Linebacker Yawin Smallwood toiled mostly in anonymity at Connecticut for three seasons, but he says he's the best player at his position in this year's draft.
"I've seen the top guys and I feel like I am the top linebacker in this class," Smallwood told foxsports.com.
Smallwood played middle linebacker at UConn and might have the ability to be a weakside 'backer in the NFL. He measured 6-foot-2¼ and 246 pounds at February's NFL Scouting Combine, but most observers were surprised when he was clocked in 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash ; a clocking in the high 4.6/low 4.7 range was expected. His slow time came because he tweaked a hamstring early in the run.
"It was very frustrating for me," Smallwood said. "I worked very hard for that moment, and when I got my opportunity, things didn't go my way. I tweaked my hamstring and I wasn't able to compete in the 40 or positional drills. It was real frustrating, but I'm trying to stay positive about it. I have a lot of film, and I think a lot of teams know that I'm not a 5-second 40 guy."
Smallwood's unofficial 10-yard split was a solid 1.60 seconds and he had a 36.5-inch vertical jump, which compares favorably with the other 'backers at the combine. Smallwood had 332 tackles and 27 tackles for loss in three seasons with UConn; he played for a different coordinator each season, and started every game in his Huskies career.
Smallwood said he met with the Atlanta Falcons this week, and while the Falcons have some young linebackers who played key roles in 2013, Smallwood -- who seems likely to go on the draft's third day (Rounds 4-7), though a third-round selection is possible -- would seem to be a good fit in Atlanta's system.
"I definitely think I'm flying under the radar, especially after posting my 40 time," Smallwood told said. "I feel like a lot of people might be sleeping on me because of that, but once I get going, they're going to know that speed is not an issue with me."