The 2014 NFL Draft is sure to throw up some surprises. Players predicted as first round locks will drop and unheralded college stars will rise.
Lets take a look at five offensive small school prospects that are worth keeping your eye on...
Tim Flanders - Running Back
The importance of the running back position may be on life support but that doesn't
mean that there isn't a place in the modern NFL for some ground and pound merchants like Flanders.
Coming out of Sam Houston State University, Flanders broke record after record to become his school's all time leader in rushing and scoring as he ran for 5,664 yards.
Flanders is lightning quick and elusive. His small frame gives him great ability to move through tight spaces. The downside though is that at 5'9'' and 207 pounds he is on the small side.
The fear is that Flanders would simply not be big enough to stand up to hits in the NFL. Flanders is more durable that his frame would suggest however as he hasn't missed a game since 2010.
Another smaller negative is his lack of special teams experience which will make it harder for him to break into NFL teams.
Size is the only thing holding Flanders back but his speed and rushing ability will probably convince someone to take a chance.
Danny Kistler Jr – Offensive Tackle
It is hard to overstate the importance of the left tackle position in the modern game. Therefore a 6'7'' 315 pound lineman is always going to attract attention.
Kistler played for the University of Montana after spending six months getting rejected by various colleges and having to work as a janitor to make ends meet.
At college, Kistler was a four year starter and ended up as co-offensive captain.
Kistler has quick feet but is otherwise technically raw. Given a season of training up though and he could be a solid left tackle.
Jeff Mathews - Quarterback
If you were to make a cardboard cut-out of an NFL QB you would probably come up with something similar to Jeff Mathews. Mathews is ideal size at 6'4'' and 224 pounds.
Mathews played his college football at Cornell where he threw for 11,284 yards becoming the Ivy League's All Time leading passer; which isjust one of 45 school and 17 Ivy League passing records he holds.
Mathews possesses a strong arm that allows him to throw the ball deep. More importantly his arm is also accurate.
On the downside Mathews isn't a great athlete and the mechanics of his throwing action need tightening up.
Many experts have focused on and trashed Mathews' athletic ability but to me this criticism is overstated both in importance and relevance. A good NFL QB doesn't have to have the athleticism of Colin Kaepernick. Mathews is a leader on the field with great football intelligence.
Whilst he is unlikely to have a career like Tom Brady's, Mathews' combine performance was reminiscent of the Patriot great's own lacklustre combine showing.
A.C. Leonard - Tight End
Coming in at 6'2'' and 252 pounds, Leonard is on the small side as a blocking tight end. What sets him apart though is his ability as a receiver.
Leonard runs good routes, has safe hands and can make yards after the catch.
On the downside, his blocking abilities are suspect and he would likely be dominated by bigger defensive ends. He also has character questions hovering over him after a 2012 arrest for misdemeanur battery.
In a league where the pass is ever more dominant though A.C Leonard could make the step from Tennessee State into the NFL on his receiving ability alone.
Isaiah Crowell – Running Back
Going into college, Crowell was selected by the University of Georgia as a five star recruit tipped for stardom. A series of off-the-field incidents culminating in an arrest on weapons charges led to Crowell's explusion from the University of Georgia team however.
Crowell moved on from Georgia to Alabama State where he went on to shine on the pitch. In 2013 Crowell rushed for 1,121 yards at an average of 6.6 yards per carry.
5'11'' tall and weighing at 224 pounds Crowell is a fast and at times explosive runner who ran the 40-yard dash at 4.57 at the Combine.
If it wasn't for his character questions Crowell would be a certainty to be drafted high. As it is look for Crowell to be picked up in the sixth or seventh round.
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