NFL Draft: Five Unknowns Who Could Improve Their Stock in the Senior Bowl

Ross JonesCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2009

Last year, a tall and lanky kid from Tennessee State (Division 1-AA) was invited to the Senior Bowl. Critics said he had great speed, but questioned his lack of competition.  He had a lot to prove. Over the week of practice, he made play after play. And when game time came, he left the proof on the field, snagging two interceptions.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was named defensive MVP of that game.

Rodgers-Cromartie was selected 16th overall by the Arizona Cardinals. He is now one game away from becoming a Super Bowl Champion.

This year, other unknown talent is on the horizon and waiting to explode. Here are five players that could see their draft stock shoot up with a stellar performance on Saturday.


1.  Shawn Nelson - TE - Southern Mississippi

The 6'5", 239-pound tight end has been critiqued all week by Jaguars tight ends coach Mike Tice. Throughout Nelson’s collegiate career, he has shown his ability to go vertical, placing in the top five for Southern Miss in three major receiving categories.

Until this week, skeptics have been wondrous of his run-blocking ability. That was until Tuesday, when he buried Bednarik Award winner Rey Maualuga in the dirt.


2. Peria Jerry - DT - Ole Miss

The 25-year-old first-team All-American defensive tackle has put on a show in Mobile, Alabama. He’s been compared to New Orleans Saints nose tackle Sedrick Ellis, and as NFL Network’s Mike Mayock put it, “he’s unblockable.” 

In his senior season, he attained an SEC-high 18 tackles for loss, 49 total tackles, and seven sacks.


3. Ellis Lankster - CB - West Virginia

Lankster played his career in the spotlight for the Mountaineers. The reason he is on this list is because many say he is a one-year wonder. He had some off-the-field trouble his junior year, which led to a multiple-game suspension.  But in his senior year, he excelled. Lankster left Morgantown as a second team All-Big East performer.


4. Ramses Barden - WR - Cal Poly

After breaking college records that Randy Moss and Jerry Rice initially set, this small-town student is chasing his dream in the NFL. Barden has been preparing for the ’09 Draft at Elite Athletics (one of the top five athletic institutions). At 6-6, 227 pounds, Barden has stood out this week. His size gives him an ability to shield the defender and then he becomes difficult to take down.


5. Rhett Bomar - QB - Sam Houston State

Reports have said that the former Oklahoma transfer has been by far the best and most consistent quarterback in Mobile. In his senior season, he had a 31 to four touchdown-to-interception ratio. This kid has an NFL frame and the ability to look off defenders. He has been labeled a diamond in the rough and compared to the likes of the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco.