Small-School Studs in the 2013 NFL Draft Class

Jon DoveContributor IFebruary 17, 2013

Small-School Studs in the 2013 NFL Draft Class

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    The 2013 NFL draft features several high-impact prospects from smaller schools. It's almost a certainty that we see a small-school prospect come off the board in the top 10. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is unlikely to get past the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 7.

    There's also a large collection of prospects in the third-round range who have a chance to make a major impact. The days are gone when a player gets overlooked just because he plays against lesser competition.

Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan

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    Projected Round: Top 10 of first round

    Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher might come from a smaller school, but he’s held in the same regard as other top prospects. This is because he features the athleticism, work ethic and natural feel for the game evaluators look for in a top prospect.

    After another strong season and good showing at the Senior Bowl, Fisher has solidified himself as a top-10 prospect. It’s hard to imagine him getting past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 7.

    His skill set helps him both protect the quarterback and open running lanes. Fisher’s quickness off the snap and balance allow him to hold up against speed and power rushers. He uses good technique to keep rushers off his frame, leaving the option open for him to Velcro to the rusher at the right moment.

    Against the run, Fisher uses both his raw strength and athleticism to open running lanes. His explosiveness off the line plays a role in his ability to deliver a powerful jolt and get a push off the ball. He consistently plays to the whistle, showing the nastiness that all great NFL linemen possess.

Jonathan Cyprien, Safety, Florida International

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    Projected Round: Early third round

    Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien is one of the faster-rising prospects in this draft. His strong play at the Senior Bowl forced evaluators to go back and take a closer look at his game tape.

    Watching his tape shows that this is an aggressive defender capable of making plays against both the run and pass. His ability to locate the ball and cleanly flow reminds me of an instinctual linebacker. He also delivers powerful hits like a linebacker.

    Cyprien isn’t just a big hitter, as he also has the range and feel to hold up in coverage. He does a good job reading the quarterback, quickly breaking on the ball and breaking up passes. His ball skills also make him a threat to pull down an interception.

    Look for Cyprien to get heavy consideration as a second- or early third-round pick.

Chris Jones, Defensive Lineman, Bowling Green

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    Projected Round: Third round

    Bowling Green’s Chris Jones is arguably one of the most physically gifted defensive linemen in this draft class. He has excellent size that he combines with good quickness. Jones also boasts the raw strength needed to hold at the point of attack.

    He’s a versatile defender capable of fitting as a 3-technique defensive tackle or 5-technique defensive end. Jones reminds me of a much rawer version of J.J. Watt. That’s the type of upside this guy possesses.

    Coaching will be the key to Jones’ development, as he needs to improve his hand placement and the consistency of his pad level. Jones appears to be the type of hard worker who’ll quickly take to coaching.

Tourek Williams, Defensive End, Florida International

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    Projected Round: Third round

    NFL teams are always on the lookout for pressure players. Florida International’s Tourek Williams can get after the quarterback in a few different ways. He uses his quick burst, fluid movements and an excellent shoulder bend.

    Williams is a versatile defender, as he has experience rushing the passer from both a three-point and two-point stance. This makes him an option in either a 4-3 or 3-4 system.

    Outside of his natural athleticism, Williams shows the motor needed to force blockers to work to the whistle. His one weakness comes as a run defender. He needs to do a better job keeping his pads down and keeping leverage.

Aaron Dobson, Wide Receiver, Marshall

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    Projected Round: Early third round

    Marshall's Aaron Dobson is a tall wide receiver who uses his frame and leaping ability to make plays. His commitment to attacking the ball at its highest point allows him to maximize his physical attributes.

    While he doesn't possess elite speed, Dobson can still attack down the field because of that size and the ability to change speeds.

    His quick-twitch ability also makes him a vertical threat.

    This isn't just a big-play receiver, as Dobson also runs clean routes and isn't afraid to work over the middle. His big frame helps him box out defenders and make plays in tight coverage.

    Don't be surprised if Dobson works his way into the second round. NFL teams are always looking for big targets with playmaking ability.

Brandon Williams, Defensive Lineman, Missouri Southern

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    Projected Round: Third round

    Missouri Southern's Brandon Williams used his Senior Bowl opportunity to help his draft stock. His ability to stand out against elevated competition showed his promise. Williams is a big-bodied defensive tackle who excels at stuffing the run.

    His thick lower half, inside hand placement and natural strength help him anchor after contact. This is someone who shows the ability to control the line of scrimmage. Offensive linemen have a real tough time moving Williams.

    Williams doesn't offer much as a pass-rusher but has the motor and strength to hold his own. His best fit would be as a nose tackle in a 4-3 system.

Brian Winters, Offensive Line, Kent State

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    Projected Round: Third round

    Despite lining up at offensive tackle at Kent State, Brian Winters will likely kick inside to guard in the NFL. He possesses the strength and nastiness to really excel at that position. He combines those two traits with an explosive jump off the snap.

    It's possible that Winters can play some right tackle in a pinch, but he lacks the foot speed needed to consistently protect the edge. This is why guard is the best fit for his skills. His strong anchor means that he can hold up against power rushers, yet another reason moving to guard makes sense.

    Teams who like to employ a power running style should absolutely give Winters a look. He'd instantly add toughness to any offensive line.

Quanterus Smith, Defensive End, Western Kentucky

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    Projected Round: Late third round

    The large number of NFL teams making the switch to the 3-4 defense has increased the need for tweeners. This is the category in which Western Kentucky’s Quanterus Smith finds himself. Smith is an undersized defensive end who excels at generating pressure on the quarterback.

    His quickness out of his stance, change-of-direction ability and quick hands make Smith difficult to keep out of the backfield. Smith isn’t a finished product, though, and will benefit from the improved coaching in the NFL.

    The biggest area where he needs to improve is his ability to stop the run. Smith lacks the natural strength to hold up against the run. He needs to ensure he gains inside hands and maintains leverage to have a chance to hold at the point of attack.

    Smith currently holds a third-round grade and could rise a little with a strong performance at the combine.

Melvin White, Cornerback, Louisiana-Lafayette

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    Projected Round: Early fourth round

    A defender's aggressiveness and tenacity play a major role in his potential. Louisiana-Lafayette's Melvin White is a real competitor who’s always looking to make a play on the football.

    He’s a physical defensive back who loves to support the run and deliver big hits. His excellent technique as a tackler makes him a very reliable player. Because of his ability to support the run and his good size, White is a candidate to make a transition to safety.

    However, he does boast the fluidity and quickness needed to excel in coverage. His physical play helps him succeed as a bump-and-run defender. White also shows a feel for developing routes and how to read the quarterback.

    An all-around talent like White should come off the board no later than the fourth round.

Kerwynn Williams, Running Back, Utah State

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    Projected Round: Fourth round

    It's easy to notice the explosiveness of Utah State's Kerwynn Williams. He possesses the quick-twitch ability to shoot through open holes and score from anywhere on the field. That speed is what will make Williams a popular middle-round prospect.

    A bright offensive mind will be able to make good use of Williams. His ability to outpace defenders and pick up big chunks of yardage gives him the potential to be a difference maker. However, some holes in his game will keep Williams from being an every-down back.

    Despite his solid frame, Williams doesn't consistently break tackles. This makes running between the tackles a difficult task. He also struggles in pass protection, which limits his usefulness in third-down situations.

    These holes are why it'll take a specific package to get the most out of Williams' explosiveness. He brings added value in the return game, as he's a dangerous kick returner.

Terron Armstead, Offensive Tackle, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

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    Projected Round: Fifth round

    The value of athletic offensive linemen means that Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Terron Armstead will gain some attention on draft day.

    Armstead isn't a finished product and needs a lot of work before he can contribute. However, he features substantial upside as someone capable of developing into a starting left tackle. It's his fluid movements, quick feet and overall athleticism that make him intriguing.

    The key to Armstead's development is the superior coaching he'll receive in the NFL. Offensive line coaches just love having a prospect they can mold into a star. This is exactly what teams will see with Armstead.

Zac Dysert, Quarterback, Miami (Ohio)

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    Projected Round: Fifth round

    Zac Dysert, out of Miami (Ohio), is a strong-armed quarterback who'll get plenty of attention in the later part of the draft. He's the type of prospect teams will bring in with the hope of developing into a starter. The issue is that Dysert is a few years away from being able to fill that role.

    His biggest issues are his decision making, dealing with pressure and questionable accuracy. These are all problems that can be fixed over time. However, it's important that he lands on a team with a good quarterbacks coach. That coach also needs to be willing to put the time in to help Dysert improve.

    He'd be a great fit for a team like the Green Bay Packers or New York Giants. Both of those teams have issues at the backup quarterback spot and established starters. Dysert would really benefit from learning behind a player like Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning.

Vance McDonald, Tight End, Rice

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    Projected Round: Fifth round

    Rice’s Vance McDonald is one of those tight end prospects who doesn't get a lot of attention but finds a way to develop into a contributor. Throughout his college career, McDonald was mainly used in the slot and split out wide.

    Teams looking at McDonald must understand that this isn’t a tight end that’ll help as a blocker. He’s solely a pass-catching tight end. McDonald does a great job finding the openings in the zone and providing the quarterback a big target.

    He shows the ability to drop his pad level and go up and make the tough catch in traffic. His toughness and effort also allow him to pick up yards after the catch. McDonald will represent good value around the sixth round.

    The main reason he'll last this long is because he lacks versatility.