2011 NFL Draft Prospects: 20 Players Who Will Be On the Rise
The 2011 NFL Draft sleepers can be found at schools big or small. As we've experienced with James Harrison and Wes Welker, some of the best prospects can even go undrafted.
So what does it take as a sleeper to change your draft stock after your season is over?
If you want to be a 2011 NFL Draft riser, there are several key times where you need to put on a show.
For senior prospects, All-Star games like the Senior Bowl (Jan. 29), Shrine Game (Jan. 22), or NFLPA/Texas versus the Nation (Feb. 5) are huge. It's not just the game but the entire week of practice that counts, because the stadium is full of NFL coaches and scouts all week.
The biggest event is the 2011 NFL Pre-Draft Combine running from Feb. 23 through March 1. This is where teams get to interview top prospects, check their health and put them through drills like the much-hyped 40.
After the combine comes pro days. Due to hand timing and hand-picked conditions, players will usually test better at their pro days than they did the combine. You can really help your stock here, though. Remember the buzz after Tim Tebow unleashed his new throwing motion at the 2010 Florida pro day?
Here are 20 prospects who will use the next few months to boost their 2011 NFL Draft stock.
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20. Greg Lloyd, LB, UConn
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Size: 6'2", 259 lbs
Breakdown: Son of NFL great with the same name, Greg Lloyd might not be his father, but he is a very good NFL prospect. Lloyd has struggled with injuries throughout his career. When healthy, he is a physical, run-stuffing linebacker. As an inside linebacker, he might be limited to two downs in the 3-4 scheme and he hasn't shown great pass-rusher skills.
When He'll Rise: UConn pro day. Two years ago, pro day was huge for the Huskies draft prospects (four selected). Plenty of teams will be showing up to watch the talent, including junior back Jordan Todman, giving Lloyd a chance to steal the show. He will also be in the Shrine Game.
19. Edmund Gates, WR, Abilene Christian
Size: 6'1", 190 lbs
Breakdown: Following the footsteps of a handful of NFL players, including Johnny Knox, Edmund Gates is Abilene Christian's next draft prospect. He is a complete receiver with good speed who grabbed 66 balls for 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. The biggest question is if Gates can go from Division II to the NFL with the talent gap.
When He'll Rise: If Gates is invited to a prospect bowl, that will be his first chance to show scouts what he can do against big Division I talent. If the invite doesn't come, Gates will have to blaze his 40 and kill drills at the combine.
18. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
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Size: 6'4", 340 lbs
Breakdown: A Penn State transfer in 2008, Phil Taylor has the size teams love in a DT prospect. Taylor can hold the nose in the 3-4, but he is more active than most at the position. Against Illinois, Taylor was a part of 10 tackles. Taylor does carry some red flags from his Penn State days that will need to be addressed.
When He'll Rise: Taylor needs to be invited to the Senior Bowl so he can battle the elite interior linemen who have been invited. If for some reason he doesn't get invited to a bowl, his size and stregnth will wow scouts at the combine.
17. Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois
Size: 6'0", 190 lbs
Breakdown: A four-year starter, Korey Lindsey has been super-productive at SIU. As a sophomore and junior, he recorded six interceptions, which scared teams away from him in 2010. No great physical tools, but the skills are there.
When He'll Rise: Another small-school prospect who should get invited to a postseason bowl.
16. Dontay Moch, LB, Nevada
Size: 6'1", 245 lbs
Breakdown: Maybe the most slept on 3-4 outside linebacker prospect at this point in the draft, Dontay Moch has been bringing the QB down for four years at Nevada, racking up 30 sacks. He has played both LB and DE and has nine forced fumbles during his career.
When He'll Rise: The Shrine Game will showcase Moch, but all it should take is for scouts to pop the tape in. He has the potential to go sub 4.6 on his 40 at the combine as well.
15. Weslye Saunders, TE, South Carolina
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Size: 6'5", 270 lbs
Breakdown: Suspended for the 2010 season, Weslye Saunders has some explaining to do. The one question he doesn't need to address is talent. The huge target has great hands and he moves much better than expected for a man his size. He needs to dedicate himself as a blocker.
When He'll Rise: The combine. The questions will get answered and Saunders can show everyone what type of shape he is in after a year of training.
14. Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma St.
Size: 5'8", 200 lbs
Breakdown: Racked up 4,181 rushing yards over his career. He suffered an ankle injury in 2009 that caused him to miss six games but he bounced back to equal his 2008 numbers in 2010. Doesn't have height, but that's not a bad thing.
When He'll Rise: A better inside runner than he's getting credit for, Hunter just needs to pound the rock during his bowl week. He will need to have a 4.5 or below 40 at the combine to continue rising.
13. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Size: 6'2", 235
Breakdown: Like his brother, people didn't want to make him a serious NFL Draft prospect, but it hasn't stopped Casey Matthews. He has a great motor, still needs to add some size, but overall can be an effective linebacker in any scheme.
When He'll Rise: From 2009 to 2010, Matthews made a 5.5-inch improvement on his vert, foreshadowing that he will be ready to have a mind-blowing combine.
12. Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union
Size: 6'0", 190 lbs
Breakdown: Killer production: Shorts scored 22 total TDs this season, doing a bit of everything for Mount Union's offense and special teams this season. He is a Division-III prospect, though, so the talent he faced is questionable.
When He'll Rise: Shorts has already been invited to the Shrine Game, where he can show his potential against NFL-caliber players. Next is the combine, another event he has already been invited to.
11. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Size: 6'5", 280 lbs
Breakdown: Great athlete for a tackle. He still needs to add some bulk, but he has a great frame that can easily take on another 20-to-30 pounds.
When He'll Rise: Smith could have a more-impressive combine than Bruce Campbell last season.
10. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
Size: 6'4", 220 lbs
Breakdown: Another Penn State transfer on the list. Devlin doesn't have the same size or arm that Joe Flacco did, but he meets prototypical NFL starter requirements for both categories. Had 22 TDs and only three INTs this season.
When He'll Rise: Had a great chance to raise his stock in the DI-AA Finals against Eastern Washington, but Devlin couldn't get anything going in the second half. Now he will use the Shrine Game to take his stock to the next level.
9. Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
Size: 6'4", 335 lbs
Breakdown: Transferred from South Carolina where he racked up several red flags. Ellis has a very physical and emotional style of play that you don't always get out of players his size. Isn't the most technical player, but his physical tools are overwhelming.
When He'll Rise: If he doesn't get into a bowl, the combine is where Ellis will shoot down red flags and impress scouts with his size and strength.
8. DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Size: 6'6", 239 lbs
Breakdown: Brown battled injuries this season, which limited him to 305 yards and three scores on 20 catches. He also missed time in 2009, which prevented him from hitting his freshman numbers of 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. There are a lot of question marks here but none about his on-field potential.
When He'll Rise: At the combine. Scouts may debate if he is a WR or more of a TE, but as long as he runs a competitive 40, teams will be drooling.
7. Matt Szczur, WR, Villanova
Size: 5'11", 190 lbs
Breakdown: The do-it-all athlete for Villanova. Not only does Szczur play several positions on the football field well, but he is also a serious MLB prospect. Szczur has committed to football over baseball.
When He'll Rise: At the Senior Bowl. It might not be the game, but more so in practice when the coaches can see just how talented this kid is.
6. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple
Size: 6'5", 300 lbs
Breakdown: Temple has a very talented defensive line, the leader being Muhammad Wilkerson. He is a good fit for either scheme but is especially attractive in the 3-4 because he can play DT or DE in the scheme.
When He'll Rise: The combine is where Wilkerson will get buzz. His versatility on the tape will move him up draft boards.
5. Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy
Size: 5'9", 183 lbs
Breakdown: Another small school prospect, but Troy has done a very good job of preparing players for the NFL. Jernigan is a pure burner who could post the best WR 40 time at the combine. He is also ready to return punts in the NFL.
When He'll Rise: He will start to wow scouts with his speed and skills at the Senior Bowl, but the combine, specifically the 40, is where he he could lock down a second round pick.
4. Benjamin Ijalana, OL, Villanova
Size: 6'4", 320 lbs
Breakdown: Elite tackle at the DI-AA level, but most think Ijalana is best-suited as a guard in the NFL. Somewhat of a similar prospect to Vlad Ducasse in that respect, but he is less of a physical specimen and more refined as a player.
When He'll Rise: At the Senior Bowl, Ijalana will go head-to-head with the top ends and tackles in the draft. A strong performance will solidify his floor in the second round.
3. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Size: 5'8", 180 lbs
Breakdown: We've seen smaller guys have plenty of success in the NFL so his height shouldn't be a concern. Devine doesn't have the body of a Ray Rice or MJD, so he will need to be an elite receiving back to carve our his niche. Caught 91 balls in his last three years at WV, yards per carry was down this year to 4.5 after breaking six the past two seasons.
When He'll Rise: At the Senior Bowl. If Devine can have a receiving week like Dexter McCluster did last year, it will blow-up his stock. His 40 time at the combine is important too.
2. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.
Size: 6'1", 311
Breakdown: Already a legit first-round prospect, Paea is trying to become one of the first three interior DL prospects to come off of the board. He can play nose in the 3-4 because of his incredible strength and can penetrate the gaps in a 4-3 scheme.
When He'll Rise: Combine. Benched 44 reps. Watch the video.
1. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Size: 6'4", 244 lbs
Breakdown: Following the 2008 season, Herzlich was an elite outside linebacker prospect. After a bout with Ewing's Sarcoma and a rehabbed senior season, his stock is currently in the third-round range. A complete backer, I see a lot of Mike Vrabel here because of his size and ball skills.
When He'll Rise: A postseason bowl would help for sure, but the combine and pro day will be bigger for Herzlich. Teams want to see where his strength is, what his muscle mass looks like and how he's recovered from 2010's injuries. Still, he has first round potential if he can answer all the questions.