By Josh Buchanan
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA — The votes have been cast and contrary to popular belief, all-star games really have no bearing on who is selected to the NFL combine.
Since the teams have cast their votes but the list is not public I have decided to sit down and project the standing of the top rated small school prospects heading into voting, in my opinion.
I have divided them up into several categories depending on their our ranking of them and below is a look at how I viewed their stock heading into combine meetings.
OT Tom Compton, South Dakota: His senior season was very impressive, including his selection as the College Sports Journal Lineman of the Year, and it should see him taken in the mid rounds. There is no doubt he will get an invite.
CB Asa Jackson, Cal Poly: Jackson is slightly undersized, but blazing fast and brings special teams value. He made several All-American teams, including the CSJ’s inaugural squad and also played impressively at the Senior Bowl. There is no doubt he will be invited to Indy.
CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana: Even with his arrest it would be shocking to not see Johnson make it in. He had a great year, earning near-consensus All-American status, and has the tools scouts want to see.
CB Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina: Norman has been great in the past three years and had an outstanding senior season. His tools and ball skills make him a definite invite.
WR Brian Quick, Appalachian State: Quick, who played well in the Senior Bowl, is considered a potential elite prospect by a lot of people in scouting circles. Not only will he be invited but he is one of the top 10 receivers in the country and was among the top vote getters in our opinion. Some scouts see Quick as being as high as a late first-round, or early second-round draft pick.
CB Ryan Steed, Furman: Steed, who joined Jackson and Quick in the Senior Bowl and turned in an outstanding effort, is considered the top small school corner by some and with the type of season he had there is no way he will be snubbed. He is projected as a third-round pick at this point.
CB Justin Bethel, Presbyterian: Bethel was a borderline-type guy heading into the year but his special teams ability and likely workout results make him a guy all the teams will want to see.
QB B.J. Coleman, UTC: It would be a surprise if Coleman is not selected when you consider his preseason projections, the dearth of quality quarterbacks in this year’s draft and the fact he has the physical tools scouts look for. A minus is Coleman’s mobility and his tendency towards injuries.
FB Emil Igwenagu, Massachusetts: Igwenagu had a great year at tight end, showing he can catch, run and is a very good blocker. While he is a hybrid he really impressed and showed he should get drafted. I expect him to get in but if not he will still vault up the board with what should be very good workout numbers. Igwenagu made a big impression at the Senior Bowl.
CB Micah Pellerin, Hampton: Pellerin gives up some plays, but he has great tools and did make some very good ones this year. Expect him to get an invite as a possible mid-round selection.
FS Christian Thompson, South Carolina State: Thompson’s size, athletic ability, and speed make him a guy who could test very well. While he wasn’t consistent each week, he showed he is worth being drafted and should get an invite.
50/50 CHANCE TO GET IN
OT Jeff Adams, Columbia: Adams has fallen down our board just a little bit, because he is so raw and did not dominate in the tape we saw. He has great tools but needs a lot of coaching. He has gone from a potential mid-round pick to a likely free agent at this point.
DT Ronnie Cameron, Old Dominion: Okay, if the CAA Defensive Player of the Year is snubbed… that is just criminal. He’s quick off the ball and has athletic ability that you want to see on display at the Combine. We believe he will be taken in the late rounds.
OG Paul Cornick, North Dakota State: Cornick had a great year and definitely rose up boards. It will be interesting to see if a one time camp body who is now considered a sixth, or seventh-round possibility will get in.
RB Jonathan Grimes, William & Mary: It’s hard to imagine Grimes not getting an invite after his final games for the Tribe and the fact it would be good to see how he is medically after being hurt some this year. His grades appear to be mostly free agent from what we are hearing but he deserves it based on his career. After all, if you are a four-time All-CAA pick, you deserve it.
SS Jerron McMillian, Maine: McMillian has been very good over the last two years showing good speed, athletic ability, and the skills to cover and stop the run. He could surprise and run in the 4.4s to put himself in the late rounds.
WR Chris Summers, Liberty: Summers had another big year and if he can run well we believe he will be drafted. He deserves an invite but speed concerns could have him pushed down enough to be snubbed.
TE Matt Veldman, North Dakota State: Veldman should definitely get in if it were up to us. The problem is he was a late riser and it is hard to project if he rose up boards early enough to get an invite at this point. It will be slightly surprising if he is not invited, because of his size and improvements he made in his game this year.
SS Corey White, Samford: There are always surprise selections and White could be one of those. While he looks to be more of a free agent some folks like him. He is a bit stiff and struggled to cover Quick. But White is well put together and can run good enough to make him a possible late round guy.
QB Patrick Witt, Yale: Witt played very well for part of the season but was up and down. The quarterback class is weak so we could see him getting in as a throwing quarterback. Witt could be damaged by off-the-field trouble, however. He was the subject of a New York Times profile last week that asserted his Rhodes Scholarship application was withdrawn, not for his decision to play in the Harvard-Yale game instead of undergoing his Rhodes interview, as he claimed, but because of a charge by a Yale co-ed of an alleged sexual assault.
OUTSIDE SHOT TO GET IN
WR Elvis Akpla, Montana State: While it seems nobody has really caught on to Akpla we love his hands and like his speed. He isn’t the most fluid route runner but is fast and showed he can make big plays in 2011. He recorded one of the best highlight-reel moments of the year with a spectacular catch against Sam Houston State in the FCS quarterfinals. He should be taken, but if not, expect him to fly up the board after his pro day.
ILB Kadarron Anderson, Furman: An undersized, productive linebacker from the SoCon. Ring a bell? The last one like this was Appalachian State’s Dexter Coakley and while Anderson is nowhere in the class of Coakley, he is a guy worth taking a look at. He will likely be a free agent, but could be taken to the Combine, depending on the FBS linebacker class.
TE Alex Gottlieb, William & Mary: There is no doubt that, if Gottlieb was 6-5, he would not only be drafted but would be taken in the fourth or fifth round. He is undersized, but a very good athlete who can run and has good hands. If invited to the Combine you can just about bank on him being drafted and, even without a combine invite, he still might be drafted because of his athletic ability.
WR Tre Gray, Richmond: Gray is short but very fast and is a reliable target. Don’t be shocked if he is snubbed and still finds a way to be taken late in the draft because of his athletic ability.
WR Marcus Jackson, Lamar: It would be shocking if Jackson is invited to the Combine due to injuries this year, but if he runs well at his pro day, look out. Scouts like his ability and some believe he will surprise when he gets to camp.
QB David Legree, Hampton: Quarterbacks with size and a big arm are always a hot commodity and Legree has both. He flashed some talent worth taking a shot on and is a guy who has not been rated high by the media but we think deserves a look by the Combine.
DE Zack Nash, Sacramento State: Nash isn’t the best athlete but he is a sound player who has produced, but not quite at the level expected this year. He’s a guy some scouts thought would get an invite coming into the year, but has become an outside shot.
WR Jermaine Saffold, Missouri State: Saffold was about the only bright spot on his team this year, dominating almost weekly. With his size and speed he is a sleeper prospect who might get an invite.
DE D.J. Bryant, James Madison: An undersized defensive end with some explosiveness from JMU. That ring a bell? Yup, Buchanan Award winner Arthur Moats recently. Bryant is a little bigger, but lacks the production of Moats. Still, his upside is worth looking at and he could be a late round pick with the testing numbers we believe he will put up.
DE Brian McNally, New Hampshire: McNally had another great year, though struggling with injuries. His production is worthy of an invite after getting late round grades coming into the season.
WR Dale Moss, South Dakota State: It’s unlikely Moss is taken to the Combine but some teams really like his upside. He can run for a guy his size and has a lot of potential. Moss could prove to be a guy who catches a lot of attention at his pro day and is undrafted but makes a roster.
CB/WR DeAndre Presley, Appalachian State: The tape says free agent and he isn’t very big, but Presley earned All-America honors and was a Payton Award finalist as a quarterback in 2010. He then moved to corner and wide receiver midway through his senior year and showed great speed and the athletic ability to play just about any position. Presley might not get an invite but should because he will light up Indianapolis, if invited.
SS DeShawn Shead, Portland State: Shead is a big kid who can play safety and corner. He runs pretty well, too. Don’t be shocked if he is invited but if not, expect him to still move into the late rounds.