Every year in the NFL Draft there are players that are taken that aren’t from the big time schools that everyone knows. Some of them work their way into the high rounds, but some of them are taken later in the draft and become steals. This year’s draft won’t be any different, there will be some players taken from small schools that out preform the players from the big time schools. Let’s take a list of the top 20 small school prospects that could be in this year’s draft.
Jeff Matthews, Cornell
Matthews has the size and arm strength you want from your quarterback, but was inconsistent this season as a senior playing against inferior opponents. Matthews has the tools to be an NFL quarterback, but needs to work on his footwork and decision making.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo has worked his way into a mid-round quarterback prospect after having a huge season. Garoppolo has shown outstanding accuracy and a quick release. He should be picked around the third round and has all the tools to be a good NFL quarterback.
Brett Smith, Wyoming
Smith has been putting up big numbers at Wyoming for the past three seasons. Being viewed as a third-round prospect by many, Smith has a lot going for him.
He has a big arm to go along with good accuracy and mobility. Smith shows great leadership on the field and has everything you want from your franchise quarterback.
Dustin Vaughn, West Texas A&M
Vaughn put up record breaking stats this year for West Texas A&M. He threw for 5,401 yards, which is a D-II record as well as 53 touchdowns, which is good for third all time. Vaughn stands 6’5, though he is a little thin at 220 pounds. He can sling the ball all over the field and would be a great developmental quarterback pick for someone.
Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State
Flanders is a Kansas State transfer that has put up some big numbers for Sam Houston the past three years. He has shown durability along with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He has a low center of balance and has shown good vision, cutting and burst. Flanders could be a mid to late round selection in the draft.
Ryan Grant, Tulane
Grant is an underrated receiver when being compared to others that could come out in this draft. Grant runs great routes to go with his smooth coordination and timing. He shows quick hands when catching the ball, though he needs to finish catches and secure the ball after the catch better.
Dri Archer, Kent State
Archer is a player, much like Tavon Austin last year that is extremely explosive.
Also much like Austin, Archer has played running back and receiver for his team.
Archer is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.
Health and size are the two biggest things he has going against him. He will probably have to be a slot receiver like Austin in the NFL.
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
Duncan is a big tight end that is already a very gifted blocker. He can come in right away for a team and play. However, he doesn’t have great top end speed and won’t be a downfield threat. His size does make him a good red zone target for whoever drafts him.
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
Leonard is more of your athletic, pass catching tight end. He doesn’t possess elite size, but he is a good athlete. He has good hands and runs very good routes. He will be able to challenge defensive backs down the field. However, he needs to bulk up and become a better blocker to be a full time tight end in the NFL.
Daniel Kistler, Montana
Kistler has good size for an NFL tackle at 6’7” and 317 pounds and has quick feet to go with it. Kistler has long arms and is quick out of his stance, rarely getting beat to the punch. However, he is still raw in his technique and isn’t a guy you will be able to plug in as a rookie and have him play. Kistler does have the raw tools and abilities to potentially be a left tackle in the NFL.
Tyler Larson , Utah State
Larson is one of the top few centers in this draft and should be taken in the mid rounds. Larson is a four-year starter at Utah State and shows some nice power to his game. He is a very smart player, as shown by Utah State saying that he carried out the correct assignment on 97% of his plays in 2012. Larson would be a god fit for a man-blocking scheme.
Caraun Reid, Princeton
Reid would have been drafted had he had to come out in 2013, but he received a redshirt for his sophomore season where he tore his pectoral muscle. Reid plays with a non-stop motor and has great quickness for a 305 pound man. He will be on many 4-3 teams boards as a 3-technique.
Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State
Carrethers is a huge man who will have to play nose tackle in the NFL. He has shown good strength and a good nose for the ball, having 68 tackles in 2012.
Carrethers will have to show a better ability to command a double team, which he struggled at times with.
Carrethers should be a mid-round pick who will need some developing, but has all the skills to be a productive nose tackle in the NFL.
Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
Webster is a big undersized weight wise, but has an explosive first step and good speed when chasing the ball carrier. He has quick feet to work around defenders and smoothly changes directions. He will need to get stronger and his technique is raw, but he is a physical specimen. His father, Larry Sr. was also a defensive lineman in the NFL for 11 years.
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Mack started the season off with a bang against Ohio State where he thoroughly dominated the Buckeyes. Mack can do everything, he rushes the passer as well as anyone, he can play in coverage and he forces turnovers with the best of them. Mack can play any linebacker position and reminds some of Von Miller. Mack will probably be a top 15 pick.
Jordan Tripp, Montana
Tripp is a four year starter for Montana who has shown the size, speed and toughness to warrant a second or early third day pick. Tripp has a great nose for the football and is able to weave through traffic to find the ball carrier. When he does find them he is a sure tackler, rarely missing. His best fit is at outside linebacker, but can slide inside in a pinch.
Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
Jackson is one of the best downhill, attacking linebackers in the draft. He accelerates quickly into the hole and meets running backs with a ruthless aggression. Jackson is strong at the point of attack and rarely gets washed down the line by lineman. Jackson still needs to improve in coverage and may be a two down linebacker early in his career.
Marcus Williams, North Dakota State
Williams has good size at 5’11” and 195 pounds to go with good speed. He displays quick feet and loose hips giving him the ability to mirror the receiver. Williams shows very good body control and a good nose for the ball, grabbing 21 interceptions in his four years at North Dakota State. Once he gets the ball in his hands he is a threat to score, having returned seven of his 21 interceptions for a touchdown.
Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
Desir has great size for a corner, standing in at 6’1” and 205 pounds and good speed to go with it. Desir doesn’t shy away from contact, having good ball skills in the run game as well as the passing game. Desir is a physical corner on the line, jamming receivers and making it difficult to get off the line. He needs to work on his footwork a little, but don’t be surprised if you hear his name in the second-round.
Kendall James, Maine
James isn’t a big corner, only 5’10” and 175 pounds, but he has great speed and quickness. He is probably better suited as a nickel corner in the NFL, but that is an increasingly important position in the NFL. James has played in press man, off man and zone coverage, playing well in each. James has played very well in every facet of coverage and is decent enough against the run.