NFL Draft 2012: 5 Small-School Prospects That Can Hang with the Big Boys
The NFL Draft is now less than three months away, and as the big day approaches, everyone is taking their best guess as to who will fall where.
We already know about the big names like Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin III. But who are the unknowns in this draft?
Who are the surprises of 2012 be?
Let's break down five small-school prospects that can hang with the big boys in the 2012 NFL draft.
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Jenkins may be wearing a Florida Gators jersey in this photo, but this talented cornerback played at a small school by the name of North Alabama this past season.
Jenkins was dismissed from the Gators program earlier last year, but despite his off-the-field issues, he has the talent to be a top-10 selection in this April's NFL Draft.
If Jenkins does slip out of the top 10, the Dallas Cowboys would sure seem like an ideal destination. Jerry Jones and crew have the No. 14 selection in the first round of the draft.
There hasn't been a more consistent pass-rusher in all of college football over the past two years than Marshall DE Vinny Curry.
This 6'4", 263-pound defensive end is a beast off the line of scrimmage, using both his speed and strength to get to opposing quarterbacks. Over the past two seasons, Curry has racked up a total of 23 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
In his college career, Curry has also added 239 tackles and 10 forced fumbles, which goes to show that this small-school defensive end is worthy is a first or second-round selection in April's 2012 NFL draft.
Ronnie Hillman was an absolute stud at running back for San Diego State during his college football career.
Hillman rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns this season while leading the Aztecs to yet another bowl appearance.
For what Hillman lacks in size (5'10", 190 pounds), he makes up for in speed (4.4 40-yard dash). He should start off as a change-of-pace back in the NFL, but could become a starter down the road once he adds a little more muscle to his frame.
Look for Hillman to make a name for himself somewhere down the road.
Remember how undervalued Greg Jennings was when he came out in the NFL Draft?
Jordan White is from the same school as Jennings and has similar size to Jennings. The difference between the two is that White is faster and put up even better numbers at Western Michigan than Jennings did.
White is a freak out on the football field, with the ability to blow by defenders off the line of scrimmage and use his elite leaping ability to go up and make catches over defenders.
He was the leading receiver in the nation this past year, hauling in 140 passes for 1,911 yards and 17 touchdowns.
White should continue to rise up draft boards as the draft gets closer, especially when he gets the opportunity to show off the speed and skills at the NFL Draft Combine.
Not only does Carmen Messina play like Brian Urlacher, but he also looks just like him.
Messina was one of the most productive linebackers in all of college football this season. He totaled 142 tackles along with three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Over the past two seasons, Messina has combined to have 257 tackles, which should go to show just how sound of a football player this kid really is.
Outside linebacker is a not a particularly deep position in this year's draft, which means that Messina should have the chance to impress scouts at the combine and move up draft boards quickly.
Look for him to be a mid-round pick who could be a starting ILB in the near future.