You already know that Power-5 schools like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Georgia will have the most players picked in the 2021 NFL Draft, but smaller FCS, Division II, and Division III schools will also see some winds of alumni. on the NFL charts. When that happens, be it in the early or late rounds, most fans don’t know how to react. Did your favorite team just find a diamond in the rough or waste a pick on a guy who wasn’t even good enough to play for the Sun Belt?
This year, one FCS player will likely enter the top 10 (QB Trey Lance), and at least one more likely to enter the second round (OT Dillon Radunz). Several more small school sleepers will be scattered throughout day 3, so it doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with them now so you can impress your friends at a surveillance party by pretending you’ve heard of these players before. Who knows, maybe your team is hitting the next Cooper Kupp, James Robinson, or Darius Leonard.
Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 small school prospects in this year’s NFL Draft.
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Sleepers of the 2021 NFL draft
1. Trey Lance, QB, State of North Dakota. By now you’ve heard everything about Lance, who could go as high as the No. 3 pick. The 6-4, 224-pound caller started just 17 games, all against FCS competition, in his short college career, but never missed a start, nor did he throw an INT during his red jersey freshman season when he won FCS Freshman. of the Year, FCS Offensive Player of the Year and FCS Championship Game MVP. He ended up throwing for 2,786 yards, rushing for 1,100 yards and accounting for 44 total touchdowns while playing in NDSU’s pro-style offense during his standout 2019 campaign. Lance will be Bison’s third consecutive quarterback selected after predecessors Carson Wentz. and Easton Stick participated in the first and fifth rounds, respectively. Clearly, NDSU is not a typical FCS program.
What Lance lacks in experience, he makes up for in tools. Hey what at a top speed of 21.54 mph during a 44-yard TD run in the FCS National Championship, which would have been the 12th fastest of any ball carrier in the NFL last year and the fastest among all quarterbacks. You can also toss dimes like this:
Lance likely won’t start in Week 1, or maybe even Year 1, but he clearly has the skill set modern offensive coordinators drool. Until he takes the field, he will be a wild card due to his limited experience against lower-level competition, but his ceiling is as high as any QB in this year’s class.
2. Dillon Radunz, OT, State of North Dakota. The man who protected Lance’s blind side is also expected to be a top draft pick, although Radunz is more likely to make it to Day 2. At nearly 6-6, 301 pounds, Radunz is the size to play in any position from tackle in the NFL, though he’s probably going to have to get a little stronger to really stand out. NDSU’s pro-style offense gives you an edge, as your footwork and technique won’t need as much work as more extended offensive linemen.
3. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa. Brown is a giant over 6 to 8,311 pounds with long arms. He is shaping up to be a right tackle in the NFL, but to be a consistent starter in any position, he will have to work on his footwork and movement. That was on display at the Senior Bowl, where he mostly struggled. However, his advantage, like his stature, is immense. Once he gets involved, most defenders remain locked out, so it will be worth it for a team to take a chance on him in the fourth round.
Bedroom Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas. Rochell was a tight corner for the Bears, so much so that he didn’t see many passes thrown his way last year. He had nine interceptions and 28 passes defended in 2018 and ’19 combined, and supplemented it with 5.5 tackles to lose. At just under 6-0 and 195 pounds, Rochell is a good size, especially considering his 79-inch wingspan. Rochell is the type of player who can go to the third round if a particular team falls in love with him, but is likely to enter the fourth or fifth. Either way, he is a legitimate prospect with many advantages.
5. Cade Johnson, WR, State of South Dakota. Johnson was an absolute stud for the Jackrabbits the past two seasons, catching at least 67 passes for at least 1,222 yards each season. His TDs dropped from 17 in 2018 to eight in 19, but make no mistake, it’s a great play that’s waiting to happen. He also performed well in his only game against FBS competition, catching six passes for 90 yards and adding another 25 rushing yards against Minnesota in ’19. Lack of size could be a problem, as Johnson was just under 5-11,183 pounds, and his 4.51 40-yard run comes as no surprise. But Johnson plays faster than that and makes up for it with a crisp road and reliable hands. He is an intriguing sleeper in later rounds who can also return kicks.
6. David Moore, OL, Grambling State. Moore was a Senior Bowl favorite who went from an afterthought to an afterthought. At just under 6-2 and 320 pounds, Moore might not seem like a typical offensive lineman, at least in terms of height, but he’s quick on the line and with a wingspan of nearly 83 inches, he’s solid at pass protection and second. -level blocks. He still needs to improve his technique, but Moore has tools that any team can work with.
7. Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa. Smith has a “fast passing specialist” written about him, and at nearly 6-7,252 pounds with more athletic ability, he can excel in that role. Smith had 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2019, up from 7.5 sacks and 10.5 TFL in ’18. The improvement was obviously remarkable, so it’s fair to wonder how high your ceiling can go. Smith wasn’t particularly good against the run, but, again, as a passing-running specialist and potential last-round pick, teams can live with that.
8. Quinn Meinerz, OL, Wisconsin-Whitewater. Meinerz is the first non-FCS player on this list, but this Division III prospect is not far behind. At just over 6-3,320 pounds, Meinerz is a legitimate size for an inside line prospect, and he’s a dominant run blocker. He impressed in the Senior Bowl and while he may not perform well in all schemes, someone is likely to take a chance late in the draft.
9. Bryan Mills, CB, Central North Carolina. Mills is a transfer from JUCO who played just one year for the Eagles, but racked up five interceptions and 13 passes defended in his 12 games. At nearly 6-1,180 pounds, Mills is great, and with a time under 4.540, he also has good speed. He’s another guy who might surprise you with how high he’s been drafted, but the sixth or seventh round seems more likely.
10. Christian Uphoff, FS, State of Illinois. Uphoff had a great Senior Bowl week that catapulted him into the final round discussion. The 6-3, 195-pound safety is a tough hitter with good ball skills. He’s not quite Ballhawk’s former conference partner and two-time defensive rookie of the month last year that was Jeremy Chinn, but Uphoff has plenty of advantages.