The 2010 NFL draft is deep at several positions, most notably defensive tackle. In each different position there are a number of small-school prospects likely to be drafted as early as the third round all the way to undrafted free agent status.
So what dictates a player who’s labeled as one who hails from a small-school? That’s up to one’s interpretation from the obvious such as division; D-I or D-II, or as subjective as your interpretation based on a school’s familiarity or reputation in athletics.
For this list, I’ve included several fast-rising prospects and others from schools known for sports besides football.
On film, Smith appeared to dominate, but it was against weaker competition.
His quickness and explosiveness stood out the most, but I’m not sure his strength to tie up one or two offensive lineman is conducive to Smith excelling in the middle for a 3-4, or possibly even a 4-3 defense.
The Berlin, Germany-born lineman could develop into part of a defensive end rotation in the NFL.
Notable Louisiana Tech NFL Alumni: Terry Bradshaw and Willie Roaf
His decision to forego his senior year is probably more of a result of Pirates head coach Skip Holtz deciding to take the open job at the University of South Florida.
His height is an asset and liability. Joseph can easily disrupt passing lanes, but linemen can use it against him as they easily gain leverage once they can sink their hands underneath his shoulder pads.
Despite his impressive size, his body still isn’t used to the 50 pounds he dropped early in his career for East Carolina. Because of that, Joseph’s conditioning means his immediate future projects to more as a role player than a back to back three-series lineman.
Projection: Early Fifth
Notable East Carolina NFL Alumni: Running backs Earnest Byner and Chris Johnson
Born in Ghana, Owusu-Ansah is one of the more intriguing prospects from a definite “small-school.”
He’s already the top player ever to come from the Crimson Hawks football program. Owusu-Ansah can double as a punt or kick returner with speed in the upper 4.4 range.
Notable Indiana-PA NFL Alumni: Former coach and player Jim Haslett
The Patriot League (I-AA) quarterback did as much as any player at the combine to improve his draft status as anyone else.
Skelton finished as one of the top performers in several of the tests in Indianapolis.
Owning one of the stronger arms in the last few drafts, combined with his size and athleticism, have scouts attention who are looking to use a Friday pick on a quarterback.
The biggest issue with Skelton is his poor accuracy. While he was able to hide it to some extent playing in a less talented division, it will be a serious issue in the NFL.
Notable Fordham NFL Alumni: It doesn’t get much bigger than Vince Lombardi, who played Guard for the Fordham Rams football team.
He’s one of the more highly-acclaimed athletes to ever come out of the Murray State Racers athletic department. Lane was named as Defensive Player of the Year in the Ohio Valley Conference during his final season.
Lane’s quickness and size are the keys to his game but coaches and scouts will want to see him improve his strength.
Projection: Early Third
Notable Murray State NFL Alumni: Perhaps Lane will be among the first. However, the “Racers” have been coached by several recognizable names in college football such as Frank Beemer, Ralph Friedgen, Mike Gottfried (currently with ESPN) and Houston Nutt.
This year’s Harlon Hill Award Winner, D-II version of the Heisman, also ranks in the Top 10 members in both yards from scrimmage and scoring—in the history of the NCAA.
Bell is a shifty running back who uses a combination of speed, power and balance to run over—or by—defenders. He’s recorded an astonishing 59 touchdowns the last three seasons at this Detroit university and has what it takes to be an every-down back.
Prediction: Early Fourth
Notable Wayne State NFL Alumni: None
One of the key players for Coach Frank Solich’s surprisingly competitive 2009 team was this tough, speedy (4.39) receiver.
Price was a primary reason the Bobcats finished second overall in the MAC, only behind Top 25 team Central Michigan University.
Price made major strides during the Senior Bowl, quite likely because of the upgrade in skill of the quarterback throwing him the ball.
Projection: Late Second
Notable Ohio University NFL Alumni: Mike Mitchell—I know, I know he’s not a household name, but the Oakland Raiders 2009 second-round pick (47th overall) is about as noteworthy of a Bobcats prospect as there is.
The Haitian-born lineman was a 2009 AP FCS First-Team All American. He stood out in practices during the week leading up to the Senior Bowl with his unique size and strength.
Ducasse is classified as a late-bloomer category of player since he didn’t start playing football until he was in high school, yet he’s started for the Minutemen three of his four years on the team.
Projection: Late Second
Notable Massachusetts NFL Alumni: New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum
Carrington passes the eyeball test with more conviction than the majority of prospects in the 2010 NFL draft. He looks like he can line up at almost any position on the field.
He’s a seriously muscled-up prospect with all of the physical tools to succeed and provide first-round value if everything aligns for him.
Somebody at his size capable of running in the 4.7 range is beyond impressive.
Notable Arkansas State Alumni: Well, I know it’s a reach but since I’m partial to the Detroit Lions, I’ll go with newly acquired defensive tackle Corey Williams.
Tucked away in the western part of Michigan is tiny Hillsdale College—home of D-II All-American offensive lineman Jared Veldheer.
Veldheer was barely recruited but he’s making a name for himself for his atypical combination of size, speed, and footwork.
He confirmed as much placing in the top three among all linemen at the NFL combine in late March.
Those who know the towering prospect all talk about how dedicated and passionate he is about constantly improving as a player. Veldheer’s one of the most intriguing small-school prospects in this class.
Prediction: Late Second
Notable Hillsdale College NFL Alumni: Tom Heckert, Cleveland Browns GM