2019 NFL Draft: The 13 small school prospects who could make a Darius Leonard level impact in the NFL

Last year, the first prospect drafted outside the FBS was ... Darius Leonard from South Carolina State, a school that plays in the MEAC. 

The Colts snagged him with the 36th overall selection. Leonard went on to lead the NFL in solo and combined tackles, and he took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Leonard represented extraordinarily well for football players outside the FBS.

Here are the 13 small-school prospects you certainly need to know in this draft class. 

Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware 

Despite not testing in Indianapolis, Adderley leaves the combine as the most hyped small-school prospect in this class. Just under 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, Adderley has good NFL safety size and his game is prided on twitchy movements to go along with above-average long speed, a combination that gives him outstanding range from center field. 

He had five picks in 2017 and snagged four more interceptions in 2018 to go along with 87 tackles and seven pass breakups. At times, his speed to the football leaves him out of control when he tries to break down to bring the ball-carrier to the turf, but teams should be intrigued by his athleticism and instincts. 

Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois

Saunders burst onto the scene in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, as he finished the week as arguably the most dominant defensive lineman in attendance. At just under 6-1 and 324 pounds, the Western Illinois star has a nose tackle body but rare athleticism for his size. Obviously blessed with a low center of gravity that leads to serious power, Saunders also routinely wins with his first step and sustained speed through the line of scrimmage. 

He's an above-average hand-work defender too. There are times he plays high, and therefore easily blocked. As a rotational interior lineman, or if he works on his conditioning, Saunders can be one of the best value picks on the defensive side of the ball in the draft. He had 25 tackles for loss and 14 sacks the past two seasons.

Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

Howard played quarterback in high school and got to Alabama State ready to play tight end. It didn't take long for him to make the switch to offensive line, and he locked down his position ever since. 

While a lack of anchoring power was evident at the Senior Bowl, Howard has vice grips for hands, meaning counter moves rarely impact him on the field. At 6-5 and 322 pounds with 34-inch arms and a 5.05 time in the 40-yard dash, Howard clearly has NFL tackle size, length, and linear athleticism. 

Ashton Dulin, WR, Malone 

All Dulin did at Division II Malone was account for a combined 60.9% of the team's receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, a market share figure that places him in the 99th percentile among receivers at the combine over the past 20 years. Also a track star at Malone, Dulin proved in Indianapolis he wasn't just fast relative to the level of competition he played against in college. 

At the combine, the nearly 6-2, 215-pound burner ran 4.43 and had a 38-inch vertical. While most of his film is him catching 50-plus yard receiving touchdowns, there are some impressive high-point grabs in the red zone too. Dulin is a monstrous sleeper in this loaded receiver class.

Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls

Pipkins is someone definitely on the Day 3 radar after his outstanding performance at the combine last week. At over 6-6 and 309 pounds with 33 7/8-inch arms, the Sioux Falls star didn't have a drill below the 77th percentile at the tackle position. That's including the 40, vertical, broad, or three-cone drill. 

He needs to get stronger in the pros, and the speed in his kick slide will be significantly tested at the next level, but Pipkins proved to be an above-average athlete for the tackle position and could start his career as a swing tackle.

Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis

At 6-2 and 211 pounds, Doss has traditional size for a spot on the perimeter. He was insanely productive at UC-Davis with at least 115 receptions and over 1,300 yards in each of the past two seasons, although his market share of receiving yards wasn't super high at just under 32%.

Doss is solid but unspectacular across the board. He runs good routes, is willing and able to make high degree of difficulty catches outside his frame, and has enough speed to stretch the field on occasion. 

John Cominsky, EDGE, Charleston

Cominsky has enjoyed a meteoric rise from total obscurity to the NFL combine in just a few months. And his time at the Senior Bowl likely helped his cause. While he wasn't super-impactful in the game, his length and power were on full display during the week of practices. 

At just over 6-5 and 284 pounds, Cominsky crushed his combine workout last week with 40 times of 4.69 (90th percentile among defensive linemen over the past 20 years), and a 7.03 three-cone time that placed him in the 93rd percentile at his position. At the NFL level, Cominsky needs to develop pass-rushing moves, but he can play inside or on the edge and use his size and athletic traits to his advantage.

Jazz Ferguson, WR, Northwestern State

Yet another size and speed specimen in this class, the almost 6-5, 227-pounder from Northwestern State -- who started his career at LSU -- ran 4.45 and had a 37-inch vertical leap, which indicate a huge catch radius. His three-cone time in Indy wasn't shocking for someone his size (7.25, 7th percentile), but Ferguson shows decent agility on film in some instances. 

He plays to his size too, often physically overwhelming corners and safeties at the catch point. In 2018, Ferguson accounted for 36.1% of Northwestern State's receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, a solid figure. 

Darryl Johnson, EDGE, North Carolina A&T

The 6-6, 253-pound edge rusher with 33-inch arms has serious NFL size, and he has room to grow into his frame. On the field, Johnson is a springy, bendy defender who flashes high-level pass-rushing moves. 

He loaded the stat sheet in 2018 with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Adding weight and power will be the two biggest priorities of the early portions of his pro career. With a strong pro day, Johnson could land on Day 2. He didn't work out at the combine.

Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn

In 46 games for the Ichabods, Ballentine registered 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and five interceptions. He's a fascinating prospect because he has borderline outside cornerback size at 5-11 and 196 pounds but nickel corner athletic traits. 

Ballentine ran 4.47, had a 39.5-inch vertical and a 135-inch broad jump, the latter number placed him in the 98th percentile at his position among combine participants over the past 20 years. He also clocked a three-cone drill under the 7.00-second threshold. He provides return ability too. Don't be stunned when Ballentine lands in the third or fourth round.

Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona

Butler is one of the seemingly countless big-bodied pass catchers in this class, standing at just over 6-3 and 217 pounds with gigantic 10 1/8-inch hands, which show up on film a lot. 

He effortlessly makes circus grabs in traffic because he knows he doesn't always have to go up and get it with both hands. Butler accounted for a rather large 42.9% of Northern Arizona's receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2018. While he didn't run the 40 at the combine, he did have a good 36-inch vertical. Butler's a Day 3 dark horse I can envision ultimately outplaying his draft position.

Oli Udoh, OT, Elon

Udoh took the methodical approach to winning the pre-draft process, starting in the East-West Shrine Game before getting the call up to the Senior Bowl the following week. His play dipped a bit against stiffer competition in Mobile, but it led to a combine invite. 

At over 6-5 and 323 pounds with 35 5/8-inch arms -- enormously long for any human being -- Udoh has developmental project written all over him. He tested relatively well in Indianapolis. A 5.05 time in the 40-yard dash is really moving for an offensive lineman his size.

Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State

Over 6-0 and 201 pounds, Brown is a speedy outside cornerback with impressive explosiveness and a nice collegiate resume. In his career at South Dakota State, Brown snagged eight interceptions and knocked away 27 passes. 

I noticed some stiffness on film, but size and acceleration help him close on the football in run support or when he's trying to get his hands on the football. He ran 4.51 and had a 39.5-inch vertical at the combine. 

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