Sometimes I’m asked about small school prospects and potential sleepers in the mid-late round range. I don’t have access to tape from smaller schools, but I’d recommend following Matthew Elder on twitter for some really solid input on those players.
I tend to use the combine to see who catches the eye. It’s not ideal because I’d never let a combine performance dictate an opinion over tape, yet that’s essentially what I have to do with small school prospects. It is good, however, to see how these guys mark up against the top prospects at each position.
Edmond Gates (WR, Abilene Christian) really stood out to me. He ran a blazing 4.37 forty yard dash (best amongst receivers) and was one of the few people to take anything out of the catching drills showing strong hands. His stock is on the up – so much so that Mel Kiper has even touted the possibility that Gates will go in round two. I think this is unlikely because he’ll be a 25-year-old rookie who hasn’t got elite size (6-1, 192lbs), but with his deep speed it’ll only take one team to fall in love and put him in that higher bracket.
It’s been confirmed that the Seahawks met with the Gates during the combine, as well as another small school prospect – Appalachian State corner Mark LeGree.
Edmond Gates video #1
Edmond Gates video #2
Fresno State aren’t necessarily a small school, but they do produce some big-time talent. Ryan Mathews went in the top-15 last year after San Diego made a big move up the board and while there’s nobody going to repeat that in 2011, I’m still a big fan of DE/OLB Chris Carter.
At 6-2 and 248lbs his future may lie as a pure 4-3 OLB project, but if he could add some weight and maintain his speed then he’s a possible LEO down the line. Carter had eleven sacks as a senior, he’s a relentless prospect with excellent edge speed and ran a 4.62 at the combine – only bettered among defensive lineman by Texas’ Sam Acho.
The big issue with Carter will be that lack of size and holding up against the run. He won’t be able to play the LEO on the line of scrimmage at 248lbs because he’ll be a liability on rushing downs. He could be used as a project linebacker and specialist pass rusher, but that limits his stock in terms of which round you’d be willing to take him.
The video below not only shows why Carter is a sleeper pick next April, it also shows the limitations of Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi (#68) against the speed rush.
Chris Carter highlights
Buster Skrine (CB, Chattanooga) flashed some skills in Indianapolis and ran a 4.29 forty yard dash unofficially. He also had the best 20 & 60-yard shuttle and the most impressive three-cone. At 5-10 he’s on the cusp of what this team will look for in terms of height at corner but he could do with adding some weight (186lbs). Even so, you wouldn’t draft Skrine with the intention of starting him as a rookie.
You might give him some kick return duties as he’s shown real potential there particularly with that impressive straight line speed. He only has three career interceptions as a senior but he at least flashed some ball skills in the video below. With that speed and the potential to add some bulk, he could give some value to a team in the mid-late rounds.
You can watch Skrine’s combine work out by clicking here.
Buster Skrine highlights
One of my favorite prospects likely to go in the middle rounds is Connecticut running back Jordan Todman. He ran a 4.40 forty yard dash (third among RB’s) and was the Big East offensive player of the year with 16 touchdowns and 1695 yards. At 5-9 and 203lbs he doesn’t have the size to carry the load as much as he did for UConn, but he runs hard and at that speed he’s going to find a home in the NFL. The Seahawks may have bigger needs overall, but with the second pick in round four if you get the chance to draft a player who will probably stick like Todman, I think you make that move.
I could really see two things happening – either he’ll go earlier than expected (R2/3) or he will last until that fourth round range and in a few years we’ll wonder how that happened.
Jordan Todman highlights