If a prospect is talented enough to play in the National Football League, NFL scouts will find them.
It doesn’t matter which school they play for or at what level. As long as they play at a high level and have the measurables and skill set that translate to the professional ranks, there’s a good chance scouts will appear at their games.
Scouts from all 32 NFL teams attend numerous major college football games during the year, and have assignments at various small schools as well.
It’s at the small schools where diamonds in the rough are discovered, and in next year’s draft, there will be a number of small-school prospects that will be attractive to teams.
Here are 10 small-school prospects (ranked in order) that will appear high on teams’ draft boards.
A former Florida standout, who has first-round talent, Janoris Jenkins transferred to North Alabama (Division-II) during the offseason due to off-the-field issues.
As talented as any other cornerback in the nation, the 5’10”, 185-pound Jenkins was eligible to play immediately rather than sit out a year by transferring to North Alabama, as opposed to if he decided to attend a Division-I program.
Many projected Jenkins to dominate the Division-II sector with his exceptional talent, and through three games he’s played physical, opportunistic football on defense, recording 17 tackles and returning a fumble for a touchdown.
He’s also made an impact on special teams returning punts, and scored an 87-yard touchdown in his second game against Glenville State.
With a productive year on the field, and if he behaves off the field, Jenkins will be an intriguing name to watch during the draft process.
If he’s able to convince NFL personnel that he’s changed his ways and has matured, Jenkins will receive late first-round consideration, but will most likely be selected in the second round.
When you turn on the tape of Trumaine Johnson, the athleticism and playmaking ability is evident.
He’s an exciting prospect who possesses a tremendous frame at 6’2”, 205 pounds and displays the instincts scouts look for when they observe defensive backs.
However, technically he’s still raw, and when his timed speed is analyzed this offseason, he could be a candidate to move to free safety.
Entering the 2011 season, Johnson had amassed an impressive 13 career interceptions. Through three games this season, Johnson is not being tested as much and has yet to collect an interception, but he’s played physical, contributing 17 tackles, 2.5 which were for a loss.
The versatility that Johnson has as a prospect could elevate his stock into day two of the draft and possibly make him a mid-to-late third-round draft pick.
Renard Williams isn’t as well known as he should be, mainly because he plays at the FCS level. But within scouting circles, the 6’1”, 300-pound trench terror has put an exclamation point on his draft stock after two years of dominant play.
As a sophomore during the 2009 season, Williams, who played in all 12 games, starting seven of them, recorded 35 tackles, 16 for a loss and 9.5 sacks.
And last season, he was equally effective as he generated 54 tackles, 16 for a loss and 6.5 sacks as a starter in all 15 games.
Through three games this season, Williams has gotten off to a slow start recording just eight tackles.
There are a few concerns about Williams as a prospect: the competition he’s faced, his size and motor.
But, he’s a proven penetrator who can get after the quarterback, and in what’s expected to be a lackluster defensive tackle draft class, Williams could benefit. Some scouts have a third-round grade on him.
There’s no denying that Amini Silatolu has the size, strength and upside to be drafted, but it’s all about him being in the right system with the right coaches who can improve his mobility and technique for him to develop into a professional player.
A preseason Division II first-team All-American, the 6’3”, 325-pound Silatolu is in his third year as a starter at Midwestern State and has primarily played left tackle.
But, while he’s experienced in handling pass rushers off the edge, his skill set and footwork are best suited to play guard at the next level.
Silatolu could receive mid-round attention next April.
At 6’5”, 220 pounds, Brian Quick is a raw athlete who is still developing his body, as well as his game at the wide receiver position, but has the potential to be a big play threat at the next level.
Entering his third year as a starter, Quick has worked hard to improve his route-running and pass-catching, and has become a consistent playmaker for the Mountaineers.
In 2010, he caught 47 passes for 844 yards and nine touchdowns, and, this season, he’s on his way to having a breakout year, as he’s hauled in 19 receptions for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
The 2012 draft class is deep at the wide receiver position, but if Quick continues to produce and showcases a respectable 40-time this offseason, he’ll likely be a 3rd-4th round selection.
Ryan Steed is a solid all-around defender, who has gained a tremendous amount of experience during his career at Furman.
He has good ball and cover skills, and possesses the instincts to disrupt the action in coverage and at the line of scrimmage.
Steed, who stands at a respectable 5’11, 190 pounds, has been steady over the last two years, accumulating 124 tackles and eight interceptions.
In 2010, Steed displayed his playmaking ability and returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns.
So far this season, Steed has yet to collect an interception, but that will change in the coming weeks.
Steed’s draft stock will only increase during the offseason when he works out for NFL teams, and he could climb into the third-round region.
Asa Jackson is a special athlete who can impact a game defensively and on special teams. Coming from a program in Cal Poly that’s produced NFL talent over the last decade, Jackson appears to be the next in line to hear his name called on draft day.
The 5’10", 188-pound Jackson recorded 55 tackles, a sack and two interceptions last season, and also did a good job returning punts for the Mustangs.
This season, Jackson has been tremendous.
He’s currently second on the team in tackles with 20, and this past weekend against South Dakota State, he returned his first interception of the season for a 100-yard touchdown.
It’s that type of ability that will get Jackson noticed, and this offseason, he could become the fourth Mustangs player since 2005 to be drafted in the third-round.
Once a upon a time, Coleman was a highly touted University of Tennessee recruit, but decided to leave the program after his freshman year due to the depth chart at quarterback and concerns over playing time.
The 6’3, 220-pound Coleman quickly surfaced at Tennessee-Chattanooga and immediately became the starter. He had a breakout junior campaign in 2010, where he completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,996 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
In three games this season, Coleman has displayed improved accuracy and has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 747 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
He isn’t an athletic signal caller and must continue to improve his footwork, but he has the physical tools that will entice NFL scouts as a mid-to-late round prospect.
A former JUCO transfer, Mike Harris arrived at Murray State in 2010 and quickly made his presence felt.
Playing in just nine games (seven starts), Harris rushed for 904 yards on 139 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
Harris is off to a strong start this year for the Racers and has carried the ball 52 times for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
At 5’10”, 198 pounds, Harris has a strong, compact build, is a tough runner between the tackles and is deceptively quick on the perimeter.
But he isn’t expected to time well in the 40, and that could hurt his draft stock heading into next April.
Aaron Corp’s name likely resonates with most college football fans.
Early in his collegiate career, he was hyped as being the next star quarterback at USC when Mark Sanchez declared for the draft, but the recruitment and emergence of Matt Barkley pushed an injured Corp to a backup role and ultimately to Division I-AA Richmond.
At 6’3”, 205 pounds, Corp has the ability to be a quality starter, but durability and inconsistency are major concerns.
In his first year at Richmond, Corp started just five games after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He finished the year completing just 54.5 percent of his passes for 645 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Finally healthy, Corp has regained the starting job at Richmond this season and has been decent through three games, completing 56.8 percent of his passes for 649 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
He still has to work on his awareness and footwork, but as he gets comfortable and confident with his health, he should continue to progress.
Corp could garner late-round consideration next April.
Chris Steuber is the NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. In addition to his role with Bleacher Report, Steuber serves as Director of Player Personnel for the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League. He’s previously served as NFL Draft Analyst for Scout.com and Fox Sports, as well as NFLDraftScout.com in conjunction with CBS Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSteuber.