The 2012 NFL Draft is only days away from commencing, and most—if not all—NFL teams will be looking at the big names from the Division I schools to fill their respective holes.
However, talent can sometimes be found in the form of athletes that played for smaller schools during their college careers.
Some famous NFL alumni played their college years at small programs. This list includes Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Phil Simms, plus other famous standouts who could eventually be enshrined in Canton, such as Terrell Owens, Michael Strahan and Kurt Warner.
This goes to show that talent can indeed be found in college players outside of those at the Division I powerhouses. Here are five small-school stars that NFL teams should not ignore.
1. Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Janoris Jenkins should not be considered a small-school player.
He originally played for the Florida Gators, but was kicked off the team after a marijuana arrest. At 5'10", 182 lbs., Jenkins may be a bit undersized for a cornerback, but he does have the speed to be able to keep up with the receivers he will be covering.
Jenkins has a few off-field problems that some teams may not view too favorably, but he has always played well on the field for both Florida and North Alabama. So, he is definitely someone that teams in need of a cornerback should keep their eyes on.
Jenkins will likely get drafted late in the first round or early second round.
2. Amini Silatolu (OG, Midwestern State)
One offensive lineman that could surprise some people is the 6'3'' 324 lb. guard Amini Silatolu, who played at Midwestern State.
Silatolu has the size and agility to compete in the NFL, but it will be interesting to see how Silatolu will adjust to the NFL game's speed, compared to what he has been used to at a Division II school.
Silatolu also demonstrates excellent blocking technique and is very good at staying low consistently, which, of course, helps his blocks become more efficient.
He was originally projected to be drafted late in the second round or early in the third, but now, he might even get picked in the late first or early second.
Teams in need of a guard that can also play tackle in a pinch could look to Silatolu to fill the void.
3. Brian Quick (WR, Appalachian State)
Brian Quick has the size of an NFL wide receiver, but does not have the same speed compared to other receivers in this draft. However, Quick does have great hand-eye coordination, even though he only started playing football during his senior year of high school.
A team looking to strengthen its depth at the wide-receiver position will probably look to draft Quick in the third or fourth round.
He won't be the kind of receiver that teams would expect to be a quarterback's No. 1 target, but his best role would likely be as an occasional deep threat that could surprise some defensive coverages.
4. Trumaine Johnson (CB, Montana)
Like Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson is another small-school cornerback with great athletic ability.
At 6'2", 204 lbs., Johnson is great at covering receivers in all different kinds of packages and can also blitz off the edge successfully, which shows how versatile of a player he is.
Adding to Johnson's versatility is the fact that he can also play safety just as well. This only makes his value increase that much more.
The demand for a versatile defensive back that can play both cornerback and safety could potentially lead to Johnson getting drafted in at least the third round and possibly the second.
5. Tom Compton (OT, South Dakota)
While Amini Silatolu is considered the top small-school offensive lineman in the 2012 NFL Draft, another small-school offensive lineman that will get some attention is tackle Tom Compton, who played for South Dakota.
At almost 6'5" and 314 lbs., Compton clearly has the size of an NFL offensive lineman. He has always been a dependable starter and a player that has consistently worked hard to play as well as he can.
Two weaknesses for him, though, are his footwork and recovery. Granted, the NFL team he plays for will help him get in slightly better shape, so those two issues should improve with time.
Compton may not be an NFL starter right away, but if he gets in better physical shape and improves his footwork, he could be a starting offensive tackle within two-to-four years.
Look for a team in need of extra depth on its offensive line to select Compton in the fourth or fifth round.
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