You'll have no trouble finding scouting reports for the top 2013 NFL Draft-eligible prospects if they play in any of the big six BCS conferences or if they are a big independent like Notre Dame or BYU.
The mid-major conferences in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division 1-A) get much less attention, and at the lower levels, starting with the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division 1-AA), there is scant attention paid to all but the most outstanding pro prospects.
But that doesn't mean that players from these smaller programs will be insignificant during the draft. In fact, every year, more and more players from small schools are getting drafted, and they seem to get drafted higher every year.
Here are the top 20 players outside of the big BCS conferences and big independents that might hear their name called in Radio City Music Hall next April.
Goard is a lanky 6'4", 194-pound receiver with a big play profile. He caught touchdowns on 11 of his 39 receptions last year, while posting a 16.1 yards per catch average.
Goard was a second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection last year, but this year got off to a bad start, as Goard was held to one catch for 16 yards after taking a knee to the helmet against Purdue.
He was named to the Senior Bowl watchlist, but Goard will have to get healthy after suffering that concussion to merit a spot with the best of the senior class in Mobile.
Jackson has ideal NFL offensive tackle size at 6'5" and 326 pounds, with a mean streak to match. He'll play to the whistle and always engage his opponent with his combative nature.
Jackson has been first-team All-WVIAC in each of the last two seasons after transferring to Glenville State from Illinois. His game is raw, but his size, athleticism, and approach to the game will give NFL scouts a lot to work with.
With a third straight All-WVIAC season, Jackson will get consideration on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Russell is a penetrating 6'1", 300-pound defensive tackle who finds himself on the offense's side of the line of scrimmage with regularity. He had 16.5 tackles for loss last year, and he often disrupts the play even when he doesn't make the tackle.
Russell has made himself the focus of the opponent's blocking gameplan, but it still hasn't stopped him from making a consistent impact. He has been suspended for violating team rules and Russell's motor can run hot and cold, but if he repeats his 2011 performance, NFL teams will have trouble letting him fall past the fourth or fifth round of the 2013 draft.
When Janzen Jackson left Tennessee and ended up at McNeese State, he was supposed to dominate at the lower level of college football. Instead, he was outshined by Bronson, who led the team in tackles on the way to his third straight year of first-team All-Southland honors.
This year, Bronson is on the Senior Bowl and Buck Buchanan Award watchlists. The 5'11", 192-pound free safety has reported 4.39 speed with a 40" vertical, which could make him a hot name at the combine in February.
Fisher is a towering 6'8" and 305 pounds, which means he has the frame to play left tackle in the NFL if he can add some bulk and strength. He has started at both tackle positions and also at right guard for the Chippewas, but spent all of the 2011 season at left tackle.
Fisher is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Joe Staley, who went from offensive tackle for Central Michigan to first-round pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2007.
This 6'3", 258-pound defensive end was unstoppable last year, with 20 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.
He has terrific natural size for a defensive end, with long arms and explosive leaping ability to disrupt passing lanes. He is considered a leader of his team, and Bass was named to too many All-American teams to list here. He has been starting since he was a freshman, producing 6.5 sacks that season and only getting better since then. If he shows improvement again this year, Bass could be one of the highest drafted small school players next year.
White has ideal size at 6'1", 195 pounds, and he runs in the 4.5's, which should get him on the NFL watch list by itself. He can also play free safety and provide versatility in the secondary.
White also makes plays in the offensive backfield, and had 8.5 tackles for loss last year. He can turn and run with receivers and close down on running backs at the line of scrimmage with equal aplomb. He is quick for a long-limbed and tall corner. His ball skills and overall athleticism are also definitely NFL quality. He is another player who should be helped by the trend of success from small school corners as of late in the NFL.
Ealey was once a top recruit at Georgia, but character issues forced him to Jacksonville State. He's 5'11" and 215 pounds with a good mix of strength, speed, and size.
He was good enough to finish within the top-10 running backs in the SEC in 2010, and he was also named to the preseason first-team All-SEC list before having to leave the program in 2011. Ealey was suspended at Georgia for an arrest after a hit-and-run accident while driving with a suspended license, and then again for violating team rules. If he can show the scouts that his troubled past is behind him, Ealey could deliver on the immense promise that made him an early standout during his career in Athens.
Miles was once the target of SEC recruiters, but instead decided to play at Kent State in order to be with his brother. That plan got derailed, and Miles had to go to community college. Then, eventually, he ended up at California (Pa.).
He has turned into a stalwart performer for the Vulcans, with 20.5 career tackles for loss, and a ballhawk mentality that resulted in five interceptions last year. Miles also made a pass breakup on the final play of this year's season opener against No. 17 Hillsdale to preserve a 30-22 victory for the No. 11 California (Pa.) squad.
Webb had eight interceptions as a freshman, and while he hasn't approached that level of ball thievery since then, he has certainly established himself as a premier Colonial Athletic Conference cornerback, earning first-team all-conference honors in each of the last two years.
At 5'11" and 180 pounds, without sub-4.4 speed, Webb does not have ideal tools for the NFL. Yet he has a knack for coming up with a play at a crucial juncture in the game, and Webb also adds value as a punt returner. With the number of small school corners hitting it big in the pros, Webb should get a long look from NFL scouts this spring.
Sorensen is a sturdy 6'5" and 230-pound quarterback with an accurate arm to please the NFL scouts. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes in 2010, on the way to being a first-team All-Great West performer. Sorensen followed that up by completing 67.8 percent of his passes in 2011, on the way being named the Great West Offensive Player of the Year.
He had a rough start to his 2012 campaign with a 12-for-31 performance against Utah State, who isn't exactly Alabama when it comes to defense. Sorensen's collegiate career started at BYU, and it could end with him trying to become the next small school passer to hit it big in the NFL. His size, athleticism, and accuracy will surely get him at least at least a tryout at some team's training camp next year.
Collins had 6.5 sacks last year, which makes him the returning sack king of Conference USA. He is an OLB/DE 'tweener right now with his 6'4" and 239-pound frame. He could bulk up and play 4-3 defensive end at the next level, but he is also athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
He is so athletic, in fact, that he started out as a defensive back at Southern Miss, then moved to linebacker in 2010, and finally to defensive end in 2011. With a second season at the same position, Collins could take a big step forward this year. His 19.5 tackles for loss and 97-yard interception return last year show that he can be a difference maker, no matter his position.
Mellette is looking to follow in the footsteps of Appalachian State's Brian Quick, who turned Southern Conference and FCS dominance into a second-round pick last year.
Mellette isn't quite as athletic as Quick, but he has better ball skills and feel for the game. While he isn't an explosive athlete, Mellette maxmizes the value of his 6'3", 214-pound frame by blocking out against smaller defensive backs and giving the quarterback a big target. He is not particularly physical against the jam, and overall, Mellette can be called a finesse player.
If he can add a more physical edge and route-running sharpness to his profile, Mellette could follow Quick into the draft's second day.
Patton was extremely productive last year, with over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns after transferring to Louisiana Tech from Coffeyville Community College. He was so good that heralded Mississippi State corner Jonathan Banks said Patton was the best receiver he had faced, and that includes many more well-known receivers from the SEC.
Patton also made headlines for having a good heart, giving a $300 best buy gift card he got as a bowl gift last year to a child from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Patton called the experience "eye-opening", which is what he hopes NFL scouts are saying about his performance this year.
Dyer had the look of a future first-round pick at Auburn in 2010, after being named the MVP of the BCS Championship game. His time there ended ignominiously when he was suspended for violating team rules, and he did not play in the 2011 Chick-Fil-a Bowl. He transferred to Arkansas State to rejoin former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, but never played a down there.Then he was reportedly going to transfer again to Prairie View A&M, but that never came to fruition.
The NCAA denied his request to play immediately, so he transferred again, to Arkansas Baptist, to pursue his associate's degree. He will be eligible to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, but he may choose to play college football again next year instead. Dyer is a compact and powerful back at 5'9" and 215 pounds. He has great burst, but he'll have to convince the NFL scouts that he's not a character risk to get drafted any earlier than the late rounds, even though he is an early-round talent.
McFadden, a former wide receiver, has become a shutdown corner for the Aztecs.
He doesn't have ideal size at 5'10" and 190 pounds, but he is consistent and durable, with a knack for getting his hands on the ball. McFadden started six games as a true freshman, and he elevated his game to a first-team All-Mountain West level by his the end of his sophomore year. He only has five career interceptions, but that can be chalked up to quarterbacks avoiding him as much as it can be a sign of McFadden's inability to close the deal when he has a shot at a pick.
His extensive experience and fluid athleticism should make the senior a late-second day or early-third day prospect in April.
Dobson was thinking NFL Draft at the end of last season, and submitted his paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Their answer, which put Dobson in the "mid rounds", wasn't the one he was looking for, so he came back for his senior season.
He is a big receiver at 6'3" and 204 pounds, and he has good speed in the 4.4-4.5 range. He is a playmaker who can do damage in the air, and he is a threat after the catch. Dobson scored 12 times last year, but had only 668 receiving yards. He'll need to evolve as a route-runner and play more consistently to get above that mid-round designation in the 2013 NFL Draft.
There's no doubt that the former world junior shot put and discus champion has the tools to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. His 6'8" and 280-pound frame with reported athleticism to run a 4.6 and post a vertical of 36 inches, in addition to the strength to bench 225 pounds at least 35 times, is the stuff that NFL defensive line coach dreams are made of.
Hunt is still very raw, as the Estonian is relatively new to the game of American football, and it showed in the first game of his senior season last week against Baylor, when he was held in check way too easily by the Bears offensive line.
The MAC quarterback craze has died down, but Dysert could single-handedly revive it this year. The 6'4" and 228 pound signal-caller is third among all active college quarterbacks in career passing yardage—behind only USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.
He is approaching the career numbers put up by Redhawk legend Ben Roethlisberger, a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. Dysert is a career 64 percent passer, which will certainly get the attention of NFL scouts, but he needs to throw fewer interceptions and more touchdowns. In an opening blowout loss to Florida, he threw two picks with only one score.
Rogers was one-half of a dynamic duo with Justin Hunter at Tennessee, and was set to maximize his draft stock (if he decided to come out as a junior) with another top 2013 Draft prospect at quarterback, Tyler Bray.
Rogers was dismissed from the team this summer (due to positive drug tests according to Rogers, per Mike Organ of Gannett Tennessee). Now Cordarrelle Patterson has made everyone forget about Rogers in Knoxville with a big first game against N.C. State, and Rogers is toiling away for Tennessee Tech. He can take comfort in the fact that Janoris Jenkins was still a high second-round pick this year despite being dismissed from Florida.
Rogers doesn't have the much larger character concerns of Jenkins, but he shared Jenkins' track record of success in a premier conference in college football. If he dominates the Ohio Valley Conference, Rogers might even get in the first-round mix.