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Top Small School Prospects: 2013 NFL Draft
- Updated: March 16, 2013
Jared Allen, Miles Austin, Cortland Finnegan. These are examples of players overlooked due to their small school status coming out of college. These are also examples of players who achieved NFL prominence, becoming elite players of the National Football League. Featured in this article are 5 of the top players in the 2013 draft who aren’t the product of a decorated conference or top-tier school.
These are the guys who are going to slip down in the draft only to come out and dominate those who were drafted above them.
Da’Rick Rogers: WR Tennessee Tech
6’3’’ – 217 lbs
Da’Rick Rogers might be the most gifted small school prospect in this year’s draft. Before Rogers tore it up in the inferior FCS, he was a blue chip recruit to the University of Tennessee where he played for two seasons. He was arguably a better receiver than teammates and fellow first round prospects Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. Unfortunately, Rogers was released from the Volunteers program for violating team policies preceding the 2012 season. Before his removal from the program, Rogers was a lethal combination of size and speed on the field. In 2011, he led the entire SEC with 1,040 receiving yards. His extreme toughness caused corners to back off from press coverage against him despite SEC backs being known for their physical play. To add to this toughness, he showed fearlessness over the middle of the field and refused to drop passes due to big blows by defenders. After the catch, he remained violent often choosing contact as opposed to stepping out of bounds when near the sideline. CBSsports.com went as far as to call Rogers “a virtual Julio Jones clone, exhibiting an exciting combination of size, strength and explosiveness.” Rogers’ 4.5 forty time is .2 seconds slower than Jones but whatever he lacks in elite speed he makes up for with elite athleticism and hands. If Rogers didn’t have so many red flags in regards to character issues, he would be at the top of this years receiver class if not the highest picked receiver. Rogers took responsibility for his Tennessee departure and said it was the result of him failing multiple drug tests. He commented on his issues saying, “it was about me being a young, immature guy and those are things that I’ve got to work on.” If Rogers has in fact worked on these issues and articulated this to coaches during pro interviews, than he very well may climb to the first round.
Brandon Williams: DT Missouri Southern
6’1’’ – 335 lbs.
Brandon Williams is a Division II Defensive lineman who became just the third player in history to become a 3 time All-American in D-II play. Williams was a workout warrior at the combine pressing 225 pounds 38 times, the highest of any player. The quick-and-dirty report on Williams is that he’s a goliath of a man able to push around offensive linemen with ease. But of course, that was in Division II. Williams is now trying to prove that he can mimic this ability against higher competition. He held his own at the Senior Bowl but didn’t necessarily stand out in any large way. One thing that did stand out was the multiple double teams he faced during the course of the game. Double teams equate to respect, and these are notable coaches giving the call to double up on Williams. Despite his enormous frame, Williams proved agile enough to rack up 8.5 sacks his senior season. If he could be half as productive in the pass rush at the next level, Williams would be a top 5 kind of prospect. One thing that will translate at any level of play is Williams’ non-stop motor. He was going as hard in the 4th quarter of all his games as he was in the 1st, something sure to leave NFL coaches drooling. This vigorous play is gaining Williams the attention of some expert analysts including draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., who thinks of Williams as a force to be reckon with, even at the next level. Williams’ most intriguing aspect may not be his freakish strength or highmotor, but the fact Missouri Southern lined him up in so many different positions in college. Williams would bully guards and centers from the inside of the line and then move outside as a 5-technique defensive end to provide some pass rush. This versatility puts Williams on the map for a wide array of teams looking for defensive lineman, yet he remains most attractive to teams in need of a nose tackle or 3-technique who can stuff the run.
Terron Armstead: OT Arkansas-Pine Bluff
6’5’’ – 306 lbs.
Terron Armstead jumped onto many people’s radar’s with stunning results at the combine. He ran the fastest 40 time by a lineman at 4.71 and pushed out 31 reps on the bench, which considering his 34’’ long arms is all the more impressive. This athleticism is perfect for any team that runs a zone-blocking scheme, which requires blocking on the run and releasing to the second level. About a dozen NFL Teams were in attendance for Armstead’s Pro Day, including the Cowboys, Seahawks, Jaguars and Chargers. He is projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round but with his stock rising teams might not be able to wait until the third round to grab this guy. Armstead gained attention for his athletic tangibles, but left many wondering why he played at a sub-par school. In fact, Armstead was a highly touted prospect out of high school, but went to the only school that would let him participate in track and field as well as football. He demonstrated his ability to do more than just put up great workout numbers in a great performance during the East-West shrine game. Look for teams that run a zone-blocking scheme to value Armstead higher than more traditional man-blocking offenses.
Brandon Kaufman: WR Eastern Washington University
6’5’’ – 216 lbs.
The list of players taken in the 6th and 7th round that go on to be a force at the next level isn’t long. But one doesn’t need to look further than Tom Brady to know that there are definitely gems at the bottom of the draft. This year, that gem just might be Brandon Kaufman out of Eastern Washington. Kaufman was absolutely dominant in the FCS this past season, racking up an unbelievable 93 receptions for 1,850 yards and 16 touchdowns. Keep in mind that Kaufman put up those ridiculous numbers despite opposing defenses game planning against him.While he’s predicted to go as late as the 7th round, this guy warrants a much higher pick. Kaufman’s deep threat ability makes him extremely attractive to a team in need of more offensive weapons, such as the Colts, or Chargers. He hasn’t shown an ability to do a whole lot more than stretch out the field on fades, but given the fact that no defense could stop him all year, why would he? During his pro day, Kaufman answered some questions about his athleticism by improving his 40 time to 4.57, something pretty respectable for a guy his size. Whatever team snags Kaufman in the later days of the draft is getting a ball hog down the field and headache for defensive coordinators.
Quanterus Smith: DE Western Kentucky
6’5’’ – 250 lbs.
The primary question small school talents face throughout the pre-draft process is how will they hold up against elite competition. Quanterus Smith addressed this question early on in the season in Western Kentucky’s game against Alabama. Smith pressed through Alabama’s stout offensive line for three sacks. Three sacks! That’s against one of the best offensive lines in the nation, an offensive line that features two first round prospects in the 2013 draft, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack. Both of whom, gave up sacks to Smith. Quanterus Smith comes from the Sun Belt Conference, a conference made reputable by Pro Bowl defensive ends Osi Umenyora and Demarcus Ware. In Smith’s senior season, he was showing a much more balanced all-around game and continuing to disrupt the backfield with 12.5 sacks in just 10 games. His season cameto an end in November when the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the year tore his ACL. Something as serious as an ACL tear is drawing a lot of concern from teams already skeptical about drafting a small school player. Smith’s draft stock has plummeted as a result likely placing him somewhere in the 5th round. Any team looking for an immediate impact player is not going to find one in Smith. On the other hand, a team that is a little more developed in the pass rush such as Cincinnati, Carolina or Chicago might be looking at Smith as a player they can pick up late in the draft as a player they can lean on down the road to produce inthe pass rush. Keep an eye on Smith as a guy with big potential that might take a little longer to get going due to his injury.
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Statistics courtesy of CBSsports.com