Only 256 prospects will hear their name called on draft weekend and with more and more underclassmen entering the NFL early (a record 98 this year), the number of draft slots dwindles for college football seniors. However, 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 FBS 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 decision-makers around the league, these players might not hear their names called 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)
RB Anthony LaCoste (5-10, 202, 4.68)
After starting his career in the defensive secondary, LaCoste moved to the offensive backfield and flashed big play potential, including a 263-yard effort vs. Army.
OT Jarrod Pughsley (6-5, 308, 5.31)
Versatile starting experience at both tackle positions and inside at guard, Pughsley anchored an Akron offensive line that allowed just 2.25 sacks per game this past season.
CB John Fulton (6-0, 195, 4.53)
A back-up most of his career, Fulton has battled a turf toe injury and started the 2013 season opener, but has adequate size, speed and strength (16 reps of 225 pounds).
ILB Jake Fischer (5-10, 220, 5.01)
The team leader in tackles the past two seasons, Fischer lacks ideal size/strength numbers to be a steady NFL contributor, but has the toughness and smarts that will earn him a shot.
OT Evan Finkenberg (6-5, 300 5.27)
A four-year starter, Finkenberg has 44 career starts at left tackle in the Pac-12 and although he lacks the needed fluidity and range, he gets everything out of his skill-set and projects best at guard.
FB Kiero Small (5-8, 244, 4.90)
A bulldozer in the backfield, Small is a tough, powerful blocker with stout muscle packed onto his frame, but he needs to stay healthy to secure a spot at the next level.
RB David Oku (5-9, 199, 4.75)
A transfer from Tennessee, Oku's senior season was derailed by injuries and inconsistency, but he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior with good hands out of the backfield.
WR Patrick Laird (6-3, 222, 4.68)
While the speed and production isn't overly impressive, Laird is an outstanding blocker and understands how to use his size as an outside receiver.
DL Nosa Eguae (6-3, 282, 5.20)
It's easy to overlook Eguae on a defensive front with Dee Ford, Gabe Wright and Carl Lawson, but he was a reliable starter for the Tigers with 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior.
WR Willie Snead (5-11, 195, 4.62)
Keith Wenning's top target, Snead skipped his senior season after his productive junior year, ranking third in the FBS in receiving yards (1,516) in 2013, catching at least five games each game.
OLB Eddie Lackey (5-10, 216, 4.68)
Although he doesn't look the part and his instincts run hot/cold, Lackey is a hard-nosed downhill tackler, taking aggressive angles and striking with violence through his target.
DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (6-3, 303, 5.40)
A 2013 All-MWC First Teamer, Tjong-A-Tjoe, who is a native of Amsterdam, Netherlands, doesn't have impressive workout numbers, but he's extremely active.
QB Chase Rettig (6-2, 215, 4.99)
Although his touch and mechanics are a mess, especially for a four-year starter, Rettig has the size and arm strength needed for the next level and could be a pet project for a coaching staff.
TE Alex Bayer (6-4, 257, 4.78)
Although the senior stats aren't gaudy (27 catches, 2 scores), Bayer is a three-year starter and team captain with better-than-adequate speed for his size and strength.
WR Alex Neutz (6-3, 214, 4.60)
While lacking burning speed, Neutz is a vertical threat deep and has the size to match-up well vs. defensive backs, finishing his 2013 season with 61 catches for 1,024 yards and 12 scores.
TE Kaneakua Friel (6-4, 254, 4.89)
With only 11 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown, Friel wasn't a substantial cog in the BYU offense in 2013, but the mini-flashes he showed were enough to catch the NFL's attention.
RB Brendon Bigelow (5-10, 185, 4.52)
A part-time player at Cal, Bigelow has the short-area quickness and acceleration to be a home run threat, but lacks a natural position and struggled to sustain success in college.
RB Zurlon Tipton (6-0, 223, 4.72)
After 1,492 rushing yards and 19 scores as a junior, Tipton's senior season as cut short due to a broken ankle in the season opener, but he simply produces when healthy.
QB Brendon Kay (6-3, 226, 4.64)
A tall, strong-armed passer, Kay tends to be erratic and it rarely looks pretty, but he has the tools and showed enough improvements to warrant consideration as a developmental option.
RB Roderick McDowell (5-9, 204, 4.70)
After waiting his turn behind Andre Ellington, McDowell stepped into the starting running back role in 2013, finishing with 1,025 rushing yards – easy to overlook due to the offensive firepower on the team.
C Gus Handler (6-3, 295, 5.19)
Despite injuries and a below average offensive supporting cast, Handler has the strength to surprise defenders off the snap and do enough to control them through the whistle.
OLB Shaquil Barrett (6-1, 251, 4.76)
Although he has average physical traits, Barrett makes up for his limitations with his high energy attitude and quick-thinking approach to be a possible nickel rusher in the NFL.
OT Jimmy Bennett (6-8, 305, 5.44)
Despite an injury-riddled career, Bennett has the requisite NFL size and raw tools to think there is something there at the next level.
DE Kenny Anunike (6-4, 260, 4.82)
Duke's sack leader each of the last three seasons, Anunike earned Second Team All-ACC honors in 2013 and has solid workout numbers to attract some attention (23 reps, 1.68 10-yard split).
FS Damon Magazu (5-11, 196, 4.87)
Son of a NFL assistant coach, Magazu has football in his blood and despite average physical tools, he leaves it all out on the field with a high motor and smarts.
FS Mycal Swaim (6-3, 214, 4.49)
With an average collegiate resume, Swaim hasn't really been on the NFL radar, but impressive workouts have garnered attention with 39-inch vertical and 6.97 3-cone drill.
DL Greg Hickman (6-0, 278, 4.99)
Despite tweener size, Hickman has lined up inside and outside on the defensive line and led FIU in sacks as a senior (4.0), adding 9.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
WR Darrin Kitchens (6-2, 230, 4.60)
With only six starts at Florida, Kitchens doesn't have the resume NFL teams want, but he is a rangy, fast linebacker with a good amount of experience on special teams coverage.
CB Keith Reaser (5-11, 189, 4.43)
Reaser is a no-question draft pick if healthy, but after tearing his ACL last fall, he had a setback from surgery and was sent home from the NFL Combine – some team will get a bargain.
DT Demonte McAllister (6-2, 295, 5.13)
Although he didn't have quite the career most thought he would, McAllister was an often used reserve who provided quality snaps whenever he was on the field.
WR Isaiah Burse (5-10, 188, 4.58)
The “other” wide receiver opposite Davante Adams, Burse did the impossible and had a very quiet senior season despite catching 100 passes and finishing with 1,026 receiving yards.
OG Dallas Lee (6-3, 301, 5.18)
While not the most talented blocker on Georgia's offensive line, Lee is a fighter who works through the whistle and has the competitive nature that will endear him to NFL coaches.
WR Albert Wilson (5-9, 200, 4.43)
Wilson was the star at Georgia State in recent years, proving to be both a reliable and playmaking threat, and showed off his athleticism with impressive numbers at the NFL Combine.
RB David Sims (5-11, 235, 4.79)
Georgia Tech's leading rusher in 2013, Sims operated well in the triple-option offense with 11 rush scores and 884 rushing yards, including only one negative yard on 161 carries.
DE Tavita Woodard (6-3, 250, 4.72)
Late bloomer and JUCO-transfer, Woodard started 12 games at defensive end the past two seasons and showed enough as a pass rusher to earn a few NFL looks.
OG DeAnthony Sims (6-3, 347, 5.55)
Houston's starting left tackle, Sims earned Second Team All-Conference and logged 899 snaps with 36 knockdown blocks, projecting him best inside in the NFL.
FB Michael LaGrone (6-2, 263, 4.68)
A hybrid H-back type, LaGrone had only 16 catches as a senior and wasn't an integral part of the passing offense, but he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the run game.
TE Evan Wilson (6-6, 253, 4.86)
With only eight combined catches the last two seasons, Wilson is limited as a reliable pass-catcher, but shows up as a run blocker and as a receiver in the red zone.
TE Ted Bolser (6-6, 248, 4.72)
Bolser was a versatile player for Indiana, lining up in the backfield, inline and flexed out as a receiver with a chip on his shoulder as a blocker – stiffer version of Gary Barnidge.
OG Conor Boffeli (6-4, 298, 5.30)
A late bloomer, Boffeli had just three starts to his name entering his senior season, but started all 13 games at left guard in 2013 and improved with each game.
FS Jacques Washington (6-0, 207, 4.62)
A high school running back, Washington was second in the Big 12 in tackles per game (9.9) this past season and was a three-year starting free safety for the Cyclones.
RB James Sims (5-10, 207, 4.64)
With back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, Sims has a good blend of quickness and power and has been consistently productive without appearing worn down.
LB Tre Walker (6-3, 225, 4.95)
An off-and-on starter the past four seasons, Walker has battled some injuries, but when he's on the field, he plays fast and tough with the competitive leadership needed.
LB Roosevelt Nix (5-11, 248, 4.81)
While he's no Khalil Mack and lacks NFL measureables, Nix is one of the most productive defensive players in MAC history with 65 career tackles for loss and 12 forced fumbles in his career as a hybrid lineman.
DT Donte Rumph (6-2, 337, 5.58)
A three-year SEC starter, Rumph, who is cousins with NFL DE Philip Merling, has added nearly 80 pounds since high school and has some short-area quicks for his size.
LB Justin Anderson (6-2, 235, 4.70)
A First Team All-Sun Belt performer, Anderson averaged over 10 tackles per game as a senior and produced impressive numbers at his pro day (37-inch vertical, 6.89 3-cone drill).
FS Isaiah Newsome (5-11, 203, 4.72)
An All-Conference First Teamer, Newsome had a team-best four interceptions in 2013 with 175 interception return yards, including a pair of scores.
WR D.J. Banks (5-9, 184, 4.58)
A Tulane transfer, Banks lacks ideal NFL size and speed and had only 36 catches and zero touchdowns as a senior, but he has some shake to him and untapped potential.
RB Senorise Perry (6-0, 206, 4.40)
Perry was Louisville's leading rusher through the first six games of 2013 before a torn ACL ended his season, but he was healthy enough to work out for scouts, turning in head-turning numbers.
RB Alfred Blue (6-2, 223, 4.63)
Stuck on a crowded running back depth chart at LSU, Blue played more of a reserve role in college, but has the all-around skill-set to be a reliable option at the next level.
OT Garrett Scott (6-5, 307, 5.07)
Several scouts left Marshall's campus this fall intrigued by Scott, who lined up at left tackle and backed up solid tape with good workout numbers at his pro day.
CB Dexter McDougle (5-10, 196, 4.50)
After an early season shoulder injury, McDougle's college career was over and although he wasn't able to participate in the Combine, he was healthy enough to show off his athleticism at his pro day.
OT Anthony Dima (6-6, 290, 5.23)
A three-year starter at left tackle, Dima looks the part with the strength to hold up in the run game, just needs to tweak a few hiccups in pass protection.
FS Lonnie Ballentine (6-3, 219, 4.42)
Not only does he look the part, but Ballentine backed up his film work with an outstanding pro day, producing a 4.39 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical leap and 18 reps on the bench.
TE Asante Cleveland (6-5, 261, 4.89)
Despite eight starts in 2013, Cleveland was underutilized in Miami's offense as a pass catcher with only three catches as a senior, but he has the tools to possibly stick on a roster.
DT Austin Brown (6-2, 295, 4.97)
After struggling with a back injury in 2012, Brown rebounded with a solid 2013 season and has the workout numbers that will attract some NFL attention.
SS Thomas Gordon (5-10, 213, 4.51)
Michigan's starting strong safety last season, Gordon is a tough, powerful striker, but also has the athleticism the NFL wants, evidence by his 41-inch vertical at his pro day.
WR Bennie Fowler (6-1, 217, 4.52)
Fowler has the size/speed combination that the NFL looks for at the receiver position, but due to inconsistencies catching the ball, he will likely need to catch on through free agency.
OG Josh Walker (6-6, 320, 5.19)
A big reason behind the team's 208 rush yards per game average in 2013, Walker has the workable frame and mentality that will attract NFL attention.
LB Aaron Hill (6-1, 231, 4.74)
A team leader on defense, Hill was productive as a senior with 72 tackles and accounted for six turnovers (two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries).
LB Mike Marry (6-3, 256, 4.96)
The tone-setter of the Ole Miss defense the past few seasons, Marry is a thumper in the run game, but his lack of range limits his role at the next level.
DE Denico Autry (6-5, 273, 5.08)
Built with a NFL starter kit, Autry has the look of a professional pass rusher, but his lack of explosive traits will force him to go the undrafted route to stick on a NFL roster.
RB Henry Josey (5-8, 194, 4.43)
Some thought his football career was over after a 2012 knee injury, but Josey returned in 2013 as a senior and led the Tigers in rushing, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.