First Look: Top 10 Division II NFL Draft Prospects
With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, the football world inevitably turns its attention to the NFL Draft. Yes, it's that time of year again where we can count on day-long, team-by-team, division-by-division, conference-by-conference breakdowns of every conceivable draft selection in every possible combination of sequences.
For the players from NCAA Division II institutions, the world is a little less black and white.
Selecting a player's draft position when they come from D-II is as much (or more) an art form as it is an analysis.
For starters, the "top players" in college football are typically skill-position players: quarterbacks, running backs, etc. The problem for the D-II standouts is the long line of D-I talent they are stuck behind on the various teams' draft boards.
Many years, the top D-II draft selectee is a lineman or defensive back, and are usually selected to fill gaps in rosters. That's not to say that some D-II prospects haven't turned out to be huge assets to their new teams, and a number have had great success in the NFL: Harlon Hill from the University of North Alabama and Gene Upshaw from Texas A&M-Kingsville to name a couple.
There are around 50 current NFL players who hail from the ranks of Division II, including Bloomsburg's Jahri Evans, starting right guard for the Super Bowl champion Saints, Grand Valley State's Brandon Carr, starting corner for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Texas A&M-Kingsville's Roberto Garza, center for the Chicago Bears. And there are many others.
So, without further delay, here are the top ten Division II prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft.
10. Billy Cundiff - QB - Ashland University
This 6'2", 214 pound transfer from Connecticut was a 2009 honorable mention All-American and second team All-GLIAC quarterback for an Ashland team that never quite lived up to expectations during his tenure.
In 2009, he was 199-305 passing with 2,653 yards with 24 touchdowns and one interception. This is a step back from his 2008 campaign, which saw him earn GLIAC Player of the Year honors along with AFCA All-American honors with nearly 3,800 yards passing.
He could stand to add a little size for the NFL, but he's a solid prospect for development. The fact that he was a DI-A recruit will also increase his stock. He has great accuracy, and decent arm strength.
Look for Cundiff to be signed as a free agent within a day or two following the draft as teams begin to fill out their practice rosters.
9. Trevor Harris - QB - Edinboro
A 6'2" quarterback who threw for just over 3,300 yards in his senior season, Harris showed great accuracy in his senior season going 269-402 passing for 3304 yards, 24 TD's, and eight interceptions. He also added 370 rushing yards in 2009.
Harris was PSAC Offensive Player of the Year twice in 2007 and 2008, along with being PSAC Rookie of the Year in 2006.
Harris' biggest strength is his ability to throw very accurately on the fly. His ability to find open receivers while scrambling is almost unmatched.
However, like Cundiff, Harris is a little undersized for an NFL quarterback. He does have potential to be a solid quarterback at the next level if he can add some bulk to his 6'2", 210 frame.
Harris will probably be another free agent signing soon after the completion of the draft, but he may sneak into the late seventh round.
8. A.J. Jackson - WR - California University (PA)
This 6'5", 237-pound All-American wide out from Cal racked up 1,424 yards on 101 catches and 18 TD's in 15 games in 2009.
Jackson is JUCO transfer from Sequoia JC where he was a JUCO Player of the Year in 2007 and two-time All-PSAC player in 2008 and 2009.
Jackson pretty much fits the NFL's model for a wide receiver. He's big and strong, but lacks consistency that NFL scouts like to see.
I believe it was his football awareness (or lack thereof) that kept him from being a potential Harlon Hill-winning WR (or more likely a D-I player's). Dropped passes combined with mediocre route-running and defense reading held Jackson back from a stellar career in Division II.
Jackson is also not particularly fast, and doesn't have great acceleration. His future rests on his NFL workouts. If those don't go well, he will go undrafted.
However, if he performs better than expected, he could be a seventh rounder.
I'm willing to bet that he'll be prepared.
7. Nick McDonald - OT - Grand Valley State
A 6'4", 322-pound offensive lineman from GVSU, McDonald is, quite frankly, big and strong.
A consensus All-American, All-GLIAC, Offensive Lineman of the Year, McDonald moved to the LT position in 2009. He was second team All-GLIAC at RG in 2008.
McDonald is a big, strong guy with a big, strong football brain. He's played guard and O-tackle, as well a numerous special teams roles.
He was unmatched in Division II his senior year, and his versatility is exactly what NFL teams look for in late round, non-D-I players.
McDonald is probably a seventh rounder, or possibly a draft-day free agent.
6. Sam Scott - LB - West Chester
This 6'3" All-PSAC linebacker had 62 tackles (17 TFL), 7.5 sacks, one interception, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and two blocks in his senior season at West Chester.
Scott was defensive MVP at the Cactus Bowl in his senior season. He was the West Chester defensive star in 2009, and the only thing I see holding him back at this point is his 4.8 speed. If he can improve that number, he'll be a seventh round pick.
Even without much speed improvement, I still see him as a free agent as he has great potential should his speed improve.
5. Junior Galette - LB - Stillman
A second team All-American in 2009, this 6'1", 244-pound All-SIAC linebacker had 56 tackles (17.5 TFL), 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a block in nine games during his senior season.
Galette was dismissed from Temple after the 2008 season, and transferred to Stillman. He was dismissed for undisclosed violations of team rules, but reports stated that the coaching staff was unhappy with Galette's commitment to the team.
He had 46 tackles (10 TFL), 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in his junior year at Temple. Even so, Galette was Temple's most talented pass-rusher.
His draft position could be determined almost exclusively by the team doing the drafting.
At 6'1", 244, his position could change depending on the team that drafts him.
In today's NFL, the signing team will also take a peek at Galette's personal changes from his Temple days: playing in the NFL is all about commitment.
A seventh round selection for Galette is probably in the cards.
4. Tony Washington - OT - Abilene Christian
This two-time All-American, All-LSC, Offensive Lineman of the Year (2008 and 2009 for all three awards) transfer from Trinity Valley College led the O-line for ACU in 2008 and 2009.
He did give up a number of sacks as a senior, and did not attend either the Cactus Bowl or Texas vs. The Nation game after his senior year because of off-field issues.
Washington was probably a mid-round prospect, but NFL teams really tend to shy away from players with legal problems these days. Still, if he has a decent combine performance or a stellar workout with a team, he could go as early as perhaps the fifth round.
Because of his (legal) question marks, Washington gets my widest spread in the 2010 draft projections, as I put him in the fifth round all the way down to undrafted free agent.
3. Jared Veldheer - OT - Hillsdale College
Veldheer is a massive 6'8", 315-pound LT that I've had the pleasure of seeing play three times.
An All-American in 2009, Veldheer was All-GLIAC in 2009 and 2008, a second team AA in 2008, and a second team All-GLIAC in 2007.
Veldheer also started at RT during his freshman year at Hillsdale.
Veldheer is not only massive, but surprisingly agile for an O-tackle. His only weakness is his untamed abilities.
He probably has the most raw potential of any D-II line prospects, and could move into the mid-rounds with good performances in workouts.
Veldheer will probably go in the fifth or six rounds, or possibly fourth if he has a stellar spring.
2. Joique Bell - RB - Wayne State University (MI)
Bell is the 2009 Harlon Hill winner, All-American, All-GLIAC, Player of the Year.
He racked up 2,084 yards on 326 carries (an amazing 6.4 yard average), and 29 touchdowns. He also added 293 receiving yards on 23 receptions with three TDs, and managed one passing touchdown (3-5 passing for 94 yards).
He was All-GLIAC in 2008 with 1,152 rushing yards, 226 receiving yards, and 45 passing yards. Bell was an All-GLIAC, Back of the Year, All-American Honorable Mention in 2007 with 1,427 rushing yards, 230 receiving yards, 88 PR yards, and 78 KR yards in 2007.
His 2006 red-shirt freshman year saw him earn All-American and All-GLIAC Rookie of the Year honors with 2,065 rushing yards, 169 receiving yards, and 40 passing yards.
Bell is one of the best skill-position players to come out of Division II in some time. A potential Big Ten recruit out of high school, many of those schools backed away from Bell after a very poor showing on his SATs.
Bell chose Wayne State, and it probably worked out better for him in the long run. Bell's speed is listed at 4.55 in the 40, but if he can improve on that, he could go as early as the fourth round.
Bell's only drawback is that his motor only has one gear. He lacks the ability to find an extra burst of speed that a lot of NFL teams covet. He has also had some problems against shifty and swarming defenses.
He was D-II's only player in the 2010 Senior Bowl.
Plus, he has great numbers, and at 5'11", 223 pounds, he's pretty much a lock for a draft spot. Where that spot will be will depend totally on his 40-time from the spring workouts. If Bell can improve his 40-times, look for him to go in the fourth or fifth round.
If his speeds stay the same however, his stock will drop and he'll go in the sixth.
1. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah - CB - Indiana University of Pennsylvania
This 6'1" corner from IUP is my top pick for the 2010 draft.
This All-American had 27 tackles (1.5 TFL), two interceptions, and four passes broken up in 2009. He had eight INTs with 14 tackles as a second team All-American in '08.
Owusu-Ansah is very athletic and has the ability to make impact plays, especially on special teams, where he had five touchdowns in 2009: KR: 16 for 475 yards, averaging 29.7 with a long of 89 and two TDs; PR:22 for 275, averaging 12.5 with a long of 70 and three TDs.
He was also second on his team in all-purpose yards, behind the starting RB - quite a feat for a cornerback.
He did have shoulder surgery in the fall of 2009, but expects to participate in the combine. Should he perform well and check-out medically, I would expect him to be the first Division II player drafted in 2010 and go in the fourth round.