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Dane Brugler’s Small School Top-40 NFL prospect rankings

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  • Dane Brugler’s Small School Top-40 NFL prospect rankings

    By Dane Brugler Mar 20, 2019

    Smaller​ schools​ – the non-FBS​ programs – routinely produce big-time​ NFL players.

    At No. 36 overall, linebacker Darius Leonard was​​ the first small-school player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. The former South Carolina State star led the NFL in tackles (163) as a rookie, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro honors.

    “Small school” includes prospects from the FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA levels (any prospect not from one of the 130 FBS-level programs). Over the last five NFL Drafts, an average of 22 small-school players were drafted each year, including five in the first three rounds. Rounds 1-2

    1. Nasir Adderley, FS, Delaware (6-0, 206)
    Adderley has the bad habit of taking the cheese, but he has the essential ingredients of a starting NFL free safety with his play speed, toughness and ball skills, projecting best in a single-high role. He should be the first small-school player drafted in the 2019 class.
    Rounds 3-4

    2. Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State (6-5, 322)
    A high school quarterback who walked on at Alabama State to play tight end, Howard is a talented lump of clay with sloppy tendencies, but all the raw tools are there for him to develop into an NFL starter.

    3. Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois (6-0, 324)
    Saunders stays blocked too long and needs to develop his rush/anchor technique, but the athletic skill, raw strength and character are NFL quality, projecting best in a 4-3 scheme as a one-gapping nose with three-down potential. The top-three prospects in my small-school rankings have not changed since November:

    4. Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls (6-6, 309)
    Pipkins is inexperienced vs. top competition and needs technical work, but he boasts an NFL frame with the balanced movements and length to develop into a solid depth piece with potential to be more.

    5. Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State (6-0, 201)
    Although he lacks elite vertical speed (4.51 40-yard dash), Brown has balanced feet and NFL-quality ball skills, displaying the efficient transition to stay on top of routes and make plays at the catch point.

    6. John Cominsky, DL, Charleston (6-5, 286)
    A 215-pound option quarterback in high school, Cominsky has the balanced athleticism and play strength to develop into a quality NFL run defender, but he will require time to adjust to the jump in competition, projecting best as a base end in a 4-3 front. Rounds 5-7

    7. Drew Forbes, OG, SE Missouri (6-5, 306)
    A college left tackle who projects best inside, Forbes drops his hips and flashes a forceful, upward punch, competing with a nasty streak. He tends to overextend at times, but his lower body is patient and controlled in pass protection.

    8. Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn (5-11, 196)
    One of the top Division II prospects in the draft, Ballentine is quick-footed and coordinated in his movements, getting physical at the snap to bump and run.

    9. Keelan Doss, WR, Cal-Davis (6-2, 211)
    Although his average athletic profile limits his role at the next level, Doss displays crafty routes (all of his movements have purpose) and natural ball skills, projecting as a physical, possession receiver in the NFL.

    10. Oli Udoh, OT, Elon (6-5, 323)
    A mammoth square blocker, Udoh will have trouble with edge speed and he needs to consistently unleash his power, but the baseline talent is evident when his weight is under control.

    11. Jazz Ferguson, WR, Northwestern State (6-5, 227)
    An LSU transfer, Ferguson, who is the younger brother of pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson, is an intriguing size/speed athlete (4.45 40-yard dash) with ball skills, projecting as a developmental receiver.

    12. Joshua Miles, OT/G, Morgan State (6-5, 314)
    After missing the 2017 season (academics), Miles returned in 2018 and put himself on the NFL radar with an intriguing mix of size, feet and length (35 5/8 inch arms), projecting at either tackle or guard.

    13. Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State (6-1, 215)
    A former wideout, Denmark made the move to cornerback and developed a defensive mentality, displaying the outstanding speed and aggressive nature that drew the attention of NFL scouts.

    14. Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State (6-1, 224)
    One of the most accomplished players in FCS history, Stick has an average arm but he exudes competitive toughness and razor-sharp intelligence, boasting the winning resume NFL coaches will appreciate.

    15. Brandon Hitner, OT, Villanova (6-6, 311)
    Although he needs to clean up his body mechanics, Hitner, who started two seasons at right tackle, has terrific body control and flexibility to mirror and tie up rushers.

    16. Donald Parham, TE, Stetson (6-8, 243)
    A tall, lean slot target, Parham is a loose-jointed athlete with a humongous catch radius to pluck and create after the catch, picking up speed when he can stretch out his long strides.

    17. Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison (5-10, 189)
    Although he is undersized with little growth potential, Moreland competes with the requisite mental and physical toughness to press on the outside or hold up in run support.

    18. Iosua Opeta, OG, Weber State (6-4, 301)
    A college left tackle who will move inside in the NFL, Opeta’s base technique isn’t quite ready for NFL rushers, but he moves with coordinated feet and utilizes angles well to shield lanes.

    19. Derick Roberson, EDGE, Sam Houston State (6-3, 249)
    Roberson tends to rely on speed and effort over technique as a rusher and needs to show a better plan, but he bursts off the ball and is quick to close. There is never a play out of his range due to his relentless motor.

    20. Darryl Johnson, EDGE, North Carolina A&T (6-6, 253)
    Although his lack of a power move makes it easy for blockers to slow him down, Johnson gets upfield quickly with the cornering skills to dip and skim blockers, flattening to the quarterback.

    21. Devon Johnson, OT, Ferris State (6-7, 338)
    A large-framed college left tackle, Johnson plays upright with heavy feet, but he moves defenders when he can grip and drive, relying on his natural force to generate movement. Priority free agents

    22. Kelvin McKnight, WR, Samford (5-8, 185)
    23. Iseoluwapo Jegede, DL, Valdosta State (6-5, 285)

    24. Derrick Puni, OT, Central Missouri (6-5, 305)
    25. Brody Oliver, WR, Colorado School of Mines (6-3, 208)
    26. Ashton Dulin, WR, Malone (6-1, 215)
    27. Jacob Dolegala, QB, Central Connecticut (6-5, 238)
    28. B.J. Autry, OG, Jacksonville State (6-3, 351)
    29. Wes Hills, RB, Slippery Rock (6-1, 220)
    30. BJ Blunt, LB, McNeese State (6-0, 224)
    31. Markus Jones, EDGE, Angelo State (6-3, 255)
    32. Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona (6-3, 217)
    33. Alex Wesley, WR, Northern Colorado (6-0, 190)
    34. Ethan Greenidge, OT/G, Villanova (6-4, 327)
    35. Michael Onuoha, EDGE, Texas A&M-Commerce (6-4, 257)
    36. Trey Brock, WR, Hillsdale (6-4, 219)
    37. Kahzin Daniels, EDGE, Charleston (6-3, 243)
    38. Ahmad Gooden, EDGE, Samford (6-1, 242)
    39. Brandon Dillon, TE, Marian (6-5, 242)
    40. Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State (5-11, 214)
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion