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2019 NFL draft: Small-school sleeper prospects to watch

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  • 2019 NFL draft: Small-school sleeper prospects to watch

    2019 NFL draft: Small-school sleeper prospects to watch
    By: Luke Easterling
    June 3, 2018 1:57 pm ET

    Every year, the NFL draft is loaded with big names from college football’s most historic programs, but many of the biggest contributors of any rookie class can come from more unexpected places.

    Here are a handful of talented prospects who don’t hail from traditional powerhouses, but will still warrant plenty of attention throughout this season and heading into the 2019 NFL draft.

    Disclaimer: When we say “small school,” we’re not talking about enrollment here. This just refers to college football programs that aren’t typically considered to be pro prospect factories.

    Keelan Doss | WR | UC-Davis
    My early favorite among this group, Doss has been a dominant pass-catcher against his level of competition, looking like a ready-made No. 1 receiver. Regardless of who he’s lined up against, Doss’ combination of size, physicality and athleticism give him the kind of complete skill set NFL teams are willing to pay a high price for on draft weekend.

    The 6-3, 206-pounder broke out as a junior after a solid sophomore campaign that included double-digit touchdown catches, racking up 1,499 yards on 115 receptions. Overlooked as a high-school recruit, Doss have overcome multiple injuries to become a a legit NFL prospect who won’t be under the radar much longer. If he can stay healthy, he could come off the board early next April.

    Jaylon Ferguson | EDGE | Louisiana Tech
    If injuries hadn’t slowed him down, Ferguson could have considered making the way-early jump to the pros after just two seasons. Instead, he’s headed back to school for a prove-it year, where he’ll get the chance to refine his impressive physical tools and prove to scouts he can be a difference-maker on the edge.

    As a redshirt sophomore, Ferguson set a new school record with 14.5 sacks, and racked up 31 tackles for loss over his first two seasons on the field. Back at full strength for 2018, the 6-5, 269-pounder should be primed for another big season, which could plant him firmly in the conversation among the top edge defenders in the 2019 draft class.

    Tyree Jackson | QB | Buffalo
    If you enjoyed Josh Allen, you should love Jackson just as much. Another big, athletic but raw passer with a cannon for an arm, Jackson has flashed incredible potential in limited work so far. Having one of the best receiver prospects in the country (Anthony Johnson) should continue to help his on-field success and his draft stock.

    Listed at 6-7, 245 pounds, Jackson is an impressive athlete for his size, and has the arm talent to challenge opposing defenses at every level of the field. He’s still got plenty of rough edges to smooth out in his game, but if he shows a continued upward arc in his development this season, he could be a hot name in a quarterback class begging for a true front-runner.

    Devin Singletary | RB | Florida Atlantic
    If you think Singletary’s size will keep him from being anything more than a role player at the next level, go ask any of his opponents, and they’ll likely tell you a different story. One of the nation’s most productive backs in 2017, Singletary followed up a strong freshman campaign (1,021 yards, 12 touchdowns) with nearly 2,000 yards on the ground last year, including an eye-popping 32 rushing scores.

    At 5-9, 200 pounds, Singletary will have to fight the “undersized” label in terms of his pro projections, but he’s a much tougher runner than those numbers might suggest. Don’t be surprised if he declares early after the 2018 season and becomes one of the first backs off the board in next year’s draft.

    Andrew Wingard | S | Wyoming
    Though he won’t create as much buzz as his quarterback from the last two seasons (2018 top-10 pick Josh Allen), Wingard has arguably been more vital to the Cowboys’ success. Heading into his senior season, Wingard already has a ridiculous 367 career tackles under his belt, putting him another 100-stop campaign away from the school record.

    A versatile defender who can line up at multiple spots, Wingard’s frame, toughness and instincts will likely limit him to being a box defender at the next level, but that won’t keep him from being a sought-after prospect. A valuable leader on the field and in the locker room, Wingard will be a fantastic addition to any NFL defense, no matter when he gets drafted.

    Best of the Rest
    Deion Harris | CB | North Dakota
    Jamarius Way | WR | South Alabama
    Logan Hunt | EDGE | Georgia Southern
    Deondre Douglas | WR | Troy
    Easton Stick | QB | North Dakota State
    Larry Allen | OL | Harvard
    Marcus Marshall | RB | James Madison