Small school players NFL teams shouldn't overlook at this year's draft

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NFL Draft

As the NFL Draft quickly approaches, most eyes are focused on the top players coming out. Certainly landing a top prospect can produce instant results in crucial positions the following season. However, overlooking those that will land in the late round or undrafted can be a major mistake. There are some diamonds in the rough that can turn into starting players or at least solid contributors down the road. Here are the top sleepers coming out this season.


Devlin Hodges - quarterback (Samford)
Hodges excelled in his career at Samford and in a relatively weak quarterback class this year, is one that should be seriously considered. He was the top offensive player last year in the FCS throwing for 4283 yards and 32 touchdowns, while completing 70 percent of his passes. In addition, Samford rushed for 313 yards and eight touchdowns.


In four seasons at Samford, Hodges threw for 14584 yards and 111 touchdowns and added 1017 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. While those numbers are stellar, it was against mainly FCS competition. How did he fare against FBS competition? The sample size is small, but in three games (against Mississippi State in 2016, Georgia in 2017 and Florida State in 2018), Hodges completed 107-of-164 passes for 1170 yards, 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The touchdown-to-interception ratio wasn't stellar, but his overall numbers were impressive playing with FCS talent offense around him against some of the top defenses in the country.


Keep an eye on Hodges. He could clearly by the steal in the draft.


Davion Davis - wide receiver (Sam Houston State)


Davis missed the last two games this past season with a lower leg inury, but excelled during his career at Sam Houston State. Head coach K.C. Keeler put in good words for Davis, indicating that Davis has been one of the best receivers ever in the conference and believes he has the talent to play in the NFL.


Davis had 40 receptions as a freshman and 56 as a sophomore before bursting out in 2017, hauling in 78 for 1206 yards and 17 touchdowns. A knack for the end zone, Davis found the end zone 40 times on 226 receptions for an excellent 5.65 reception-to-touchdown ratio.


Although Davis has only average size at 6' , 185 pounds and didn't take part in any of the major All-Star games, he clearly is a receive that teams should consider in the later rounds. He will be able to help an NFL team down the road.


Bruce Anderson - running back (North Dakota State)


Although an injury cost Anderson an invite to the NFL Combine, he has displayed all the physical attributes that scouts love in a receiver. He has speed, good vision, power and enough athleticism to play at the NFL level. However there are questions about how leg will respond following the injury.


Anderson ran the ball only 124 times last season but gained 924 yards for a robust 7.5 per carry. He averaged 5.2 yards on 234 carries in 2017 with 12 touchdowns. Anderson showed he can be a threat out of the back field as well in the passing game, scoring seven times on 32 career receptions.


Every season there are a considerable amount of running backs drafted, which should increase Anderson's chances of getting a shot, perhaps in the middle rounds.


Emmanuel Butler - wide receiver (Northern Arizona)


A talented receiver who has been hampered with injuries, Butler missed nearly the entire 2017 season and part of last season. He caught 35 passes for 676 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. Prior to the injuries, Butler was extremely impressive, hauling in a combined 133 passes for 2211 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.


Butler displays excellent size at 6' 4" and 220 pounds and has fared well against FBS competition. Not a burner, he has enough burst to get open and can dominate with his size and strength on balls in traffic.


It would be a surprise if a team doesn't take a chance on Butler in the later rounds.


Dom Bragalone - running back (Lehigh)


The biggest problem with Bragalone isn't his talent, it's the fact that there is very little film of him against top competition. However if someone gives him a chance, Bragalone could surprise.


Bragalone did not have a stellar senior year, mainly due to the fact that Lehigh was behind most games and had to throw the ball excessively. However, Bragalone rushed for 32 touchdown and 2559 yards over 2016 and 2017. He finished his collegiate career with 4324 yards and 46 touchdowns.


He is Lehigh's all-time leading rusher, having passed Rabih Abdullah, who played in the NFL for several seasons, mainly on special teams. At 5' 11" and 230 pounds, Bragalone has a low center of gravity and is a tough runner. He may be worth a look late or as an undrafted free agent.

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