By College Football Analyst Josh Buchanan
Each year there are players the NFL Scouting Combine does not invite who either get drafted and/or find their way on a 53-man or practice roster in the NFL. Occasionally there are even those like Victor Cruz with the New York Giants who become stars. Below are the top 10 players snubbed by the NFL Scouting Combine, with more to watch below it.
- WR Vernon Johnson, Texas A&M Commerce, 5’11, 188, 4.45E
While Johnson may not have great size he can really run and was an explosive big play threat for Commerce. He was a major snub due to the fact that he has had a draftable grade since last fall where he burst onto the scene from junior college. Johnson is quick, has good hands, and is elusive. Strength needs to improve and he could gain some weight but has the tools to be a solid slot receiver and is a solid late round grade. He is a two-time Lonestar Conference Receiver of the Year.
- OG/C Antoine Everett, McNeese State, 6’2, 328, 5.30E
Everett played left tackle for McNeese State and was a three-year starter who earned first-team All-Southland honors for two straight years. Despite his play in the Southland he still went under the radar. I imagine that some have him rated as high as the 5th round but he should at least be a late round pick due to his versatility, intelligence, girth, strength, and ability to drive block. If you don’t know anything about him just cut on the Nebraska tape from 2014 where he stood out. He proved he can play with the big boys and wasn’t just an adequate player but he dominated the Cornhuskers.
- DT Xavier Williams, Northern Iowa, 6’2, 325, 5.15E
In 2013, Williams caught my eye showing he can push the pocket and flashed the ability to dominate games. As a senior, he improved as a pass rusher and seemed to fill out his frame a little more. He moves well at 325 pounds and while he is a little stiff he has shown to be a quality backup in the NFL with a chance to become a starter down the line. He’s the best small school defensive tackle in this draft and while he did not get a combine invite he is someone who certainly was worthy. He was very solid in the East-West Shrine Game. Keep an eye on him in the late rounds or as a very good priority free agent who should make a roster.
- OT Jake Rodgers, Eastern Washington, 6’5, 313, 5.25E
A lot of folks have slept on Rodgers and for good reason. Until the NFLPA Game there was no hint that he was a top rated prospect, on paper, but scouts knew it all along. As a junior when he didn’t fully start he showed flashes of a potential NFL tackle and as a senior he took over as a starter playing both guard and tackle. As a senior he proved to be someone who may not be flashy or wow you but he gets the job done. Rodgers is very quiet and doesn’t wow you but he certainly is reliable and worthy of being picked. If he isn’t picked I expect him to have a similar career to another tackle I liked coming out in Ryan Schroeder, from Valdosta State. Rodgers is the top projected small school tackle in this draft class and should be a late rounder or priority free agent.
- CB De’Ante Saunders, Tennessee State, 5’9, 185, 4.50E
This tiny corner from TSU plays bigger than you expect. He showed out in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl breaking up two passes, proving he can guard big and small receivers. He’s quick, can run in pads, and has very good return ability. While he lacks great length and size he is a versatile player with the ability to break on the ball and has the ball skills to finish the play. He was a 2014 AFCA All-American and should get drafted if he runs well at his pro day.
- WR Darius Davis, Henderson State, 5’11, 212, 4.55E
Davis is one of the biggest deep threats in the country averaging over 21 yards per catch in 2013 and over 22 in 2014. He’s thick and strong with the ability to block, go over the middle, and stretch a short pass into a homerun type play. His snub from the combine and lack of interest from others is surprising but expect him to make a roster whether he is drafted or not.
- CB Al-Hajj Shabazz, West Chester, 6’0, 202, 4.55E
Shabazz has the size and length along with the versatility to contribute on special teams and both as a safety and corner that you like. His long speed is the biggest question but he can flip his hips, plays well on special teams, and is extremely raw so he has a lot of room to grow. Whether drafted or not this is the type of late round prospect that you go for in the late rounds or as a priority free agent and expect him to contribute for years to come.
- RB Malcolm Agnew, Southern Illinois, 5’9, 205, 4.50E
It’s hard to believe Malcolm Agnew is not going to the combine after the career of his father and the fact his older brother made the Cleveland Browns last year as a combine and draft snub after his performance in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Malcolm followed his brother’s footsteps and did even better in the prestigious all-star game. He may be short but he is a rocked up kid who you can tell puts time in the weight room. The only concern on him is the injury that sidelined him for much of the year. He should impress at his pro day and regardless of whether drafted or not expect him to make a roster.
- C/OG Nick Easton, Harvard, 6’2, 307, 5.35E
This has been one of my sleepers until the NFLPA Bowl as many folks had no clue about him. Easton is a quality interior player who has shown to perform well at guard and center. He can pull, has good feet, hits targets and can sustain blocks. While he may not have the best body type or run the best 10 or 40-yard time he is a quality player who may be among the top five centers in this draft. Whether drafted or not he will be a quality pickup who should play for a while.
- FS Jacob Hagen, Liberty, 6’2, 207, 4.60E
The only reason he isn’t projected in the 6th round already is due to the fact I need to see his pro day workout. If he can run a 4.5 40 he should certainly get drafted. If he does not, he will be a steal as a priority free agent. Hagen was active all year long with over 100 tackles and was a ball hawk with eight picks and seven pass breakups as a senior. He ranks as the No. 3 small school safety in this draft.
THE NEXT 10 (By School)
TE Khari Lee, Bowie State
This is one player who improved greatly in 2014 showing improved blocking and dominated the CIAA and Division II. At 6’4, 267 pounds he runs fairly well and has good length. Keep an eye on his workouts as he could make a roster.
DE/OLB Darius Allen, CSU-Pueblo
Allen may be a tweener due to height but he has good length and can run. The strength against the run will need to improve but the two-time Gene Upshaw Award winner can rush the passer and should be a solid priority free agent pickup, if not taken in the late rounds.
DE/OLB Sage Harold, James Madison
Just a backup in 2013, he started and had 73 tackles on his way to earning 1st-team All-CAA honors as a senior. The big question is football intelligence but he has ability and is worth keeping an eye on.
WR Neal Sterling, Monmouth
Sterling is a big kid at 6’3, 239 pounds and while he likely won’t get drafted he is a big target with ability. Keep an eye on his pro day as he could move up a few slots.
RB Brandon Wegher, Morningside College (IA)
While he isn’t the most explosive back or a great blocker, Wegher runs hard and has a good second gear. He likely won’t get drafted due to his age and lack of great 10-yard speed but you can expect him to be signed quickly after the draft.
OT/OG Cole Manhart, Nebraska-Kearney
He dropped a little after seeing his measurements at the NFLPA Game but he has good feet and is a player to watch as a likely priority free agent who makes a NFL roster.
WR RJ Harris, New Hampshire
Harris ran poorly last year (4.7s) and has had times where he showed poor hands late in the year but he had 100 catches as a senior and has shown to be a solid route runner you can count on. I expect a 4.6 or high 4.5 40 and someone who will impress in training camp with his intangibles and receiver skill set.
OT/OG Matt Huffer, South Dakota
Huffer is a borderline tackle prospect with 32 7/8 inch arms but he can move pretty well and has some tools to work with. If not drafted he might make a roster as a priority free agent because of those tools.
WR Ricky Collins, Texas A&M Commerce
At just 5’11, 196 pounds he lacks great size and isn’t the fastest, thus just a priority free agent grade, but he is a very good player with good hands and route running ability. He was a big playmaker for Commerce and should have a shot to make a roster.
DE/DT Caushaud Lyons, Tusculum
Lyons came out of nowhere in 2014 to become a quality player for the Pioneers. After just six tackles for loss and two sacks in 2013 he had 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a senior. The 2014 1st-team All-SAC pick is a big body (6’5, 285) and can run (5.10E).
OTHERS TO WATCH (By School)
RB Terrell Watson, Azusa Pacific- Big body (6’1, 239) who lacks great burst but wears down defenses. MVP of NFLPA Game.
ILB Nick Dzubnar, Cal Poly- Highly productive player whose speed at pro day could make or break draft day status.
K Tom Obarski, Concordia St.-Paul- Big leg kicker who just needs to work on consistency.
S Harold Jones-Quartey, Findlay- Don’t be surprised if he moves up a lot more. He may be short but he can run and will hit you. Active and productive.
WR Kenny Cook, Gardner-Webb- Faster than you think and has huge hands. Cancer survivor with a good story.
OT Jermaine Barton, Illinois State- Former Miami transfer with great length and big hands. Very raw. A little stiff.
DT Tonga Takai, Montana- Big body (6’2, 323) who can move fairly well.
OLB Travis Taylor, Murray State- Former JC All-American who can run and chase. Pro day workout could push him up the board.
OT Doniel Gambrell Jr., Notre Dame College- Great back story. Massive player with 10 ¼ hands, 81 5/8 arm, and 33 3/8 arm length.
WR Ify Umodu, Northern Arizona- Former basketball player who is body beautiful.
S Keeston Terry, Pittsburg State- Moves well and ran very good in the NFLPA Bowl. Keep an eye on his workouts. Could rise heavily.
S Daniel Fitzpatrick, Tennessee State- Active tackler in the box but will have to improve flexion.
S Ace Clark, Western Carolina- Great size and body type. Played special teams very well in the NFLPA Game. Could rise during pro day workouts.
DE Mike Reilly, William & Mary- Really good player who isn’t the freak athlete but just gets the job done and does it well.
TOP 5 SMALL SCHOOL ALL-STAR/COMBINE SNUBS
Each year there are those who do not attend the NFL Scouting Combine or any of the major all-star games. This number is even smaller but still there are usually some quality players who can contribute in the NFL.
- WR Darius Davis, Henderson State, 5’11, 212, 4.55E
Davis has somehow gone under the radar of many despite a highly productive career. He may not have that burst that makes you think he can fly but all he did was take screens and stretch them for long gains weaving through traffic and showing big play ability. He would go across the middle and was a reliable target in the redzone. He was a two-time All-American and three-time All-GAC selection. It’s hard to believe he’s not an all-star or combine worthy with his career and skill set.
- DE/OLB Darius Allen, CSU-Pueblo, 6’2, 251, 4.75E
The Gene Upshaw winner is suppose to have an automatic invite to the Shrine Game but they did not live up to that deal this year so Allen was snubbed. He is a two-time winner of the Gene Upshaw Award. How is he not in an all-star game?
- OT/OG Matt Huffer, South Dakota, 6’6, 302, 5.25E
Huffer did not earn All-MVFC honors this year so it’s easy to see why he may have gone unnoticed by all-star games but with his skill set he would have been a good pick in one of the top five games.
- DE/OLB Sage Harold, James Madison, 6’3, 235, 4.70E
After his breakout senior year you would have thought a game would have picked him. He had 23.5 tackles and 13.5 sacks in one of the top FCS conferences along with his speed make it shocking someone did not pick him.
- ILB Nick Dzubnar, Cal Poly, 6’1, 250, 4.75E
After his monster senior year with 167 tackles, showing that he can absolutely take over games and plays with a high motor you would have thought he would get an invite to an all-star game but he did not. Worst case he will be a prirority free agent and would be a great practice squad player as a rookie. It would not shock me if he made a 53-man roster if he plays like he did on film.
WR Ify Umodu, Northern Arizona, 6’2, 215, 4.60E
Big target with good strength and the body NFL scouts love. He has good hands and made some impressive catches at NAU but is under the radar after a 2013 medical redshirt and a slow start on the football field due to lack of experience. He is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on because he is a former basketball player.
DE Mike Reilly, William & Mary, 6’3, 265, 4.80E
Reilly isn’t overly log or extremely fast but he is well coached, playing with good technique, and has a good motor. He can hold at the point and was productive as a pass rusher. His pro day will determine whether a team takes a late round flyer on him or not. Reilly was the 2014 CAA Defensive Player of the Year and AFCA All-American with 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks.
OT Jermaine Barton, Illinois State, 6’6, 313, 5.15E
Barton is stiff and really thin in the lower body but he has great length with 35 5/8 arms and is tall with the room to grow. His pro day will be the tell all on whether he can get drafted or not. Barton was a Miami, FL transfer who is a 3-year starter and 2014 AP All-American selection at Illinois State.