Small School Players in the NFL Draft
by Trevor Whenham - 04/07/2009
With the NFL Draft sneaking up on us quickly, most of the talk seems to be, as always, about those players that will be picked in the first round, or at least the first day. This is a good time, then, to shed some light on some guys that fly much further below the radar. Here's a look at 12 guys who toiled at obscure schools, but who stand a decent chance of hearing their names called on draft day:
Lardarius Webb, CB, Nicholls State - Webb started playing at Southern Miss, but moved on after getting kicked off the team. Here's an impressive tidbit - as a junior he became the only player in NCAA history to win his conference's offensive, defensive, and special teams player of the week awards in the same year. He's a solid corner that can return kicks.
Domonique Johnson, DB, Jackson State - He started at Missouri, but transferred after issues with the coaching staff. He's tall and lanky, and he has the talent to potentially be a top-100 pick. He had 10 interceptions last year, and is a master at deflecting passes.
Bernard Scott, RB, Abilene Christian - It's hard to tell how Scott does it given his atypical size and strength, but the guy can run - he had 4,321 yards and 63 touchdowns on the ground over the last two years. He has had some serious discipline issues that have seen him bounce around to different teams a bit, but he seems to have matured, and should be a second day pick.
Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian - The second ACU player is perhaps the biggest name on this list. He looked very good in the post-season all-star games, and he was very good at the Combine. He has some issues to deal with - sloppy habits developed by playing against weak opposition. Still, he has likely climbed into a first day draft slot.
Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State - Bomar's idiocy got him thrown out of Oklahoma and opened the door for Sam Bradford to become who he is. Since landing at SHSU he has looked like what he is - a Division I caliber QB at a small school. In less than two full seasons he set many career passing records at the school. He throws too many interceptions and forces throws at times, but he should find a home reasonably easily given the weakness of the QB class this year.
Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly - Physically, this guy is an absolute monster - perhaps the most physically impressive receiver in the draft. He broke a couple of records held by none other than Jerry Rice - he had at least one touchdown in 32 games, better than Rice's 26, and he eclipsed Rice's record of TDs in 17 consecutive games by stringing together 20 straight. If he had a bit more speed and quickness he'd be a first rounder.
Chris Baker, DL, Hampton - Here's a massive talent with serious attitude problems. Baker got himself kicked out of Penn State after numerous incidents and a suspension, and now he has chosen to leave Hampton after his junior season. He can play tackle or end, but is short of the kind of performance that obviously transfers to the pros. A team may well take a risk on him late on day two, though.
Sammie Lee Hill, DT, Stillman - This guy is a giant. He's built like a tackle, but he played end as a senior, and his surprising productivity is a testament to his athleticism. He needs to prove he can play against much better competition, and he has some form issues to deal with. However, his size and agility will be more than enough to get his name called - probably early on day two.
Don Carey, CB, Norfolk State - The league is always starved for corners, and Carey caught some attention with a very good showing at the Shrine Bowl practices. He's fast and athletic, but his biggest attribute is his intelligence, which gives him a special insight and instinct. He'll need to rely less on physical play or he'll get flagged way too much in the pros.
William Middleton, CB, Furman - Yet another solid corner prospect. He has the rare distinction of being named team MVP despite not playing in a flashy position. His height and lack of recovery speed are working against him, but his versatility, instincts, and leadership will make him worth a gamble to a team.
Louis Ellis, DE, Shaw - He signed at Mississippi State, but couldn't makes the grades he needed to get in. In two years at community college and two more at Shaw he showed that he certainly had Division I talent. He was conference Defensive Player of the Year both years at Shaw, and just devoured opposing offenses. His size isn't what it would ideally be, and he faces a huge jump n caliber, but he has the makings of a very useful end in certain schemes.
Kyle Link, OT, McNeese State - He started out as a tight end before moving to the line for his final two years. He'll need to add strength and technique before he can be a useful pro, but he has shown enough in college to be a project worth pursuing for a team.