Green Bay Packers: 10 Small-School Draft Prospects They May Be Interested in

Ian HanleyCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2011

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mychal Kendricks #30 of the California Golden Bears returns a fumble for 45 yards against Taiwan Jones #22 of the Eastern Washington Eagles at Memorial Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

It seems as though Ted Thompson is able to find a small school gem in almost every draft class.

In 2005, Thompson drafted Nick Collins out of Bethune-Cookman, in 2006 his second round pick was Greg Jennings out of Western Michigan, and in 2010, Thompson signed Frank Zombo as an unrestricted free agent out of Central Michigan.
There have been a few duds along the way, offensive tackle Allen Barbre out of Missouri Southern never paned out, nor did center Junius Coston out of North Carolina A&T.
If a team's scouts do their homework, they can often find some very talented players at small schools, often much later in the draft than a player from a big school with the same skill set.

The obvious disadvantage small school prospects have is that they have spent their college career playing against inferior competition, thus making it much more difficult to determine how their skills will translate to the NFL.
Here is a look at ten small school prospects that the Packers may have the eyes on this April.


Benjamin Ijalana, G/OT, Villanova

Height: 6'4" Weight: 318 lbs
Ijalana is one of the most highly touted small school prospects, and is currently projected as a late first or second round pick. Ijalana started at left tackle his entire college career, but will most likely be moved to guard or right tackle in the NFL. 
Unfortunately, a sports hernia kept him from performing in the Senior Bowl which would of been one of the only times he faced off against NFL caliber competition, so all NFL scouts have to go on is game film against lower level competition, something that some teams may deem too risky for a early round draft pick.

However, Ijalana's size, strength, durability and 36" arms should make him quite appealing to many teams looking to fill a need along the offensive line.


Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington

Height: 6'1" Weight: 200 lbs
A former cornerback, Jones has an upright running style similar to that of current Packers running back James Starks, but Jones has an explosiveness in the open field that no current Packers running back can match. 

And aside from running the ball, Jones is also a skilled kick returner who averaged 23.6 yard per carry during his college career.

Unfortunately, also much like Starks, Jones has a fairly extensive injury history, missing time with a broken leg in 2008, and a broken bone in his foot cost him time this season. The broken foot also prevented Jones from working out at the combine, but he hopes to be able to fully healed in time for his Pro Day on March 31st.


Brandon Fusco, C, Slippery Rock

Height: 6'4" Weight: 316 lbs
The first player from Slippery Rock to earn an invitation to the scouting combine, Fusco started all four years at center for Division II Slippery Rock and received the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award in 2010.

Fusco plays with the kind of nasty streak that the Packers look for in their offensive linemen.
The Packers may be looking for someone with a little more experience at guard to give them some flexibility along the offensive line, but if they are looking for the eventual replacement for the 30-year-old Scott Wells, Fusco could be an excellent choice in the mid rounds.


Cedric Thornton, DE/DT, Southern Arkansas

Height: 6'3" Weight: 309 lbs
Although Thorton's production dropped off considerably from 2009 when he registered 8.5 sacks and was chosen as a first team All-American, he still became the first player in Southern Arkansas history to get an invite to the Senior Bowl.

Thorton measured 6'3" at the combine, two inches shorter than the 6'5" he was listed at in college which may make him slightly less appealing to some 3-4 teams who look for taller defensive ends, but Thorton would fit right in with the Packers defensive ends who are all 6'3" or shorter.


Edmund Gates, WR, Abilene Christian

Height: 6'0" Weight: 189 lbs
Gates put up impressive numbers his senior year, catching 13 touchdown passes and accumulating over 1100 receiving yards. 

Gates helped his draft stock at the combine by running a 4.35 40-yard dash, the fastest among the wide receivers at the combine.
There are questions about how Gates will fare against top flight NFL corners, and his route running is still a bit raw, but his speed and natural athleticism should get him some looks in the third or fourth round of this years draft.


Cecil Shorts III, WR, Mount Union

Height: 6'0" Weight: 200 lbs
Shorts does not have the blazing straight line speed of Edmund Gates, but he is elusive with the ball in his hands and is quite versatile.

Aside from being a incredibly productive receiver, gaining over 1,000 yards in each of his last three seasons, Shorts also contributed in the running game and on punt and kick returns.
Like any small school prospect there are concerns over Shorts' skills being able to translate to the NFL, but if Mount Union's last pro prospect, the Indianapolis Colts Pierre Garcon, is any indication, The Packers could get a steal in the fourth or fifth round.


Justin Rogers, CB/KR, Richmond

Height: 5'11" Weight: 182 lbs
Rodgers was selected first team All-CAA as a cornerback in each of the last three seasons and notched 12 interceptions over that time. Rodgers also handled kick and punt return duties at Richmond, and became the CAA's all-time leader in kick return yardage.

Rodgers ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine, proving he has the speed to compete in the NFL, but at just 180 pounds, he may have to put on some weight to compete with physical NFL receivers.


Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

Height: 6'5" Weight: 346 lbs
A massive 6'5" and 346 pounds, Ellis can take on multiple offensive linemen and still be disruptive at the point of attack. Ellis was named first team All-MEAC his senior year and notched 94 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, and two sacks.
Ellis has the talent to anchor a 3-4 defense for years to come, but there are some character concerns with Ellis. He transferred from South Carolina in 2008 due to a suspension for violating team policy, and was also suspended a game in 2010.
The Packers already have a potential Pro Bowl nose tackle in B.J. Raji, but if Ellis fell to the fourth or fifth round, would his talent be too much for the Packers to pass up?


Will Rackley, G/OT, Lehigh

Height: 6'3" Weight: 309 lbs
A three time All-Patriot league first team selection, Rackley is another college tackle who will probably have to move to guard in the NFL.  Rackley is not a great athlete, but he is durable and very strong, putting up 29 reps on the bench press at the combine.
Rackley played well at the East-West Shrine game at both guard and right tackle, but unfortunately, due to a hip flexor injury, Rackley did not perform in drills at the combine, so his March 17th Pro Day may go a long way in determine his NFL future.


Cheta Ozougwu, DE/OLB, Rice

Height: 6'2" Weight: 247 lbs
An undersized defensive end in college, Ozougwu is projected as a late round pick and may need to make the switch to outside linebacker if he hopes to make an NFL roster. Ozougwu had a solid college career and made first team Conference USA his senior season. 
Ozougwu has enough pass rush ability to make a NFL roster, but there are questions on whether or not he has the athleticism to play at OLB.

The question the Packers would have to ask themselves, is if Ozougwu would be an upgrade over Eric Walden, Brad Jones or Frank Zombo?


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