2011 NFL Draft: Top 10 Small-College Players To Watch for on Day Two
Thursday's first round of the 2011 NFL Draft proved that speculation means nothing when chaos and utter insanity take over.
The opening round was a bonanza for college football's big boys, as all 32 picks came from BCS schools.
While today's second and third rounds will continue the theme, savvy general managers will dip into the pool of small colleges, which is filled with potential steals.
Following is a list of 10 FCS players who should keep their phones handy this evening.
10. Buster Skrine, CB, UT-Chattanooga
The 5'10, 186-pound Skrine was a three-year starter at UT-C and put himself on the radar screen with his 4.37 time in the 40 during the school's pro day. He was once clocked at 4.22, and Skrine has shown he will not shy away from contact.
Skrine also offers the bonus of being an outstanding return specialist, but he remains a work in progress.
He probably will get picked later on Saturday, but Skrine does have enough upside to be considered by a team willing to roll the dice on him earlier.
9. Cedric Thornton, DT, Southern Arkansas
The 6'4, 299-pounder caught the eyes of scouts during the Senior Bowl by not backing down against top-tier talent.
Had 35.5 tackles for loss in the last two years and could be a late third-round selection.
8. Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
The former running back emerged as an outstanding lockdown corner, earning second-team All-WAC last season and then climbed the draft charts after an impressive showing at both the Senior Bowl and combine (4.42 time in 40, 37-inch vertical jump).
Marsh (6'0, 194) has ideal size for the position, but is still a work in process. His intriguing upside will entice a team to take a third-round flier on him.
7. Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
At 6'6, 249, Housler plays like a wide receiver and has 4.45 speed to prove it. He's a sure-handed target with a staggering 80-inch wingspan that allows him to reel in passes with ease.
Housler lacks the blocking skills to make him an immediate starter, but his athleticism makes him an intriguing prospect in the middle to late third round.
6. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Mount Union
Three seasons after the Colts picked Pierre Garcon, NFL scouts again flocked to Mount Union to peek out Shorts, who pulled in 144 passes and scored 35 touchdowns in his final two years of college ball.
He stood out at the combine but raised his stock further when he ran 4.50 on a rain-slick field last month.
Shorts began his collegiate career as a quarterback, so his versatility and open-field moves make him an Antwaan Randle-El type.
A team like the Patriots, which value do-all types, could be a good fit for him in the third round.
5. Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
The former South Carolina recruit dominated the MEAC over the last two years, earning all-FCS honors, but the 6'5, 340-pounder has had a series of off-field violations (he was booted from South Carolina for violation of team rules) and was suspended for the 2010 opener.
NFL scouts have drooled over his size, tremendous strength and ability to destroy an opponent's run game.
He must prove that he can translate his small-college success on a bigger stage, but his upside could pay off for a team interested in spending a third-round choice on him.
4. Edmund Gates, WR, Abilene Christian
Gates arrived to ACU on a basketball scholarship, but his cousin, Bengals RB Bernard Scott, led him to the gridiron, where he caught 66 passes and 13 touchdowns last season.
At 25, he is one of the oldest players in the draft, but he caught the attention of scouts when he ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the combine.
His speed will be his calling card, one that could be enhanced by a QB with a strong arm. Gates is still learning the position and his hands remain inconsistent at times.
Still, there is more than enough on the positive side that could make Gates an early- to mid-third round choice.
3. Will Rackley, OG, Lehigh
The 6'4, 307-pound Rackley will likely move over to guard. He shined in the East-West Shrine game, where he showed his potential by holding his own against top-shelf competition.
He started in 45 of his 46 collegiate games, including the last 40, which showed that Rackley is durable.
Whoever selects Rackley will have to give him some time to adapt to a faster environment than he saw when dominating the Patriot League.
His versatility will translate into a phone call that could happen as early as the latter part of the second round.
2. Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington
As his 40 times suggest, Jones is a very fast man. Whether that translates into success in the NFL or if Jones is a Trung Canidate clone remains to be seen, but scouts see his 4.2-4.3 clockings and see the next Chris Johnson.
Jones ran for 1,742 yards and 14 scores last season, but his 18 fumbles provide a brief pause of concern.
Jones won't succeed running between the tackles, but the 6'0, 194-pounder (who chose not to return for his senior season) has the home-run speed to work his way into the late second round.
He is also a solid receiver out of the backfield and could become a devastating kickoff return specialist.
1. Jerrell Jernigan, WR/KR, Troy
A cross between the Vikings' Percy Harvin and Eagles Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson, Jernigan is an undersized jack of all trades who left Troy as the school's (and Sun Belt Conference's) most prolific all-purpose player with 5,971 yards.
Jernigan will be a slot receiver in the NFL, where his 5'9, 190-pound frame will allow him to work his magic all over the field.
Jernigan is tougher than his size appears and his willingness to move around in a variety of roles (Troy used him as a QB in their version of the Wildcat) has caught the attention of a host of teams, which will culminate in his being selected in the middle of the second round.