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Top Small College Prospects for the NFL Draft
The Dirty Dozen - Top 12 Small College Players For the NFL Draft 2011
Every NFL club scouts the nation in hopes of landing the next great sleeper prospect in the NFL Draft. The small college ranks has supplied many NFL Hall of Fame prospects over the past fifty years with a litany of stars like receiver Jerry Rice, runner Walter Payton and QBs Tony Romo and Doug Williams from the Grambling and Jackson St. programs across the nation. This year's class will produce several players in the top 100 picks. There should be as many as 25 draft selections over 7 rounds. It is an interesting group with several talented prospects mainly on the offensive line and in the secondary.
This year’s group of small college pro prospects ranks among the better classes of the past decade and is especially deep at offensive tackle. The highest rated small college prospect is OL Ben Ijalana who missed most of the postseason after a fine stay at Villanova. Wide receiver Edmond Gates of AbiIene Christian carries an NFL starting grade after a strong college career. He ranks among the top receivers from the lower level in recent drafts and the highest since Johnny Knox in 2009 who also attended Abilene Christian. The secondary and offensive line should provide many draft selections overall in the NFL Draft 2011 once again and the small college ranks should be well represented over the three days. Both the offensive and defensive lines will supply NFL starters while the wide receiver position may provide a few highly regarded prospects.
Photo - OT Ben Ijalana - Villanova
Note: In recent years, our highest rated small college players were QB Joe Flacco, corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnny Knox and Kendall Langford who were all early NFL starters. Some have performed brilliantly over their early careers and become key performers in their clubs playoff pushes.
The Dirty Dozen - Top 12 Small College Players For the NFL Draft
Top 52 Small College Players ranked below
1. Ben Ijalana - OT - Villanova (Pa)
Big mobile lineman completed an excellent small college career starting at left tackle over his entire career. He projects to both tackle and guard with an early starting grade on the inside. He has shown all the necessary physical tools to develop into an NFL starter and is a very good athlete with fine footwork and athletic ability. He can be one of the real gems in this class and is similar to the Texans OT Duane Brown who has started at left tackle since his rookie season. He is our #1 small college prospect with the talent to start immediately inside, but needs vital time to settle into a system before lining up at left tackle. He could be the biggest bargain in this class in the late 2nd round.
2. Edmond Gates - WR - Abilene Christian (Tx)
Fast athletic small college receiver had an impressive postseason that has him moving up the rankings. At the NFL Combine, he checked in at just under 6’ and 192 lbs and ran a fast sub 4.40 time on some handheld watches. He had a 40” VL and a 10'11” BJ in a fine workout, in addition to a good effort at the Senior Bowl that a small college prospect needs to impress scouts. He has shown the separation speed to get behind the secondary and make the big play. He displays very good hands, fine body control to track and adjust to the ball in flight and has been able to get deep and hit the home. Athlete with an excellent combination of size, speed and receiving skills to be a huge surprise in the right offense and fine early round pick with intriguing upside.
3. William Rackley - OT - Lehigh (Pa.)
Wide body mobile tackle completed an excellent small college career and shows the skill set to develop into an NFL starting lineman. He can play either guard or tackle spot with the size, bulk, reach and footwork to earn an early starting grade inside. He has shown all the necessary physical tools to develop and is a good athlete with fine footwork, technique and athletic ability. He can be one of the real hidden gems in this class and has NFL starting talent. We have scouted him extensively over recent seasons and rank him in the Top 100 prospects. He could be a major sleeper and bargain with the talent to start early and a possible prospect who falls to the 3rd day of the NFL Draft.
4. Taiwan Jones - RB - Eastern Washington
Fast angular junior tailback had an excellent final season that ended with a broken foot. His late Pro Day was excellent and dispelled concerns about his current health. His injury history is a real concern with multiple injuries over his career as both a running back and defensive back. He had back-to-back 1200 yard+ rushing seasons in his only action on offense. He has excellent hands and return skills that should allow him to be an immediate impact weapon as a third down back and kickoff returner. He is a burner with big play ability every time he touches the ball, though he must prove he will run inside to be a game-to-game feature back in the NFL. Capable of being an impact rookie in a few roles to give a club a unique big play weapon.
5. Kendric Ellis - NT - Hampton (Va.)
Huge mobile lineman completed an excellent career at the lower level after starting at South Carolina. Kendric will likely be an early middle round draft selection with the demand for nose tackles and his versatility to play in either front line. He has a wide frame, good functional strength and technique with a strong chance to start as a pro. He has a powerful base with quickness off the snap and shows sound use his hands to separate from blockers. He is similar to the Shaun Rogers in size, athleticism, versatility and experience. Tough, durable lineman with experience in both front line schemes and the talent level to compete for a starting job early and play immediately in a line rotation. Marginal top 100 prospect probably falls to late 2nd day off some off the field problems.
6. Martin Parker - DT - Richmond U (Va)
Quick agile mobile lineman had a strong performance in the tough CAA over his career. He finished with an impressive postseason. Though not completely tested at the lower level, he performed well vs top competition at the East-West week that elevates him to a middle round grade for the NFL Draft. He showed some promising skills with long arms, good footwork, size, bulk and overall strength. He showed the ability to stack with the burst to get into the backfield or chase to the perimeter. He projects to the three technique tackle spot for the 4-3 schemes with the development to play in a line rotation fairly early.
7. Cedric Thornton - DE/DT - Southern Arkansas
Tall angular mobile lineman was a dominating performer against a lower level of competition. Though he was not really tested at the lower level, he performed well vs top competition and grades a middle round grade for the NFL Draft. He showed interesting promise at the Senior Bowl with long arms, good footwork, size, bulk and overall strength. He showed the ability to stack with the burst to get into the backfield or chase to the perimeter. He also played outside at end and could project to the strongside spot in both schemes and maybe best suited for the three-man front at end in a five technique role. He looks like a solid two-way defender at end in 3-4 scheme.
8. Jabara Williams - LB - Stephen F. Austin (Tx)
Quick rangy senior defender had another strong performance at the small college level. He has the size, speed, instincts and toughness to play the Will backer role in the 4-3 scheme. He has established himself as a pro prospect using his fine speed and quickness to perform well in both pass and run defense with the ability to run with tailbacks and pursue sideline to sideline. He is one of the better Will athletes where his good speed allows him to cover his mistakes. He has the athletic and mental aptitude to make the adjustment up as a pro linebacker with the development to compete for the nickel backer role and become an early top special teams coverage defender. He has the skill set to be a huge surprise and start fairly soon in his career and be a factor off the edge. He is a top athlete with NFL starting potential at Will spot. During his Pro Day workout, he ran forty times in the mid 4.5 time range and looked sharp in his positional drills. He ranks in our Top 125 prospects in this report.
9. Cecil Shorts - WR - Mount Union (Oh)
Fast agile small college receiver had an impressive postseason that has him moving up the rankings. At the NFL Combine, he checked in at just under 5’11” and 205 lbs and ran a 4.55 time with a 34.5” VL and a 9'6” BJ in a fine workout, in addition to a good effort in All-star action. He has shown the separation speed to get open and behind the secondary with the run after the catch ability to make plays. He displays very good hands, fine body control to track and adjust to the ball in flight and has been able to run precise routes that may allow him to play as a rookie in multiple sets. He is similar to the Patriots Julian Edelman in size, AA and versatility. Athlete with a nice combination of size, speed and receiving skills to be an early surprise in the right offense and fine middle round pick with intriguing upside.
10. Julius Thomas - TE - Portland St. (Or)
Mobile small college tight end has improved quickly in his only season playing football. He completed his career with a strong performance including the NFL Combine. He has a quick burst off the line with fine hands and run after the catch ability to be a strong factor eventually in a pro passing game. He has the talent to fill a few roles including the H back with the speed to stretch the field. He has proven to be a reliable receiver with top hands and the ability to make yardage after the reception. He needs some route development and improvement in his ability to read coverage. At the NFL Combine, he run a sub 4.6 time with 16 reps and a fine 35.5” VL and 10’3” BJ in a good overall workout. He needs extensive work as a blocker to be up to NFL standards. Excellent 3rd day value with the upside potential to become a starter in time.
11. Buster Skrine - CB - Tennessee-Chat
Fast athletically gifted small college defensive back had a good postseason that has elevated his stock into the middle rounds. He had an impressive performance at the NFL Combine that moved him into the top 175 prospects. He carries an NFL starting grade eventually at cornerback off his fine measurables, skills set and fine postseason efforts. He probably plays in the nickel package fairly early in his career with definite upside as a starting corner. Fast small college corner and a good return specialist who should see time in those roles in his career.
12. Brandon Fusco - OL - Slippery Rock (Pa)
Big mobile tackle completed an excellent small college D2 career and shows the skill set to develop into an NFL starting linemen. He can play either center or guard with the size, bulk, reach and footwork to earn a starting grade in time. He has shown all the necessary physical tools to develop and is a solid athlete with fine power, footwork and overall athletic ability. He can be one of the real hidden gems in this class and has NFL talent. His level of competition creates some problems for any early playing time, though the club that gives him some time could have a major sleeper and late steal with the talent to start at all the interior positions.
13. Stephen Burton - WR - West Texas A&M
14. Justin Rogers - CB - Richmond (Va.)
15. Mike Person - OL - Montana St
16. Cortez Allen - CB - The Citadel (S.C.)
17. David Arkin - OL - Missouri St
18. Ricardo Lockette - WR - Fort Valley St (Ga)
19. Korey Lindsey-Woods - CB - Southern Illinois
20. Daniel Kilgore - OL - Appalachian St (W.Va.)
21. Markell Carter - LB - Central Arkansas
22. Josh Gatlin - CB - North Dakota St
23. Ibraham Abdulai - DT - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
24. Eugene Clifford - S - Tennessee St
25. Frank Kearse - DT - Alabama A&M
26. Isaiah Abdul-Quddus - S - Fordham (N.Y.)
27. D.J. Smith - LB - Appalachian St
28. Chris Hogan - WR - Monmouth U (N.J.)
29. Pat Devlin - QB - Delaware
30. Ron Parker - S - Newberry (S.C.)
31. Joe Morgan - WR - Walsh (Oh)
32. Justin Bartlett - FB - Carroll (Mt)
33. Ryan Jones - CB - NW Missouri St.
34. Tommy Irvin - S - Wofford (S.C.)
35. Schuylar Oordt - TE - Northern Iowa
36. Anthony Bratton - S - Delaware
37. Curt Porter - OT - Jacksonville St. (Al)
38. Kevin Hughes - OG - SE Louisiana
39. Stephen Skelton - TE - Fordham
40. Erik Clanton - LB - The Citadel (S.C)
41. Andre Holmes - WR - Hillsdale (Mi)
42. Mike Gee - LB - Indiana (Pa)
43. Mike Higgins - TE - Nebraska-Omaha
44. O.J. Murdock - WR - Fort Hays St. (Ks)
45. Cameron Bradfield - OG - Grand Valley St
46. Raymond Webber - WR - Arkansas-PB
47. LJ Castile - WR - Delta St (Ms)
48. Anthony Walters - S - Delaware
49. Marcus Harris - WR - Murray St (Ky)
50. Trevis Turner - OT - Abilene Christian (Tx)
51. Josh Portis - QB - California (Pa)
52. David Mims - OT - Virginia Union