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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

Related Topics


  • Nick
    The Official 2018 NFL Combine Thread
    by Nick
    2018 NFL Combine: Prospects with the most on the line in Indianapolis
    The draft stocks of these prospects will change the most based on their performances at the combine
    by Chris Trapasso Feb 21, 2018 • 7 min read

    Yes, film trumps all ... but the NFL Combine matters. It's the only time when prospects can be easily compared -- both to other prospects in their class and those who came before them -- on a level playing field.

    If an NFL evaluator has two nearly identical grades on a receiver but wideout A runs a 4.46 and wideout B runs a 4.52 ... well, you probably can guess which player tends to move up the board.

    And as always, there are a plethora of prospects who will make or break their draft stock at this year's combine.

    These 10 prospects have the most riding on the athletic exhibition in Indianapolis.

    Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
    Jackson's 2017 film is ridiculous. I mean, the guy had 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions, so he must have been doing more than a few things right. He played zone coverage amazingly well, flashed man-to-man ability, and has good size. Jackson looks like a No. 1 perimeter corner. But he'll likely have to run fast to be one of the first defensive backs selected.

    Last year, Marshon Lattimore was the first cornerback taken. He ran 4.36. The year before that ... Jalen Ramsey, 4.41. In 2015, Trae Waynes was the first corner picked. His 40 time was a blistering 4.31. Even the second cornerback picked in the last two drafts -- Marlon Humphrey, 4.41 and Eli Apple, 4.40 -- were all sub-4.45 guys.

    If Jackson can run under 4.45, he'll scoot up boards and -- depending on how his combine compares to Minkah Fitzpatrick -- be in contention to be the first cornerback picked in the 2018 draft.

    James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
    Washington was an electric downfield weapon his entire collegiate career. He's the only FCS wideout to accumulate 200 receptions and average at least 19.0 yards per catch in his collegiate career among all receivers dating back to 2000.

    But he's not quite 5'11", so he'll want to validate his film speed with timed speed at the combine. If he does that -- anything under 4.50 would be fine -- he'll essentially lock in being a first-round pick.

    If Washington runs slower than 4.50, he could fall into the top 10 picks of the second round.

    Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
    Ridley was listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds this past season at Alabama, and he looks slender on film. Despite being held back by the Crimson Tide quarterback situation during his career in Tuscaloosa, Ridley has been billed as a downfield threat. And he certainly created some explosive plays in college.

    So the weigh-in will be important for Ridley, as will the 40-yard dash (including the 10-yard split) and the jumps. He needs...
    -02-28-2018, 05:05 AM
  • Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl: Offensive prospects who'll have great value later in 2019 NFL Draft
    by Nick
    2019 Senior Bowl: Offensive prospects who'll have great value later in 2019 NFL Draft
    These offensive prospects likely won't go early in the draft but will have great value when they're picked
    By Chris Trapasso
    Jan 17, 2019 • 3 min read

    The 2019 NFL Draft will feature a defensive-heavy class of prospects, and many of the top offensive players are underclassmen.

    That means this year's Senior Bowl isn't oozing with first-round picks on the offensive side of the ball. So what? How about zeroing in on some prospects who'll ultimately come with outstanding value later in the draft? Those are always fun to identify.

    Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
    After emerging as a budding star in 2016 with 10 receiving scores, Doss put back-to-back 110-plus catch seasons on his collegiate resume, and he topped 1,300 yards in each of the last two years.

    At 6-foot-3 and around 210 pounds, he has an athletic frame that allows him to explode off the line, quickly gain then sustain speed downfield, contort his body to make receptions on inaccurate passes, and morph into a tall running back after the ball is in his hands.

    It'll be interesting to monitor how much difficulty Doss' combination of length and athleticism gives the Senior Bowl cornerbacks next week.

    Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
    Armstead plays with a lot of controlled power. What I mean by that is he doesn't simply look for contact and lower his head every time he carries the football. When defenders get to him, they bounce off because he runs so hard. Armstead is a north-south back with light feet capable of delivering a quick spin move or efficient jump cut at the second level to make linebackers miss.

    He's quicker than fast but sneaks through crevasses in the line between the tackles. Armstead won't hit many 50-yard home runs, but he's a blue-collar runner with deceptive athleticism who can be a quality No. 2 ball-carrier in the NFL because of his vision, wherewithal, and twitchiness.

    Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
    Dillard needs to get stronger. There's no doubt about that. But he probably got more pass-protection reps than any other left tackle in the country over the past three seasons playing at Washington State, and his amazing athletic gifts allow him to stay under control and extraordinarily balanced essentially every time he's asked to block on a pass play.

    He'll likely be tested the most against bull rushes, but if Dillard shows improved anchoring skills in Mobile, the Washington State star will prove his worth as a high-quality value pick in the 2019 class.

    Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
    All Gaskin did in his four-year career with the Huskies was piece together four-straight 1,200-plus yard seasons with 57 rushing scores at a hefty 5.6 yards per pop.

    He may not hit the 200-pound threshold,...
    -01-22-2019, 02:22 PM
  • vanillasue
    Interesting list to ponder over
    by vanillasue
    Cody Latimer, Tom Savage among 10 draft sleepers to watch

    By Bucky Brooks
    NFL Media analyst
    Published: April 10, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.

    The 2014 NFL Draft is as deep and talented as any collection of prospects that I've evaluated in my 20-plus years around the league.

    Although the conversation centers around the top prospects on the board, it's the unheralded players surging up the charts that will shape the opinions of evaluators when they reflect back on the class in a few years. Thus, it's important to know the sleeper picks that scouts are buzzing about behind closed doors to get a better perspective of how things will play out on draft day.

    After conducting a few conversations with scouts and decision-makers around the league, here are 10 under-the-radar players to remember heading into the draft:

    1. Terrance West, RB, Towson

    West has been quietly touted as the draft's best running back in some meeting rooms around the league due to his powerful running style and impeccable instincts. He has a natural feel for finding creases in the middle, yet is quick enough to bounce around the corner for big gains. Some skeptics will question his skills due to his status as a small-school standout, but the film doesn't lie, which is why I'm going all in on West's potential as a feature back.

    2. Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

    The dynamic pass catcher created a buzz in scouting circles with a spectacular performance at his pro day, even though he wasn't able to do a full workout as he recovered from a broken foot that kept him sidelined at the NFL Scouting Combine. Latimer surprised scouts with his overall athleticism and explosiveness, while confirming his solid skills as a big-bodied receiver. Although Latimer is still rough around the edges as a route runner, his explosiveness as an athlete and playmaker has teams salivating about his potential at the next level.

    3. Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh

    After taking a long, hard look at Savage earlier this week, I'm convinced NFL coaches will come away smitten with his prototypical size and arm talent. He looks like a franchise quarterback and evaluators will view him as a potential starter despite his limited experience as a full-time starter. Given the question marks that surround every quarterback in the 2014 class, it is quite possible that Savage ranks higher on draft boards than most expect based on his performance last fall.

    4. Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech

    Attaochu is a powerful edge player with outstanding first-step quickness. He explodes off the line of scrimmage on passing downs, exhibiting terrific snap-count anticipation. Attaochu shows good balance and body control turning the corner to hit the quarterback on rush attempts. He complements his speed rush with an explosive bull-rush maneuver that overwhelms blockers. While Attaochu...
    -04-10-2014, 04:33 PM
  • Nick
    2019 NFL Draft: 10 prospects to watch from Non-Power 5 conferences
    by Nick
    2019 NFL Draft: 10 prospects to watch from Non-Power 5 conferences
    While not often in the TV spotlight, these are the prospects to monitor closely outside the Power schools
    By Chris Trapasso
    @ChrisTrapasso May 31, 2018 • 4 min read

    The early portions of the 2018 draft featured a decent sized non-Power 5 presence, as five of the 32 first-rounders and 12 of the first 64 selections came from outside the Big 10, Pac 12, SEC, ACC, and Big 12.

    In the 2019 draft, there's a lock first-round pick -- who's likely to be grabbed in the top half of Round 1 -- from a non-Power 5 school and a load of other intriguing prospects to keep an eye on during the upcoming college football season.

    Desperately wish you had a 30-minutes-or-so, daily NFL podcast in your podcast app every morning by 6 a.m.? Put some Pick Six Podcast in your life and join Will Brinson as he breaks down the latest news and notes from around the league, as well as the win totals on a team-by-team schedule. It's a daily dose of football to get you right for that commute or gym trip. Subscribe: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play

    Here's an early introduction to those players.

    Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
    Debuted in the No. 2 overall spot in my pre-season Top 100 Big Board. The guy's a freak of an athlete. He looks like an oversized linebacker playing defensive tackle. He wins with burst, speed to the football, and a nice repertoire of pass-rushing moves. How good has Oliver been in his first two seasons at Houston? Oh, IDK ... how about 38.5 tackles for loss good. And he already declared for the 2019 draft. Love it.

    Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo
    Native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, a hotbed of NFL talent, Johnson landed in the MAC with the Buffalo Bulls and exploded onto the scene in 2017 after stops at two community colleges. The 6-foot-2, 200-plus pounder had 76 grabs for 1,356 yards and 14 touchdowns in last season. He's a premier deep threat and smooth in the open field. To top it off, his cousin is Jadeveon Clowney.

    Sutton Smith, EDGE, Northern Illinois
    Smith will inevitably be hit with the "undersized" label by some NFL teams, but he can really get after it on the edge with an intense blend of speed and shooting guard-like quickness. He racked up 30 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in 2017 alone for the Huskies and many of those splash plays came at the end of awesome displays of his twitchiness.

    Carl Granderson, EDGE, Wyoming
    On the Pick Six Podcast with Will Brinson earlier this week, I dropped a comparison between Granderson and Saints' first-round pick Marcus Davenport. Granderson is tall and could add some weight to his frame at the next level, but the way he dominates lesser competition with tenacity and power on the outside reminds me a lot of what I saw from Davenport at UTSA. He had...
    -06-08-2018, 02:11 PM
  • Nick
    Mel Kiper's way-too-early Big Board: Top 25 2018 prospects
    by Nick
    Mel Kiper's way-too-early Big Board: Top 25 2018 prospects
    May 11, 2017
    Mel Kiper Jr.
    Football analyst

    Say so long to the Class of 2017. It's time for my annual way-too-early look at next year's (potential) NFL draft class.

    So how'd I do last year? Well, three from my top five went in the top six in the 2017 draft -- Myles Garrett (1), Leonard Fournette (4) and Jamal Adams (6) -- and another went 12th (Deshaun Watson). Tim Williams, on the other hand, dropped all the way to No. 78 after an inconsistent season. A few others dropped big time or returned to school for another season, but overall it was pretty solid.

    A few notes on my first 2018 Big Board:

    I'm not going to be too scouting-heavy here. My own reports on these guys are still half-formed, and so much will change between now and the 2018 draft.

    Keep in mind that several prospects here have only started one season, and so I'm projecting based on size, athletic ability, statistics and what I hear from people around the league.

    Speaking of sizes, what's listed here is what schools give out. These could vary greatly when players show up for the 2018 combine. True height and weight really matters for almost every position.

    Check out Todd McShay's first 2018 mock draft, and come back next week for my way-too-early rankings across every position group.

    Note: One asterisk denotes a junior, and two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore for the 2017 season.

    1. **Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California

    Darnold has everything NFL teams want in a starter. He has a big frame (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), makes quick decisions and is an accurate and natural passer. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes last season and ranked second in the nation in Total QBR (86.8). He does have an unorthodox, long delivery, however, that will have to be retooled. And the third-year sophomore has only started 10 games.

    2. *Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

    There is some projection here because Fitzpatrick (6-1, 195) has played both corner and safety and appears likely to stick at safety in 2017. But the versatility is a plus, and he could be really good at either spot. He has eight interceptions in two seasons, and four of those were returned for touchdowns. I also like that Fitzpatrick will get after it on special teams. He had 11 special-teams tackles in 2016.

    3. *Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

    The buzz has been growing around the 6-5, 216-pound Allen, who can really throw. His numbers weren't great last season -- 28 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions while completing 56 percent of his passes -- but NFL teams will take into account the talent around him. And Wyoming is losing a few offensive players to the NFL, including center Chase Roullier, running back Brian Hill, wide receiver Tanner Gentry and tight end...
    -05-12-2017, 05:42 AM