as a DT could be.
Why he's here: Wolfe came in as an Ohio-recruit afterthought with just two stars and minimal fanfare. For much of his first few seasons he was just that, but turns out he developed into a game-changing defensive lineman and the first pick of the Denver Broncos and No. 35 overall in the 2012 draft.
Future: Bright. He broke onto the scene with six sacks and 40 tackles as a rookie for Denver and stalwart on a stingy Broncos defense.

1) JK Schaffer
Class: 2008
Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN 2, Scout 2
Current Status: Practice squad Cincinnati Bengals
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Impact: Three-year starter at linebacker and recorded 100-plus tackles to lead the team for each of those three seasons. Undeniable team leader, heart and soul of the 2011 shared Big East championship.
Why he's here: Schaffer hasn't had the biggest impact in the NFL or been a high-profile star, rather, he was the epitome of the under-the-radar player on NSD. He received a scholarship at the last minute and was not highly recruited in the least out of LaSalle. Yet, upon arriving at UC he made an instant impact. While a guy like Wolfe could be placed No.1, he didn't have the long-term impact on the program as Schaffer did with his three years manning the linebacker spot and becoming an engine in the defense.
Future: Should be in the mix to make the Bengals next year, likely in a special teams capacity.

Honorable Mention (Rivals rank): 2011 -- Parker Ehinger (2), 2010 -- Eric Lefeld (2), Arryn Chenault (2), Adrian Witty (2); 2009 -- Patrick O'Donnell (2), Maalik Bomar (3); 2008 -- Dan Giordano (2), Travis Kelce (2), Cam Cheatham (2); Walter Stewart (3);  2007 -- Drew Frey (2).

I want to hear from you. Send any comments, questions or tell me why I was dead wrong in my rankings to or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.

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