It is no coincidence that the top-rated player on the list of top non-BCS prospects comes from the same college as the last non-Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.
|Over the past two seasons, Nevada's OLB Dontay Moch has 35 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks. (US Presswire)|
The comparisons between Devlin and Flacco don't end there: both have NFL builds and throwing arms and have the in-pocket mobility to find a passing lane. If Devlin can step up and lead his team deep into the FCS playoffs like Flacco did in his senior year (a championship-game loss to powerhouse Appalachian State), general managers throughout the league might project him to be worthy of a high draft pick.
Several other FCS prospects will warrant consideration in the top 100 in April. Massive yet mobile defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis of Hampton was dismissed from South Carolina before his redshirt sophomore season for multiple violations of team rules. All-American left tackle Benjamin Ijalana reminds scouts of fellow 2009 first-team Colonial Athletic Association pick Vladimir Ducasse from UMass, last year's late second-round pick of the New York Jets. Receiver Cecil Shorts III, from Division III power Mount Union, will also remind scouts of a 2010 prospect -- The Citadel's Andre Roberts, a third-round pick -- because of their similar build, excellent hands, ability to run crisp routes and elude defenders in the open field.
And before eschewing the likelihood of players from smaller FBS programs listed below making an impact on the NFL, consider that former East Carolina running back Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards last year for the Titans, TCU alum RB LaDainian Tomlinson has had a Hall of Fame career and Denver Broncos stud left tackle Ryan Clady learned his trade at Boise State.
Over the past decade, at least 10 seniors from outside the Big Six conferences were selected in the draft's top two rounds. Given the talent listed here (and several other players just on the outside looking in), expect the impact of this group on the 2011 draft class to be as strong as ever.
10. Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina, 5-feet-10, 205 pounds, 4.52 in 40
Harris is an all-purpose threat like Chris Johnson, but he relies more on his elusiveness and tough running style. The former quarterback has a running-back build, receiver's hands (first-team All-Conference USA with 83-978-7 in 2009) and can also excel as a return specialist (three kickoff returns for touchdowns last season).
9. Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple, 6-0, 197, 4.57
The Owls' program is on the rise under coach Al Golden and will have some interesting prospects over the next few years. Jarrett is the best of the senior class. His willingness as a run-stopper and fluid hips in coverage made him a first-team All-MAC pick in 2009 and a versatile prospect with a shot to start at the next level.
8. Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State, 6-3, 201, 4.61
Pettis and Titus Young (6-0, 170, 4.48) form one of the best receiving duos in the country, and could be top-125 selections. Pettis won't run away from a lot of NFL corners, but his 63 receptions for 855 yards and 14 touchdowns last year showed that he doesn't need a lot of room to make plays because of his toughness and exceptional hands. In a league where receivers find it difficult to gain separation from top corners, quarterbacks will appreciate his ability to rein in any pass in his general vicinity.
7. Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho, 6-4, 234, 4.98
Fits perfectly as a late second- or early third-round selection, a good-sized quarterback with moxie and a quick release. Enderle's completion percentage and touchdown-interception ratio have improved in each of his three years as a starter. His arm and mobility are about average, and his footwork in the pocket needs to be tightened. Don't be surprised if he ends up a starter in the NFL.
6. Benjamin Ijalana, OG, Villanova, 6-4, 320, 5.34
He has not missed a start in three years at left tackle, and looks like a man among boys at the FCS level. His athleticism and arm length will likely be his shot at an all-star game to prove himself on the outside, but his build and inexperience against top competition might force teams to start him in the interior, like Ducasse will with the Jets.
5. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Mount Union, 6-0, 190, 4.43
Colts receiver Pierre Garcon has helped boost the stock of his fellow Purple Raider, but Shorts' 1,736 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns (eight rushing) in 2009 would have gotten attention in any case. Though not as strong as Garcon, this Ohio native's combination of straight-line speed and elusiveness is worthy of consideration early in the draft as a potential contributor as a third receiver and return specialist (with the upside to be more in the future).
4. Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton, 6-5, 340, 5.07
Hugely talented (literally), Ellis plays more like a penetrating three-technique (15 tackles for loss in 2009) than the nose tackle many make him out to be, much like former East Carolina tackle and Giants 2010 second-round pick Linval Joseph. That versatility, combined with his freakish size-speed combination, might allow teams to overlook his dismissal from South Carolina.
3. Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada, 6-1, 236, 4.38
His production (35 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, six forced fumbles over the past two seasons) and elite speed have put scouts on notice. Plays with his hand down for the Wolf Pack, but will likely transition to linebacker at the next level because of his speed and lack of bulk. The 2009 WAC Defensive Player of the Year must work on chasing more plays and getting off blocks to avoid being labeled a pass-rush specialist and special teamer.
2. Davon House, CB, New Mexico State, 6-0, 190, 4.46
House (three interceptions, 13 pass breakups) steps into the spotlight in 2010 after sharing first-team All-WAC recognition with New York Jets 2010 first-round pick Kyle Wilson last season. House has the physical attributes teams want in a starting corner, and another season of improvement in the mental aspects of the game could push him into the same general area of the draft in which Wilson was selected.
1. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware, 6-3, 225, 4.82
Devlin is the third-ranked senior signal-caller behind Washington's Jake Locker and Florida State's Christian Ponder entering the season. He lacks the rocket arm and 6-foot-6 frame that shot Flacco into the middle of the first round, but if few underclass quarterbacks come out, a team in need of a passer might give this ex-Nittany Lion a shot in the top 40.
Top underclassmen to watch:
3. Adrian Robinson, OLB, Temple, 6-2, 245, 4.66
2. Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State, 6-4, 215, 4.86
1. Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU, 6-6, 329, 5.14