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2014 NFL Draft: Small school, big dreams

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  • 2014 NFL Draft: Small school, big dreams

    2014 NFL Draft: Small school, big dreams
    By Dane Brugler | Senior Analyst
    March 14, 2014 10:59 am ET

    The NFL is full of players who were unheralded out of college because they didn't attend a traditional powerhouse program. Joe Flacco, Vincent Jackson, Robert Mathis and Jared Allen are just a few examples of non-FBS players who were drafted from a “small school” to the “big time” and have thrived at the NFL level.

    Not every “small school” player enjoys sustained NFL success, but plenty get a chance each year. Over the last five years, an average of 25 non-FBS players have been selected on draft weekend. This year could have more, it could have less, but assuming there will be 25 small school prospects selected in May, here's my guess of the 25 non-FBS players who will hear their name called on draft weekend and in the order I think they'll be drafted:

    1. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois – A quick-paced passer with a lightning-fast release who has his struggles with pressure, but projects as a NFL starter down the road.

    2. Billy Turner, OL, North Dakota State – The collegiate left tackle projects best inside at the next level where he can use his athletic feet and nasty demeanor to control the point of attack.

    3. Dakota Dozier, OL, Furman – Another collegiate left tackle who projects best inside and should find NFL success with his natural flexibility and quick reflexes.

    4. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State – Arguably the most talented running back in this draft class, the former SEC Freshman of the Year has a high NFL ceiling if he stays clean and committed.

    5. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood – Tall and lengthy cover man who will need some time to adjust to the NFL game, but his natural instincts, make-up and athleticism project well to the pros.

    6. Terrance West, RB, Towson – An impressive player and person, the junior re-wrote the FCS record books this past season and offers an intriguing blend of power and quick feet.

    7. Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton – A quick-footed interior penetrator who has the skill-set to line up at different spots up front and will be attractive to both three and four man fronts.

    8. Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana – Athletic and instinctive defender who read-and-reacts in a flash with the closing speed to play both sidelines and finish at the ballcarrier.

    9. Zach Kerr, DT, Delaware – A bulky, stout nose tackle, the 326-pounder is surprisingly light on his feet, but also offers the power to match his large frame and very good backfield vision.

    10. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern – A combine star, the former college quarterback opened eyes in Indianapolis with a 4.41 40-yard dash and 32 reps on the bench press.

    11. Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty – A surprise snub from the NFL Combine, the tall, long cornerback isn't a speedster, but he shows natural football awareness and quick feet to mirror.

    12. A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State – A Florida transfer, he looks more like a bulky wide receiver, but he has the speed and playmaking ability to make an impact if the character checks out.

    13. Ethan Westbrooks, DE, West Texas A&M – The 2012 Division-II Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-3, 267-pounder led the team with 19.5 tackles for loss this past season.

    14. Kendall James, CB, Maine – Although his size isn't enticing (5-10, 180), he turned heads at the NFL Combine with a 4.43 40-yard dash, 6.81 three-cone and a 39-inch vertical jump.

    15. Zach Moore, DE, Concordia (MN) – Trying to become the first player from his school to be drafted, this pass rusher has the quickness, flexibility and motor to make plays.

    16. Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina – Setting numerous school records at Coastal Carolina, he isn't the fastest or biggest, but he's a controlled route runner with very reliable hands.

    17. Larry Webster, DE/TE, Bloomsburg – The converted basketball star is a tall, long athlete who lacks ideal muscle build and might project best as a pass-catcher on offense.

    18. Howard Jones, LB, Shepherd – A tweener pass rusher who needs refinement, but the first step burst (1.63 10-yard split) and speed (4.60 40-yard dash) cannot be coached.

    19. John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State – Diminutive in size (5-10, 179), but speedy (4.34 40-yard dash) with sharp footwork in create separation in his routes and create after the catch.

    20. Matt Feiler, OL, Bloomsburg – A versatile blocker with experience at tackle and guard, the 6-6, 330-pounder is country strong to latch onto defenders and create running lanes.

    21. Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State – Ultra-productive at the Division-II level with his impressive combination of size (6-3, 219), strength (20 reps) and speed (4.42 40-yard dash).

    22. Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern – Quicker-than-fast and versatile cover man with the coordinated footwork and smooth redirection skills to blanket receivers.

    23. Kadeem Edwards, OG, Tennessee State – Although he doesn't stand out in any one area, the 313-pound guard looks the part with good build and a large wingspan (84-inches).

    24. Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB/FB, Coastal Carolina – Not a quick-twitch athlete, but projects as an every-down back because of his ability to catch the ball and pass protect.

    25. Joe Don Duncan, TE, Dixie State – Although durability remains a big question mark, the 6-2, 268-pounder has brute strength (36 reps) and a productive resume when on the field.

    Just missed:

    QB Jeff Mathews (Cornell), QB Dustin Vaughan (West Texas A&M), TE Reggie Jordan (Missouri Western State), DT Mike Pennel (Colorado State-Pueblo), WR Albert Wilson (Georgia State), S Nic Jacobs (McNeese State), TE Reggie Jordan (Missouri Western State), WR Walt Powell (Murray State), CB Brandon Dixon (NW Missouri State), DE Kerry Wynn (Richmond), RB Tim Flanders (Sam Houston State), LB Tyler Starr (South Dakota), CB Todd Washington (SE Louisiana State), WR Erik Lora (Eastern Illinois), DE Rakim Cox (Villanova), LB Nate Dreiling (Pittsburg State), CB Qua Cox (Jackson State), CB Dominic Clarke (Illinois State)

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  • Nick
    Kiper's final 2018 NFL draft Big Board
    by Nick
    Kiper's final 2018 NFL draft Big Board and position rankings
    7:48 AM ET
    Mel Kiper Jr.
    Football analyst

    The 2018 NFL draft is here -- and now we can finally figure out where all of these quarterbacks are going.

    Below are my "final" Big Board and "final" position rankings for the class of 2018. I'm putting "final" in quotation marks because I'll be making a few tweaks up until the draft begins (Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and the ESPN app, in case you were wondering). I'll be talking to more sources and adjusting my rankings based on what I hear. And remember, my Big Board is not a prediction of where prospects will be drafted, only where I have them ranked.

    Notable: My Big Board goes to 300 prospects, and my position rankings cover more than 700. But it's important to note that the cutoff for undrafted free agents starts around 35 for positions like wide receiver. That means approximately 90 wide receivers have grades that are nearly identical. In short: Players ranked from 150 to 250 on my board are similar. It's splitting hairs.

    1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
    Previous rank: 1
    Barkley is the best prospect in this draft. His testing numbers at the combine -- 4.40 40-yard dash and 41-inch vertical -- were elite at any size, much less a 6-foot, 233-pound back. Barkley plays with tremendous balance, a great lower body and quick feet. He's a stellar runner both inside and outside the tackles, and he showed in 2017 that he's a true three-down back. He had 54 catches after having 48 combined in his first two seasons at Penn State. Barkley is a special talent.

    2. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
    Previous rank: 2
    Chubb could have entered the 2017 draft and been in the first-round discussion. At 6-4, 269 pounds, he shows good takeoff from the edge, and he has an excellent mix of speed and power. You saw some of that speed and explosion at the combine, where he ran a 4.65 40 and had a 36-inch vertical. Chubb had 10 sacks and 25 tackles for loss (tied for second in the FBS) in 2017 and had 10 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Chubb doesn't have quite as high of a grade as Myles Garrett did last year, but he's in that same tier.

    3. Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
    Previous rank: 4
    Smith is getting buzz as a potential top-eight pick. His tape is too good, and he's too athletic -- he ran a 4.51 40 at the combine -- for teams to be worried as much about his size (6-0, 237). He can get sideline to sideline in a hurry. A season after recording 95 total tackles and five tackles for loss, Smith had 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2017. He can blitz up the middle or off the edge, and I think he could play inside or outside linebacker. He's just a fun player to watch, and he was one of the best players on the field in both of the Bulldogs' College Football Playoff matchups.

    -04-24-2018, 04:08 PM
  • Nick
    2015 NFL Draft: Week 2 Prospect Preview
    by Nick
    2015 NFL Draft: Week 2 Prospect Preview
    By Dane Brugler | Senior Analyst
    September 4, 2014 12:16 pm ET

    Although the slate of action for week two of the college football season isn't as monumental as last week, there are a handful of pivotal match-ups that will help shape the college playoffs, led by Michigan State traveling west to play Oregon. These two programs have played four times in the past with the home team winning each match-up, another factor that favors the Ducks. However, the Michigan State defense is comparable to Stanford's, which has shut down the Oregon offense the past two years.


    QB MARCUS MARIOTA, rJR, Oregon (6-4 | 215 | 4.52 | #8)
    The early favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota is the ideal quarterback orchestrating the Oregon offense with his intelligence, athleticism and tools as a passer. He is a quick thinker and diagnoses the action with a calm demeanor, swift eyes and light feet in the pocket to feel his way around the noise, extending the pocket or picking up yards on the ground with his gazelle speed. Mariota has a tendency to stare down his targets at time, but he throws well on the run with excellent field vision and the arm talent to spray passes to all levels of the field. Michigan State's aggressive defense will be an excellent test for Mariota's anticipation and ability to manipulate defenders.

    DE SHILIQUE CALHOUN, rJR, Michigan State (6-4 | 257 | 4.72 | #89)
    A year ago at this time, the Spartans pass rush was a question mark, but Calhoun emerged as one of the top up-and-coming defensive ends in the country in 2013. He finished with a team-best 7.5 sacks last season and notched his first sack of the 2014 campaign last week. Calhoun bends well off the edge with natural flexibility and coordination in space to easily change directions, something that will be tested when Oregon threatens the edges. Calhoun needs to develop a functional power element to his game and his snap anticipation and technique are both underdeveloped, but the unpolished skill-set shows a lot of promise and facing an athletic and versatile offense will be an excellent test.

    CB IFO EKPRE-OLOMU, SR, Oregon (5-9 | 195 | 4.46 | #14)
    Arguably the top cover cornerback in all of college football, Ekpre-Olomu is widely considered the top senior defensive NFL prospect by several in the scouting community. He has many of the requisite skills to survive in both press and off-man, displaying quick diagnose skills, twitchy reaction time and the athleticism to break on the ball. Ekpre-Olomu shows swivel hips, smooth footwork and explosive lower body skills to close in a hurry on the ball. He lacks ideal strength and build and can be easily tied up by blockers on the perimeter, but he doesn't shy from throwing his body around in run defense. Ekpre-Olomu vs. Michigan State's Tony Lippett will...
    -09-04-2014, 03:23 PM
  • Nick
    2020 NFL Draft: Final Top 250 Big Board, with 21 receivers in the top 100
    by Nick
    2020 NFL Draft prospect rankings: Final Top 250 Big Board, with 21 receivers in the top 100
    The receiver class is loaded, the offensive tackle group is top-heavy, and there are plenty of quality defensive backs
    Chris Trapasso
    1 hr ago • 14 min read

    After months watching and re-watching film of hundreds of draft prospects and analyzing athletic testing, my final Big Board for the 2020 NFL Draft is set it digital stone.

    No major surprises this year at the top spot at any position. Well, maybe Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic as my top tight end?

    Joe Burrow's my No. 1 overall prospect.

    Before I get to the rankings, I must note I have a "position addition" included in my grading system that's factored in after I get a "raw grade" for each prospect based on positional value. Quarterbacks, of course, get the biggest boost. Then edge rushers and offensive tackles, and so on. Running backs receive zero position addition. Incorporating that concept seemed logical to me when constructing a Big Board that wasn't team-specific.

    Next to each prospect's position is a number. For reference convenience, that number represents their ranking at their respective position.

    1. Joe Burrow, QB1, LSU
    2. Chase Young, EDGE1, Ohio St.
    3. Tua Tagovailoa, QB2, Alabama
    4. Jeffrey Okudah, CB1, Ohio State
    5. Tristan Wirfs, OT1, Iowa
    6. CeeDee Lamb, WR1, Oklahoma
    7. Isaiah Simmons, LB1, Clemson
    8. Jerry Jeudy, WR2, Alabama
    9. Justin Herbert, QB3, Oregon
    10. Javon Kinlaw, DL1, South Carolina

    Burrow and Young are no-brainers. Tagovailoa's raw grade was actually the sixth-highest in the class, but his position addition bumps him to No. 3. This could be the lowest you'll see Isaiah Simmons. For as much as I watched his film with my jaw on my desk, I did notice his twitch doesn't align with the rest of his freakish athleticism. In short, Lamb got the top receiver spot because of more dynamic yards-after-the-catch ability and better contested-catch skill than Jeudy. Herbert has his flaws -- at times, his accuracy and reading complex coverages -- but he also can be tremendous on difficult throws that require elite arm talent, and I like his athleticism and experience. Kinlaw is my top defensive lineman for many reasons, and he's ahead of Derrick Brown because of his pass-rushing prowess.

    11. K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE2, LSU
    12. Andrew Thomas, OT2, Georgia
    13. Tee Higgins, WR3, Clemson
    14. Henry Ruggs III, WR4, Alabama
    15. Jedrick Wills, OT3, Alabama
    16. Curtis Weaver, EDGE3, Boise State
    17. Josh Jones, OT4, Houston
    18. Mekhi Becton, OT5, Louisville
    19. Xavier McKinney, S1, Alabama
    20. Derrick Brown, DL2, Auburn
    21. Jalen Reagor, WR5, TCU
    22. Kristian Fulton, CB2, LSU
    23. Jordan Love, QB4,...
    -04-14-2020, 08:06 AM
  • Nick's Best Remaining Players: Day 2
    by Nick
    Brugler on best remaining players per
    -- By Dane Brugler, --

    FRISCO, Texas -- After the selection of 32 players in the highly-celebrated first round of the 2018 NFL Draft Thursday, plenty of surprisingly good names were available to reset boards for Day 2, Friday.

    Several players slipped due to medicals (Harold Landry, Maurice Hurst) while others simply didn't find a spot.

    For those still focused on quarterbacks, even after five were taken in first round, watch for needy teams to consider Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph (No. 15 below) and Richmond's Kyle Lauletta (rated as No. 7 QB and No. 94 overall before draft).

    According to rankings, here are the top-50 prospects still available entering round two.

    So here is your cheat sheet when draft goes back on the air Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

    --1. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College (6-2, 252, 4.64, #7)

    Although his senior season didn't go as expected, due mostly to injuries, Landry still possesses the outstanding bend, shoulder dip and speed that NFL teams covet on the edges. Medical concerns could be the key reason he fell out of the first round.

    --2. James Daniels, OC, Iowa (6-3, 306, 5.23, #78)

    With his balance, punch and toughness, Daniels has the ingredients of a long-time NFL starter. He is quick to engage and control the point of attack, sustaining his mean streak through the whistle. Daniels had knee issues in college, is that the reason behind his fall?

    --3. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP (6-2, 327, 5.15, #76)

    A mauler with elite grip strength, Hernandez loves to play the bully role regardless of the score or clock, displaying the natural power and surprising foot quickness to be a plug-and-play starter.

    --4. Connor Williams, OT, Texas (6-5, 296, 5.05, #55)

    The tale of two tapes: the 2016 game film for Williams shows a future top-20 draft pick, but his 2017 tape was a combination of uneven play and injuries, leading to concerns and questions. Half the league will have him on the board as a guard and the other half at tackle.

    --5. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (6-0, 196, 4.56, #15)

    Jackson shows the football intelligence and ball skills to excel as an outside zone cornerback in the NFL. He would be higher on this list, but his issues in run support and press-man coverage are bothersome.

    --6. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (6-3, 218, 4.54, #16)

    No receiver prospect in this class has a higher NFL ceiling than Sutton with exceptional athletic prowess for man his size. However, there will be a massive difference between the offense at SMU and that of whichever team drafts him.

    --7. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (5-10, 224, 4.49, #5)

    Guice stresses defenses with his quick, explosive cuts and his angry run style make him tough to...
    -04-27-2018, 04:10 AM
  • Nick
    Gil Brandt's Hot 100 Prospects
    by Nick
    The 'Hot 100' picks for the 2009 draft
    By Gil Brandt

    Scouting is an inexact science, but it is also a very thorough science. So much goes into the evaluation of college prospects, who will be taking part in NFL minicamps in just a few short weeks.

    After scouting games in person, watching hours and hours of game tape, checking out players at the combine and pro days around the country, draft boards are taking shape. Of course, draft boards vary from team to team. As I've always said, some people like rocky road ice cream and some people prefer vanilla.

    Here is my attempt at identifying the first 100 players I think will be selected at the April 25-26 draft. I look at the prospects' most important individual characteristics, position specifics, along with height and speed to formulate this order. Playing experience (i.e., long-time starter vs. one-year wonder) is something I value. Injuries must be taken into consideration. Three players not on this list -- Kansas State TE Chase Coffman, TCU LB Jason Phillips, North Carolina WR Brandon Tate -- would have been in the 51-100 area if they were medically cleared.

    Rather than ranking the players from 1-100, I have broken them into 10 tiers of 10 and listed them alphabetically within the tiers. Nobody can predict exactly where every player is going to get drafted. The point here is to pinpoint the range in which a prospect is likely to go.

    It's entirely likely that a big offensive or defensive lineman can move up, considering those players are harder to find. It's much easier to find a successful running back or receiver later in the draft than it is a lineman.

    Here is my "Hot 100" --

    Tier One (1-10)

    Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech:
    Crabtree was a high school quarterback who caught 231 passes for 41 touchdowns in just two seasons as a receiver at Texas Tech… Holds the NCAA freshman record for most receptions, yards and TDs (134-1,962-22)… Had foot surgery in late February, but has been given a clean bill of health… Very soft hands.

    Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest:
    Started 48 games in four years for the Demon Deacons… In 2007, he tied the NCAA record for linebackers with three interceptions returned for touchdowns… Ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine at 254 pounds.

    Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State:
    Tall (6-foot-5 ¾) with a big arm… Passed for 38 TDs over the last two seasons… Started eight games as a true freshman… Smart with great work habits… Father played in the USFL… Ran for 400 yards and 14 TDs in 2008 on a poor team… Risk-reward type of player.

    Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU:
    A former high school defensive player of the year in Louisiana in 2003… Started 39 games for LSU and recorded 24.5 sacks… Ran 4.97 at 296 pounds at the combine… A very good athlete with long arms (34 ¾ inches)....
    -04-07-2009, 03:34 PM