A handful of players from smaller schools have landed on the radars of NFL teams. Scouts and general managers –- Carolina GM Marty Hurney is making the rounds -- are spending the final few weeks leading up to the draft scouring North America for the next Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Clifton Smith.
The reach to find talent extends north of the border too. At least two Canadian prospects have drawn enough intrigue for NFL teams to request more tape, have them measured and weighed and check in with their college coaches about their abilities and character.
Here are a some of the not-so-familiar collegians who could find their way into the NFL draft:
Dan Skuta, LB, Grand Valley State
Skuta was the big guy at the little school –- Grand Valley State –- whose domination on the football field was profound enough to help draw 18 NFL scouts to his recent pro day and merit him enough credence to possibly get drafted in late April. Skuta fits right into this draft of hybrid defensive players, except his possible position change wouldn't necessarily be related to his versatility. At 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, Skuta was big enough to play –- at one point he was listed at 270 pounds -- along the defensive line at small college level. When it comes to the pros, Skuta projects as a linebacker, maybe a defensive end, and definitely, a special teamer –- if he makes it.
Greg Toler, CB, St. Paul's College
Toler has already drawn comparisons as a poor man's Rodgers-Cromartie, in part because he plays the same position. Toler (5-11, 185 pounds) is very athletic and fast and has good ball skills. He will work out at the University of Richmond Pro Day this Friday and a good showing could greatly enhance his draft status. He was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but early reports suggest he is likely a mid-to-late round draft pick.
Jamall Lee, RB, Bishop's College
This Canadian standout has drawn a lot of attention, especially after blazing a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the Canadian Football League combine earlier this month. It was the fastest 40 ever run at the CFL combine. What has made NFL scouts take notice is that Lee, son of CFL running back Orville Lee, is 6-1, 225 pounds. There are concerns about his ability to compete against NFL competition, even though he dominated in one of the higher level Canadian college leagues. He played out of a spread offense on a wide field, where he has more room to operate. Still, his speed and evasiveness is not being overlooked and his agent said he has some interviews lined up with NFL teams. Lee's YouTube highlight reel is, at the very least, entertaining.
Jason Williams, LB, Western Illinois
A highly productive collegian and Buck Buchanan Award finalist, Williams was dynamic enough to earn his way onto scouting reports. However, the 6-1, 240 pounder generated a buzz when he clocked a series of sub-4.5 40s at Northwestern's pro day. He is viewed as an outside linebacker, but is also athletic enough to move inside in a 3-4 scheme. He already has workouts/interviews arranged with some teams. He is a non-combine invitee that is projected to be drafted.
Vaughn Martin, DL, Western Ontario
This is the out-of-nowhere mystery prospect. At 6-3, 331 pounds, Martin has all the measurables and much of the athleticism to get recognized, but he didn't win multiple accolades or get invited to some of the postseason showcase games or events. The one-time Michigan State recruit, who never set foot on campus and played in Canada, is so confident in his ability to land in the NFL that he left Western Ontario with eligibility remaining to declare for the draft.
"I'm raw but I am extremely athletic" Martin said. "I am bigger than most of the guys already playing those positions (along the defensive line) and I'm tough. With me, you get a blank canvas to mold into whatever you want to mold me into."
Martin recently held a workout in Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit. A handful of teams attended. One scout who watched his film said Martin is athletic but doesn't dominate consistently. Still, he is an intriguing prospect. If he doesn't get drafted, Canadian rules allow prospects who declare early for the NFL draft to return.
"I have no intention of doing that," Martin said.
Larry Beavers, KR/WR, Wesley College
The 5-10, 167-pound Beavers totaled 13 kickoff (10) or punt returns for touchdowns, setting a Division III record. He averaged 42 yards per kickoff return in 2008. Beavers averaged 160 all-purpose yards as a senior. He recently performed at Delaware's pro day and ran the 40 in 4.4. Though he is small, Beavers, also a game-breaking wide receiver, could help several NFL teams as a return man.