Only 254 prospects will hear their names called on draft weekend and with more and more underclassmen entering the NFL early, the number of draft slots dwindles for college football seniors. However, almost every FBS-level football program will have at least one prospect who will sign a free agent contract or receive a tryout.
Everyone knows about the nation's top pro prospects, but below is a team-by-team look at one prospect from each program who probably won't be drafted, but there is a good chance their professional dream isn't over. Based on my evaluations, and those of evaluators around the league, these players might be overlooked on draft weekend, but have a good chance to possibly make a NFL roster as an undrafted free agent.
Monday, Part One (A-M)
Tuesday, Part Two (N-Z)
(Programs are listed in alphabetical order)
LB Austin Niklas (6-2, 230, 4.93)
After waiting his turn on special teams, Niklas became a starter at inside linebacker in 2012 and led the team in tackles (128), including a career-best 17 stops against Army.
RB Quentin Hines (5-11, 194, 4.40)
After three years at Cincinnati and a quick stop at Murray State, Hines ended up at Akron for his senior year and was a little-used back-up, but averaged 6.5 yards per carry.
K Jeremy Shelley (5-10, 173, 4.83)
The only kicker to make this list, Shelley shared time in 2012 with Cade Foster, but was perfect on his point-after attempts (69-for-69) and field goals (11-for-11).
FB Taimi Tutogi (6-1, 246, 5.07)
Although he struggled to find a place in Rich Rodriguez's spread, read-option offense, Tutogi is a strongly-built runner who has the hands to help out as a pass-catcher.
CB Deveron Carr (6-0, 187, 4.36)
While his technique and awareness need work, Carr has the speed and height for the position to match up well against NFL-level wide receivers.
FS Ross Rasner (6-0, 207, 4.61)
Although he looks lost in man coverage and when left alone in space, Rasner has strong hands to secure tackles and could make a living coming downhill on special teams.
WR Josh Jarboe (6-2, 196, 4.50)
Once a highly-coveted high school recruit, Jarboe has attended four colleges over the past five years due to off-field issues, starting his career at Oklahoma. Nonetheless, the talent is there.
QB/WR Trent Steelman (5-11, 199, 4.63)
A college quarterback who will need to try to make his living as a pass-catcher, Steelman won't wow athletically, but he is a gutsy, resilient football player.
LB/SS Daren Bates (5-11, 210, 4.53)
An active tackler, Bates has tweener traits that leave him without an ideal position at the next level, but he has the skills to make a living covering special teams.
DT Brandon Newman (6-0, 318, 5.37)
After spending four seasons at Notre Dame, Newman transferred to Ball State for his final season of eligibility and started at NG in 2012, finishing with 30 tackles.
DT Nick Johnson (6-1, 303, 5.31)
A big-bodied lineman, Johnson isn't the type of interior player who will penetrate the pocket, but he can occupy multiple blocks and drop in space when needed.
DT Michael Atkinson (6-0, 314, 4.98)
Built low to the ground, Atkinson was able to win with leverage, power and relentlessness before an ACL injury and surgery ended his 2012 season in November.
WR Colin Larmond (6-2, 203, 4.54)
After leading the team in receiving in 2011 with 34 catches for 528 yards, Larmond finished 2012 with just three catches because he was stuck in the coaches' doghouse.
LB Dwayne Woods (5-11, 221, 4.68)
Despite less-than-ideal measureables, Woods has a nose for the football and finished his senior season second on the team in tackles (68) and tackles for loss (8.5).
DE Steven Means (6-4, 257, 4.68)
Although not an elite speed rusher, Means makes up for it with very good awareness and range to make plays away from the line of scrimmage against the run.
OT Braden Brown (6-5, 310, 5.20)
Recruited as a tight end out of high school, Brown moved to the offensive line as a freshman and started the past three seasons at right tackle, flashing workable NFL tools.
DT Aaron Tipoti (6-2, 283, 5.28)
Utilized as an undersized nose in Cal's 3-4 scheme, Tipoti doesn't have ideal NFL measurables, but his tank is always full, using his lack of size to his advantage.
S Jahleel Addae (5-10, 195, 4.65)
A former running back, Addae moved to the defensive side of the ball and became a three-year starter for the Chippewas and one the MAC's top defenders.
DE Dan Giordano (6-3, 260, 4.95)
A regular in the weight room, Giordano has athletic limitations, but plays with infectious energy and a relentless style of football that NFL coaches will love.
DB Xavier Brewer (5-10, 192, 4.54)
Although he has experience at both cornerback and safety, Brewer is a bit of a tweener prospect, but he does remind scouts of Browns' Johnson Bademosi, who caught on as a UDFA last year.
LB Jon Major (6-2, 234, 4.80)
Arriving at Colorado as a hyped in-state four-star recruit, Major struggled to get going after several knee injuries, but he brings experience at “SAM” and “MIKE” linebacker spots.
CB Momo Thomas (5-9, 186, 4.56)
Although he's usually the smallest player on the field with only average speed, Thomas plays bigger than he looks with fluid hips and short area quickness to stick with receivers.
TE John Delahunt (6-3, 248, 4.93)
Used as a versatile H-back at UConn, Delahunt wasn't super productive (18 catches in 2012), but he was a valuable complimentary option opposite Ryan Griffin.
S Walt Canty (6-0, 218, 4.57)
Not only did he lead the team in tackles as a senior, but Canty was also the team's leader, playing with the discipline and instincts that will endear him to NFL coaches.
DT Michael Brooks (6-2, 294, 4.99)
Despite average production, Brooks has an intriguing blend of size, strength and speed for the position and plays with the determination to get better and win.
DE/OLB Andy Mulumba (6-3, 260, 4.80)
A hybrid pass rusher with experience in both two and three point stance, Mulumba doesn't have great burst or speed, but he shows good awareness vs. the run with some upside.
RB Jeremiah Harden (5-7, 195, 4.67)
Although he lacks NFL size or speed, Harden is built low to the ground with the short-area burst to elude defenders and determination to get everything he can as a ballcarrier.
WR Omarious Hines (6-0, 215, 4.50)
A RB/WR tweener (20 carries, 23 catches in 2012), Hines has good build and speed and looks natural with the ball in his hands, often standing out on special teams.
QB Graham Wilbert (6-4, 210, 4.96)
After throwing double the amount of interceptions than touchdowns in 2011, Wilbert showed considerable improvement as a senior with 18 touchdowns, 2,814 yards and just six interceptions.
FB Lonnie Pryor (5-11, 227, 4.64)
Despite finishing just fourth on the team in rushing last season with 376 yards, Pryor was second on the Seminoles with eight rushing scores in 2012, rushing with angry energy.
LB Tristan Okpalaugo (6-5, 245, 4.74)
A hybrid DE/OLB pass rusher, Okpalaugo needs to spend more time in the weight room and get stronger for the NFL, but he plays intense and aggressively brings it off the edge.
MLB Christian Robinson (6-2, 233, 4.92)
After starting 11 games in 2010, Robinson was passed on the depth chart with only six starts the past two seasons, but he has the short-area quickness to possibly give a team some depth.
RB Orwin Smith (6-0, 201, 4.56)
Lining up as the “A” back in Georgia Tech's option offense, Smith finished 2012 third on the team in rushing (682 yards), but led the team in rushing average (8.6) and could make a pro roster.
DE Paipai Falemalu (6-3, 241, 4.65)
A hybrid rusher with tweener size and strength, Falemalu has a limited arsenal of pass rush moves, but he has good bend and motor off the edge.
OG Jacolby Ashworth (6-3, 305, 5.22)
After starting his career at left tackle, Ashworth moved inside to right guard (39 career starts) and was selected as a First Team All-CUSA honoree following the 2012 season.
FS Gary Walker (5-11, 190, 4.53)
A rangy athlete, Walker finished second on the team in tackles as a junior in 2011 before leading the way as a senior in 2012 with 99 total stops.
DB Patrick Nixon-Youman (5-9, 175, 4.67)
Once a top recruit, Nixon-Youman spurned offers from Florida and LSU to attend Illinois and although his college career was a disappointment, he has some NFL traits.
C Will Matte (6-2, 288, 5.42)
Although it went mostly overlooked at a struggling Indiana program, Matte matched a school-record for linemen with 45 career starts and didn't allow a sack in 972 snaps.
C James Ferentz (6-1, 289, 5.08)
The son of the head coach, Ferentz lacks ideal size or strength to consistently hold the point in the NFL, but in the right offense, he has the mobility and toughness to survive.
DT Jake McDonough (6-5, 305, 5.30)
A tall, long interior player, McDonough will struggle with leverage and needs to improve his snap anticipation, but he's extremely active and tough to handle 1-on-1, could fit as a 5-technique end.
WR Daymond Patterson (5-8, 177, 4.45)
Although he's a smaller target and will be out-muscled easily, Patterson is a reliable target with enough speed and toughness to make something happen after the catch.
CB Allen Chapman (5-11, 184, 4.50)
A JUCO-transfer, Chapman saw increased playing time in 2011 before becoming a full-time starter as a senior in 2012, tying for the team lead with five interceptions.
LB C.J. Malauulu (6-0, 223, 4.80)
Despite very average size, strength and speed, Malauulu plays fast and aggressive, attacking the run downhill, but needs to be more consistent as a tackler.
DE Collins Ukwu (6-5, 260, 4.87)
The production is uninspiring (3.0 sacks in 2012, only 7.0 in his career), but Uwku has the frame and long arms that are ideal for the position and a team might view him as a lump of clay.
DT Cordian Hagans (6-5, 280, 4.98)
After two seasons at LSU as an offensive lineman, Hagans transferred to Lafayette and moved to defensive tackle, collecting 10.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks the past two seasons.
WR Brent Leonard (6-1, 196, 4.58)
He doesn't look like much and is a one-speed athlete, but Leonard is smart, understands how to sell routes and was the safety valve of the offense as a possession receiver.
OG Kevin Saia (6-3, 306, 5.28)
Although he doesn't stand out in any one area, Saia consistently showed acute awareness and the ability to block on the move in Louisiana Tech's motion offense.
OT Alex Kupper (6-3, 300, 5.34)
A former walk-on, Kupper was quietly one of the most consistent offensive linemen in the nation this past year, seeing time over his career at both left tackle and center.
OL Josh Dworaczyk (6-6, 300, 5.42)
After missing the 2011 season due to a knee injury, Dworacyzk, who has experience at tackle and guard, played better than expected at LT in 2012 after Chris Faulk was hurt.
WR Antavious Wilson (6-1, 198, 4.70)
After a very inconsistent junior season, Wilson bounced back well in 2012, finishing with better production than his more highly-rated teammate, Aaron Dobson.
WR Kevin Dorsey (6-1, 207, 4.47)
Dorsey's 2012 production (18 catches) was a casualty of Maryland's quarterback woes, but he flashed NFL size, speed and playmaking ability to possibly make a roster in camp.
OL Stephane Milhim (6-4, 314, 5.14)
A college left tackle, Milhim needs to develop his anchor to stay balanced through contact, but is an intriguing athlete with the tools to earn NFL playing time down the road.
OT Jordan Devey (6-6, 317, 5.24)
Despite some weaknesses that hurt his NFL value, his versatility will help him land on a pro team, playing every snap the past two years at various positions, mostly at left tackle.
DT Darius Smith (6-2, 334, 5.61)
Arriving at Miami as a highly-coveted JUCO recruit, Smith never quit made the impact most expected, but only so many human beings on the planet are built like him.
LB/S Pat Hinkel (6-0, 204, 4.69)
An undersized college linebacker who projects best at safety, Hinkel is limited due to his physical limitations, but he plays with excellent instincts and always looks for the big hit.
S Jordan Kovacs (5-11, 205, 4.62)
A former walk-on, Kovacs doesn't have the speed or athleticism to hold up at safety in the NFL, but his intelligence and experience will make him a tough player to cut in camp.
OG Chris McDonald (6-4, 300, 5.00)
Despite average athletic tools, McDonald, who started the last 29 consecutive games at right guard, was a large reason for Le'Veon Bell's success on the ground.
WR Anthony Amos (5-10, 184, 4.65)
Amos played two seasons at the JUCO level before walking on at Middle Tennessee where he worked his way onto the playing field and had a breakout senior year with 72 grabs.
CB Troy Stoudermire (5-10, 199, 4.52)
While he might not have the speed or fluidity to survive at cornerback in the NFL, Stoudermire does hold the NCAA-record for kickoff return yards (3,615).
DT Gilbert Pena (6-3, 330, 5.47)
A large human being, Pena has limited range and isn't as strong as he looks, but was a substantial reason for Mississippi's improved run defense in 2012.
WR Chris Smith (6-1, 202, 4.68)
Although overshadowed by Chad Bumphis, Smith was able to improve his production each season and is a reliable pass catcher with a well-built frame.
RB Kendial Lawrence (5-9, 194, 4.33)
His marginal size is largely the reason why he's gone unnoticed during the predraft process, but Lawrence has the speed and burst to possibly contribute as a NFL change-of-pace back.