NFL Draft Talk Volume XXVIII

As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.
Who are the best small and non-power house school prospects in this year’s draft?
     The best players in the NFL don’t always hail from powerhouse or even prominent college football programs. Stars and quality contributors on either side of the ball as well as specialists can be found everywhere and at any level of competition at the collegiate level.
     Some of the best players in the game came from lower-level Division I, Division II and even Division III programs. All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack was drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2014 out of University of Buffalo. The 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year was Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard, who was selected with the 36th overall pick out of South Carolina State University and led the league in tackles with 163. Arizona Cardinals’ Pro Bowl running back David Johnson Sr. has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league since he was taken in the third round of the 2015 draft.
     Here’s a list of some of the top prospects in this year’s draft that could continue to show that a player doesn’t have to come from a top program or play in powerhouse conference to make it to and star in the league:
•    OT Andre Dillard: The Washington State Cougars don’t churn out top prospects year in and year out and they rarely find themselves in contention for national titles but they did produce the player that is viewed as the top pass protecting offensive lineman in this year’s crop in Dillard. He will likely be the first prospect from a non-powerhouse program off the board as he’s expected to hear his name called in the top 15 picks of round one.
•    DE/OLB Jaylen Ferguson: While the Louisiana Tech standout didn’t play for a big school or in one of the top conferences, he did produce huge numbers in college. He finished his collegiate career as the all-time sack leader in FBS history with 45 that included a nation-leading 17.5 last season as a senior. He was garnering top 10 projections prior to being disinvited to the Combine after a background check revealed an incident from his first year in college but he’s still being mocked as a late first-round pick.
•    OT Titus Howard: At 6-5 and 322 pounds the Alabama State product posses great athleticism and quickness that make him an excellent pass blocker in addition to his strong run blocking prowess. He is expected to go on day two of the draft and could be selected as high as the early part of the second round. 
•    DE/OLB Oshane Ximines: He was generating a lot of first-round buzz early on in the pre-draft process after posting 11.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and an interception in his senior season. While his hype has cooled off to a degree, he is still expected to be the first Monarch from Old Dominion University to be drafted in program history. Even though he mostly played with his hand in the dirt in college, at 6-3 and 253 pounds he will likely be best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
•    LB Josiah Tauaefa: NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks has the long-haired linebacker from the University of Texas at San Antonio ranked among his top five middle linebackers. He was a tackling machine for the Roadrunners during his time there and like their mascot, he possesses great speed that uses to knife through the line of scrimmage for sacks and tackles for loss. He is an excellent blitzer of the edge as well as up the middle and tracks down ball carriers all over the field with his sideline to sideline speed and lateral quickness. 
•    RB David Singletary: While he doesn’t possess top-notch speed, the running back from Florida Atlantic University nicknamed ‘Motor’ for his unrelenting running style and stamina can be a day one starter or could be part of a potent one-two punch with another back. His best attributes are his quick feet that he uses to cutback and bounce plays outside, his vision to read and find holes to hit as well as his nose for the endzone that comes from him always churning his legs at or near the goal line.  

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