Small-school prospects to watch

The National Football Post takes a look at some of the nation’s top small-school prospects who might not be getting much buzz in the media now but could really intrigue on draft day.

QB John Skelton, Fordham (6-5, 244)

I’m not saying Skelton is ready to compete for a starting quarterback job in the NFL from day one, but when you look at the guy’s physical skill set and project where he could be in three years after working with legitimate NFL coaching, he could end up being right up there with the best in the class. And with fewer and fewer quarterbacks now being drafted each year, Skelton is one of the few signal callers in this group who actually warrants a selection because of his starting-caliber skill set. Again, he needs time, but I see much more value attached to Skelton than I do some of the other quarterbacks in this year’s class (Dan LeFevour, Mike Kafka, Sean Canfield), who look like little more than backup-only prospects at the next level.

QB Ryan Perrilloux, Jacksonville State (6-2, 218)

Speaking of quarterbacks with NFL-caliber skill sets, it’s amazing to think just how good Perrilloux could have been if he’d been able to keep his nose clean and develop during his time at LSU. He displays a strong arm, can really spin the football and has the athletic ability to consistently create with his legs. He’s still a work in progress, but you aren’t going to find many signal callers in the draft more physically gifted than him.

RB Joique Bell, Wayne State (5-11, 223)

The first things that pop out at you about Bell are his natural instincts and lateral agility for a back his size. He’s a well-built kid with good thickness through his lower half, and he displays the short-area quickness and vision needed to create on his own and find creases at the line of scrimmage. In my opinion, he was the most impressive back throughout the week of practices at the Senior Bowl and looks like a guy who’s right in the mix in that second tier of running backs in the 2010 class.

WR Chris Bell, Norfolk State (6-2, 210)

From a purely physical and athletic standpoint, this guy has the necessary skill set to mature into a starting-caliber receiver at the next level. He’s a big, well-built wideout who displays good power as a route runner with the body control and coordination to track the football down the field. There are quite a few character concerns attached to his name, but Bell is an intriguing guy to take a flyer on late and see how much develops in his first couple of years in the league.

WR A.J. Jackson, California, Pa. (6-5, 230)

Jackson is a king-sized wideout who possess impressive range when asked to extend his long arms and get the football. Plus, he showcases the body control and physicality needed to consistently high-point throws on all areas of the field. However, he’s more of a strider who plays at one speed and struggles to generate much burst out of his breaks. Nevertheless, I love how physical he can be, not only in the pass game but as a blocker as well. He’s never going to be athletic enough to start for a team on the outside, but his combination of size and overall coordination are enough for him to make his way on to an NFL roster and compete for time in sub package situations.

OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale (6-8, 315)

Veldheer is a physical freak at the position who’s going to run extremely well at this year’s combine and has the athletic skill set to match even the top prospects in the draft. He does have a bit of a learning curve and struggled at times vs. the jump in competition at this year's Texas vs. the Nation game. Overall, however, he’s a gifted kid with long arms, good natural strength for his size and has the upside to play on the left side in the NFL.

OG/OT Ramon Harewood, Morehouse (6-6, 353)

Harewood is former left tackle who will likely need to make the transition inside to guard at the next level. He’s a massive offensive lineman with impressive natural strength, but he just looks too slow-footed to play on the edge in the NFL. Nevertheless, he’s still a raw prospect who has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. Harewood is someone who will need some time to develop, but he could end up paying big dividends down the line.

OT J’Marcus Webb, West Texas A&M (6-7, 335)

Although I’m always leery of former five-star prospects who don’t pan out at big-time programs and are forced to make their way at a lesser level, Webb has the kind of size and overall athleticism that are hard to ignore. There are questions about his character and overall willingness to be great, but he looks like an intriguing late-round pick with considerable upside.

OLB Adrian Tracy, William & Mary (6-3, 248)

A former defensive end who’s been asked to make the move to OLB during postseason all-star games, Tracy has shown very well. He showcases a good initial burst off the edge with the savvy and body control to set up his counter move and get after the passer. He’s another one of those small-school pass rushers with some upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA) (6-1, 205)

Owusu-Ansah is a tall, well-built cornerback who might be better suited to make the transition to free safety. However, the guy is a gifted athlete for his size, has a nose for the game and is really dynamic once he gets his hands on the ball. He’s currently nursing a shoulder injury that cost him some time during the 2009 season, but the skill set is there for this guy to move up draft boards with a couple of solid postseason performances.

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