2014 NFL Draft: Five Small-School Prospects Every Fan Should Know
Every year, small school prospects find their way onto NFL rosters and make an impact.
Whether it is as a starter, key rotational player or a special teams threat, there are multiple under-the-radar players who can step in and fill a void with the right scheme and/or time to develop.
The following is a look at the strengths, weaknesses and potential of five small school prospects. I have watched at least three games on each of these players and have looked at their combine performances as well.
The list is based off of a player’s level of potential (for example, the first player is the prospect with the highest upside).
Dakota Dozier, Offensive Guard, Furman
6’4", 313 pounds
Furman’s Dakota Dozier is one of the most intriguing small school players in this draft class.
Dozier played in various positions on the line, including left guard and right tackle, but he saw most of his time at left tackle. He is versatile, but he lacks the skill set to play on the outside of the line in the NFL. He will benefit from a position change to either guard or center.
Dozier is a powerful blocker in both the running (where he excels the most) and passing games, although he struggles to hold blocks against speedy defensive ends.
He showed solid technique a majority of the time (knees were bent sufficiently) but he did have times where he would bend at the waist, causing him to get off balance.
Another part of Dozier’s technique that needs to be improved is his footwork. In pass protection, he would shuffle his feet instead of kicking back, causing him to get off balance and lose blocks.
He will also need to improve his use of hands. There were multiple times, like in 2012 against Clemson, where Dozier would struggle to reset his hands on pass-rushers.
Overall, Dozier’s athleticism and power will be enough to get him a look towards the end of the second, beginning of the third day of the draft. Most of his issues are coachable, and he is going to benefit from a move inside.
Projected Round: 4
Caraun Reid, Defensive Lineman, Princeton
6’2", 302 pounds
Caraun Reid is a small school prospect whose name has been gaining steam heading to draft day.
Reid exhibits the ability to draw double teams on a consistent basis, which is a trait looked for in a prototypical nose tackle.
While at Princeton, he played nose and also saw time at both defensive end positions in 3-4 base defense.
His quickness off of the ball allows him to shoot gaps quickly, often causing problems for offensive linemen. His 1.68 10-yard split at the combine shows just how explosive he is. The only problem he has with his jump off of the ball is locating the ball-carrier quickly enough to make a stop.
His combination of size and quickness is going to make him an effective 4i technique in a 3-4 defense. He would be best suited in the short-term to be a pass-rushing defensive tackle in the 4-3 (20.5 sacks in college career).
A concern some teams might have with Reid is a pectoral injury that cost him almost the entire 2010 season.
One thing that Reid will need to improve at the next level is his pad level. There were times, specifically in some situations where he was being double-teamed, where he would get stood up and lose most of his leverage. Developing his ability to stay low will be a key in determining just how successful Reid will be as a professional.
Overall, Reid has the potential to be extremely effective in rushing the passer, while working to become a consistent threat to stop the run. As of right now, Reid would be a pass-rushing specialist in a 4-3 base defense, but he has the potential to be an effective starter beyond 2014.
Projected Round: 3
Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
6’2", 226 pounds
Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enters the 2014 NFL draft as one of the most productive players in the nation.
Garoppolo was one of two players to surpass the 5,000-yard mark in 2013 with 5,050 yards. The other player is former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who had the most of any player at the FBS or FCS level with 5,082.
Garoppolo is an intriguing prospect in this year’s draft class. He has the tools to be an effective game manager if given time to develop, which isn’t always a bad thing. Some people think Garoppolo can be a starter immediately, but I think he needs time before developing into an effective game manager or solid backup.
Garoppolo is at his best while making throws within 15 yards. He has a quick release, which allows him to get rid of the ball quickly when he needs to.
He is a good athlete and has shown the ability to escape pressure.
Garoppolo exhibited the ability to drop passes into open receivers' hands, specifically on this third-down touchdown against Northern Illinois.
Although his athleticism allows him to avoid incoming defenders, Garoppolo sometimes senses a pressure that isn’t actually there.
His ball placement, specifically on long passes, is sometimes off. He struggles to hit players in stride and sometimes forces throws into tight or double coverage.
Eastern Illinois’s offense usually required just one read from Garoppolo before making a pass, which sometimes led to telegraphed throws. It will be key to see if he can go through his reads quickly and make the right throws, especially under pressure.
As of right now, Garoppolo is far from a finished product. He will need time to develop into a player that can produce. If drafted by a team with a fast-paced offense, such as the Philadelphia Eagles, he has a ceiling of being an effective passer. Worst case, Garoppolo will be a good backup/sufficient spot starter.
Projected Round: 4-5
Terrance West, Running Back, Towson
5’9", 225 pounds
Towson running back Terrance West is a bruising back who had an extremely productive three-year career while at Towson. He rushed for 4,854 yards and 84 touchdowns in 37 games, including an astounding 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior, all while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
West has the frame at 5’9" and 225 pounds to run between the tackles and make key plays in short yardage opportunities. West is a tough runner who continuously attempts to fight through tackles. Against Eastern Washington, there were multiple times where West would run into a pile of defenders and constantly keep his legs churning in an attempt to gain a few extra inches (for example, see 3:55 mark).
West can also contribute in the passing game as he had 26 receptions for 258 yards and one touchdown in 2013.
Although he was extremely productive in college, he put up good numbers against FCS level competition. The FCS is still full of talented players, but the gap in NFL talent and FCS players is a rather large margin.
There is also a concern about the wear and tear that his excessive amount of carries will have on his body. In three years, West had 802 carries, including 403 his senior season. His 403 rushing attempts led the nation at both the FCS and FBS level.
West will need to work on his blocking technique when he enters the league. There were multiple times where he would simply throw a shoulder in a defender in an attempt to knock him off balance.
West’s speed is also a concern. He didn’t show much of a burst in the open field, which will likely limit him to having just a short yardage role.
His tendency to run with a high pad level and the way he handles the ball (loose, away from his body) while rushing are both things that could move him down draft boards, although they are both coachable issues.
He is a developmental back with the potential to be a situational threat. West’s speed will likely limit him from being a featured back, but the right coaching can help correct his issues with pad level and ball security.
Projected Round: 5
Pierre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood
6’1", 198 pounds
Coming from Division II’s Lindenwood, Pierre Desir is the only non-FCS player on this list.
The first thing that sticks out about Desir is his 6’1” height and 33-inch wingspan. Measurements such as those are a virtual guarantee to get a player a look on a team, whether it is as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent. Desir’s explosive speed (1.52 10-yard split at his workout) are going to pair well with his measurements to give him a shot at being selected in the mid-late rounds.
Desir has been somewhat unheralded because of his level of competition and raw skill set. He is quick to react and seems to do a good job at jumping on telegraphed throws. Desir had four interceptions during his last season at Lindenwood.
A big aspect of his game Desir could stand to improve on is jamming at the line of scrimmage. Whenever lined up in press coverage on the outside of the formation, there were times he would allow the receiver to get on the outside of him, forcing the safeties to account for the receiver downfield. Luckily for Desir, there is a good chance he won’t be asked to handle physical outside receivers at the next level.
Desir doesn’t have a large amount of potential as a key contributor on defense, but his quickness, vision, and loose hips could make him a gunner on special teams, which is one of the more important, yet unappreciated positions in football.
Projected Round: 6