Outside of the “Big 6” conferences (Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, AAC, ACC and SEC), there is plenty of NFL caliber talent at the lower BCS level, the division 2 level and even the Ivy League. Big names from independent schools like Louis Nix and Kyle Van Noy and big name; smaller BCS school players like David Fales or Dri Archer are among the recognizable on this “team”. However, DII and small name prospects like Larry Webster and Zurlon Tipton are in to show the scouting world that they have big potential at the next level.
1st String – David Fales (SJSU): Despite being in his first year of major college football, Fales set the world a light his phenomenal quarterbacking ability. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he makes up for any lack in velocity with great ball placement, touch and decision-making. He has great size at 6’3” and 220 pounds and moves in the pocket very well, he has solid mechanics but he could improve upon them to possibly increase his arm strength. If he shows another great year or possibly builds upon what he accomplished last year, he could cement himself as a top 3 quarterback prospect.
2nd String – Jeff Matthews (Cornell): Even though he plays football in the Ivy League, watching Matthews is a treat as his physical gifts are on full display. He has an ideal frame at 6’4” and 225 pounds with a mobility and arm strength combination that is reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger. He is still a bit raw and it is to be seen how he would perform against high level pass rushers and defensive backs, but he embodies a prototypical NFL quarterback and could be a first round pick with a great Senior Bowl showing.
1st String – Zurlon Tipton (CMU): While watching former 1st overall pick Eric Fisher, it is difficult to miss the impressive running back running behind him. At 6’ and 220 pounds, Tipton has phenomenal size and runs with power, acceleration and great vision. His game is similar to Marshawn Lynch in his angry and high motor running style. He will likely fly a bit under the radar due to playing in a smaller conference, but he, like former teammate Eric Fisher, could shoot up the board from a strong Senior Bowl.
1stString – Antonio Andrews (WKU): Even though much weight should not be put into stats, Andrews coming 89 yards of Barry Sander’s all purpose yardage record. Andrews is very similar to Tipton as he uses an aggressive, hard running style, but also has the agility and speed to play a more finesse based game. He has a nice cutback and reads his blocks very well. He is also a phenomenal receiver. Andrews is as impressive as most higher-level running backs.
2nd String – Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State): A couple of years ago, Crowell was set to be the next great Georgia running back before a tumultuous offseason led to his dismissal from the program. He is an absolute bull at 230 pounds and 5’11”. He is all muscle but can still explode with incredible speed. If he proves himself a changed man ad puts up a good season at Alabama State, he could be a highly sought after runner.
1st String – Cody Hoffman (BYU): At 6’4”, 210 pounds, Hoffman posses a great frame for a wide receiver. He has room to add bulk, but no doubt his size is attractive to scouts. Hoffman lacks the vertical speed to separate from higher-level defensive backs, but he has good agility and body control that allow him to run his routes very well. He uses that body control and strong hands to make impressive catches… Now if he can make those catches consistently, he is a great possession receiver prospect.
1st String – Davante Adams (Fresno State): Despite being a redshirt freshman last year, Adams emerged as one of the best receivers in college football. He has good size at 6’2” and 215, and uses it well as he is tough to bring down in the open field. He has great speed and tracks the ball well. If he can improve on a dominating season, there is a good chance he will come out with his QB, Derek Carr, and be taken very high.
Slot Receiver – Noel Grigsby (SJSU): David Fales’ partner in crime, Grigsby is the kind of wide receiver who would be a friend to any quarterback. He is a very good route runner and possesses solid speed to make his way downfield. However, his most impressive feature is his ability to catch anything. Focus, hands and catch radius allow him for his quarterback to sling it in his general direction and he can make a play. He is not terribly impressive after the catch as his slight frame (5’11”, 175) makes him easy to bring down, but if he bulks up a bit, he could be a very good underneath option in the NFL.
2nd String – Dri Archer (Kent State): Archer is the fastest man in the NCAA. Others may run better 40 times, but Archer’s speed shows up on the field down to down. As a college running back, Archer’s 5’8”, 165 pound frame cannot last in the NFL as a runner and even needs 10 pounds or so as a receiver. Even so, he has the speed, agility and footwork to become a great underneath receiver once he starts becoming a better route runner. With the ball in his hands, he can take the ball to the house on literally any play, he sees the field very well and uses his agility and speed to make defenders look silly. If he can put on weight and work on his route running, he is easily a 3rd round pick.
1st String – Justin Jones (ECU): 6’8” and 260 sounds like a measurement of an NBA power forward, but Jones, luckily for us, is playing football. He needs to fill out his frame a bit more (260 is surprisingly light for 6’8”0, but Jones has natural speed and strength that make him a terrifying prospect that could line up all over the field. He is still raw and needs to be consistent both as a blocker (tends to get too high) and as a pass catcher. But if he can do that and produce this year, he could be a great player at the next level.
2nd String – Marcel Jensen (Fresno State): At 6’6” and 270 pounds, Jensen has the size to possibly step in at offensive tackle… But he can move. He has great speed for a man of that size and moves vertically very well. After the catch he is not elusive, but he is an absolute bull to bring down. He may be a steal next year seeing as he is not a featured player and he is at a smaller program.
1st String – Austin Wentworth (Fresno State): Wentworth has keyed a very impressive offensive output over his career at Fresno. He uses his natural strength and technique to hold up as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. However he lacks great athletic ability and may be suited to right tackle or even guard at the next level.
2nd String – Bryce Quigley (SDSU): Quigley is an alright athlete, but he uses much better angles and technique to compensate for a lack of ability. He will get beat by speed rushers but seems to do well otherwise in the running game and passing game.
1st String – Christian Lombard (Notre Dame): The 6’5”, 315-pound bulldozer is a quality player for the Irish. He has great strength that combines with great vertical movement to make him a road paver in the running game. He needs to improve footwork as a pass blocker, but he is a stalwart for the Irish and could be in for a great season.
2nd String – Joseph Treadwell (ULM): One of the bigger surprises of the season, Treadwell was incredibly important to Colton Browning’s success this year. At 6’5” and 316 pounds, Treadwell uses his size to hold down in the passing game and pave downhill as a run blocker. While he relies too much on pure strength, he uses it well but will need to improve technique to be effective at the next level.
1st String – Zack Martin (Notre Dame): Another member of an impressive Notre Dame line, Martin is someone who uses technique and motor to win as a blocker. He has great feet and hands, but needs to improve his strength. If he does get dtronger, it will combine with his agility, technique and mean streak to make him one of the best guard prospects in the draft.
1st String – Chris Watt (Notre Dame): Watt and Martin are two guys that make one think that the offensive line coach knows how to really make his players angry. Watt will take his 310 lb. frame and smack the first guy that comes into sight. While he moves around a bit recklessly and his technique is poor, it is hard to deny the fact that he will consistently put guys on the ground. If he is able to channel that and become a better technician, he could shoot up boards.
2nd String – Cyril Lemon (North Texas): Lemon is 6’3” and 322 pounds and it is evident that he uses that size as a blocker. He is not a great athlete, but he is able to bully the opposition into submission rather impressively.
2nd String – Dakota Dozier (Furman): A very small school prospect, Dozier is actually an impressive technical player. Everything he does is fundementally sound. If he is able to step into the Senior Bowl and show up against higher level competition, he could here his name called on draft weekend.
1st String- Tyler Larsen (Utah State): A smart center, Larsen is always keying the line and quarterbacks an impressive front five that paved the way for many impressive offenses. He Is a good athlete and moves downfield well, he is a bit raw in pass protection, but has the tools, smarts and drive to be a great center.
2nd String – Weston Richburg (Colorado State): Another smart center, (It is basically a requirement of the job) Richburg uses technique to win at the point of attack. He is not overly strong or fast, but he is able to use fundamentals to hold up as a blocker.
4-3 Base Defense
1st String – Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame): At 6’6”, 303 pounds, Tuitt is a hulk of a man who also posses great movement ability for someone his size. He is incredibly strong and uses an arsenal of moves to make his way into the backfield. However, his stance is a bit inconsistent, which leads him to get blown off the ball occasionally and his awareness in the run game needs work. But no doubt that if he improves his stance, he can be moved around a defensive line and be a versatile weapon for any teams defensive front.
1st String – Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State): Lawrence is a 6’3”, 245 pound cornerstone of the Boise State defense. He is a great athlete he fires off the ball into the backfield and is able to speed rush very well. In the run game, he has the closing speed to flow tot the ball but needs to improve his awareness and his ability to take on blocks. As an athlete, Lawrence is very impressive and very intriguing.
2nd String – Prince Shembo (Notre Dame): Shembo is a high motor, high strength guy who uses those tools as his main way of winning. He posses good instincts in the run game that make up for his lack of speed. As a pass rusher, he gets off the ball pretty quickly, but has trouble consistently getting off of blocks. He may be used in a stand up role at the next level, but he does have upside as a run stopper and situational pass rusher.
2nd String – Larry Webster (Bloomsburg): Larry Webster, remember the name. He is not the most polished player as he has only been playing collegiate football for a year after a great basketball career at Bloomsburg. However, despite how raw he was, Webster was able to use his fast, 6’7”, 240-pound frame to dominate offensive lineman and accumulating 13.5 sacks. He is a little one-dimensional at this point as he can use his athletic ability to move up field and make a play on the quarterback. His fundamentals and overall awareness are pretty poor, possibly from lack of experience, but as he grows, he could grow into one hell of a football prospect and shoot up these rankings.
1st String – Louis Nix (Notre Dame): A 6’3”, 325 pound bomb that sits in the middle of the Notre Dame line, Nix is an incredible balance of everything you look for in a defensive tackle. He is explosive out of the snap, which he anticipates very well, and he uses great strength and hand fighting to disengage blockers and flow to the ball. He uses this athletic ability to not only hold up un the run game, but create severe interior pressure that forces a QB out of the pocket and creates opportunities for his previously mentioned teammates, Shembo and Tuitt. Easily a Top 10 talent, Nix is a special player who will, without a doubt, hear his name very early in next year’s draft.
1st String – Ryan Carrethers (Arkansas State): At 6’1”, 328 pounds, Carrethers is actually a big hunk of muscle. This man is a weight room hero and it shows up on tape. He bull rushes guards back consistently and commands double teams, even from higher-level competition. He is not particularly fast out of his stance and needs to improve his overall awareness. Right now, he is a physically gifted athlete in need of some tuning.
2nd String – Justin Ellis (LaTech): Ellis is a big man in the middle. He is not going to wow anyone with his overall athletic abilty or his pass rushing protections, but he is a 330 pound man who uses his strength and hands to anchor a defensive line as a nose guard.
2nd String – Travis Raciti (SJSU): At 6’5”, 290 pounds, Raciti has a great frame that he uses well as an interior pass rusher. He comes off the snap quickly and uses his size and speed to fire into the backfield. He needs to refine his ability as he won’t consistently win those match ups against higher level talent.
1st String – Andrew Jackson (WKU): At 6’1”, 265 pounds, Jackson is built more like a defensive end than a linebacker. However, it seems that his entire frame is muscle. He does a great job using that strength to disengage blocks and create a big play as a tackler. He does a great job at coming downhill and putting a runner on his back. His main issue is his awareness. He simply has trouble breaking down plays and being able to sniff out the ball as the play is happening, not afterward. If he is able to do that he could find himself in the Top 100 picks.
2nd String - Dan Fox (Notre Dame): Like other Notre Dame linebackers, Fox is not a combine hero or a track star, but rather a very smart player. He does a great job of breaking down a play and flowing to the ball very well as the play happens, rather than making a tackle 8 yards downfield. He is a smart player who could be of value in the middle of a defense as a run defender, but does not have much upside in coverage.
1st String – Khalil Mack (Buffalo): Mack is arguably one of the best outside linebacker prospects in the nation. He is a phenomenal athlete that will fly all over the field as a rusher, a run stopper and in pass coverage. He is talented in all facets and it shows up. He is a bit aggressive and blockers will turn that around on him and put him on his back. He needs to be able to channel his aggression on the field and if he can do that, he is likely a first round pick.
1st String – Kyle Van Noy (BYU): Van Noy is an incredibly versatile weapon for the Cougars; He can defend the run, rush the passer, and hold up pretty well in coverage, a remarkable balance. He is 6’3” and 235 pounds and will need to add weight if he wants to be an every down pass rusher at the next level, but he could be put in a lot of places a long a defensive front. He does a great job anticipating the snap and firing off the ball, using his quickness to allude, rather than take on, blockers and make a play on the ball carrier. He has great fundamentals as a pass rusher that make up for his lack of bulk and if often seen getting good pressure on the quarterback. His money maker is his ability to fire off in blitzing situations a la Daryl Washington and put the quarterback on his back. Van Noy can be moved around a line at the next level and be effective anywhere short of defensive tackle but he needs to ad bulk to be a truly effective linebacker.
2nd String – Howard Jones (Shepherd): Used primarily as a pass rusher at Shepherd, Jones is a great athlete but his 6’2”, 235 pound frame is not ideal for a next level defensive end or rush linebacker. He has a high motor and has that mind-blowing speed. He is not the most polished player, but his athletic ability is attractive and if channeled could be an early day 3 selection. At the very least, he has value as a special teamer.
2nd String- Vince Buhagiar (SJSU): Buhagiar is an intelligent, insticual linebacker. While he is not a great athlete, he has good functional strength to disengage blocks and make plays on the ball carrier. He is not an effective cover man, but he is great at coming downhill and being aggressive in the running game.
1st String – Pierre Desir (Lindenwood): At 6’2” and 205 pounds, Desir possesses great size for a corner. While he is not incredibly agile, he has great straight-line speed that he uses well with his size in man coverage. He has solid leaping ability which he uses to make plays on the ball. His size is used well as a tackler and also to bully receivers in coverage. Despite his physical gifts, it needs to be seen how he can compete with higher-level competition.
1st String – Bennet Jackson (Notre Dame): A former wide receiver, Jackson is a 6’, 190-pound speedster how has the length to hold up in coverage. His natural ability lends itself to him being a good cover man, but he needs to improve his awareness and fundamentals to be more consistent. He has natural speed, ball skills and agility, but he needs to get his mechanics down to be a higher selection.
2nd String – Phillip Gaines (Rice): At 6’1” and 185 pounds, Gaines has great length for a corner but may need to bulk up to be more effective in man coverage. He is a good athlete who flows very nicely to the ball and has great range and leaping ability. He needs to improve his tackling mechanics, but at the very elast he looks like a very good cover corner.
2nd String – Nevin Lawson (Utah State): A smaller corner, the 5’10” Lawson is a solid athlete but is very aggressive in coverage and loves flying around and getting chippy. While he is not an interception machine, Lawson does a good job of recognizing a play and batting the ball away. He is a late round value and could end up developing into a stud nickel corner.
1st String - Jimmie Ward (NIU): At 5’11” and 192 pounds, Ward does have prototypical size to play safety. He is a very good athlete and has the range to be consistent in coverage. He has great ball skills and will be a valuable cover man. He needs to improve as a run defender, but he has the intelligence and tackling ability to be effective here.
2nd String – Jeremy Ioane (Boise State): Ioane is another smaller safety at 5’10 and 190 pounds, but he is incredibly strong for his size and does a great job at laying the wood on running backs and receivers. While his aggressive nature will get him into trouble occasionally, he is certainly a brash intimidator at safety.
1st String – Bene Benikwere (SJSU): Benikwere is making a transition to safety, which better suits his ability, from cornerback this year. His 6’ frame is ideal for the position, but he may want to add 15 to 20 pounds to his 190 pound body to be a more effective tackler. In run support he will come down hill aggressively to make the play, but occasional poor angles or poor handwork at coming off blocks will take him out of the game. He is a bit of a gambler in coverage and will bait a quarterback into throwing his way and then use his range and speed to cover ground to make a play on the ball, a true book or bust player. His athletic ability and playing stlye really suit him at safety and it is to be seen if he can turn in a big year at the position.
2nd String – Derron Smith (Fresno State): The second half of the dynamic duo at Fresno State last year in their secondary, Smith recorded 6 interceptions next to Phillip Thomas’, a current Redskin, 8 interceptions. The rangy ball hawk does a great job of moving to the ball and picking it off. He is also an aggressive, down hill tackler, whose hard hitting nature can be a blessing and a curse. With his athletic ability and ball skills, expect to hear Smith’s name called on the 2nd day of the draft next year with any improvement.
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