REBECCA RENNIE BIG BOARD: SMALL SCHOOL 150 (Page 5)
By Rebecca Rennie
As with every draft class, there is exceptional talent to be found outside the FBS. This presents my Top 150 of those small school prospects. Whether used pre-draft or after your team has picked up one or more of these players during or after the draft, I hope this provides some useful information or reference.
The first five pages provide profiles on the Top 50 small school prospects. Page 6 contains brief notes on the next 25. The final page contains the full Top 150 Big Board as a list.
There are a lot of players on this big board, many of whom will appear lower down on the list. I fully believe though, that with the right opportunity, every player included has the potential to be a successful pro.
In fact, there are countless other prospects that I know I will have missed. Unfortunately, this was a one-person operation without a full scouting team to hand. I’ve tried to get to as many players as possible, but had to get this posted eventually.
All draft boards are subjective and will have it’s share of misses along with hits. That’s part of the fun though, it would be dull if everyone was working off an identical board! Thanks for taking the time to look and enjoy the 2020 NFL Draft.
Note: HPFA = High Priority Free Agent Grade.
41. Dawonya Tucker, RB, Prairie View A&M. Grade: HPFA
Height: 5’5”. Weight: 176lbs.
Pros: Small yet compact and explosive, Tucker is not to be overlooked as a pro prospect. It would not be a surprise if Tucker has a chip on his shoulder to match just about anyone in this class. It certainly appears that way in how he plays on film. The fiery, competitive on-field persona shines through. The Prairie View playmaker plays with toughness, physicality and aggression. He’s better than expected at shrugging off tackle attempts, helped by his excellent contact balance and footwork. That’s often not required regardless, with the elusiveness to make defenders miss entirely.
The Gridiron Showcase attendee is a twitched-up athlete with burst, acceleration and agility. As hoped for in a prospect of his skillset, he thrives in space with the ball in his hands. In addition to purely through burst, he demonstrates vision and the nuances to set up would-be tacklers in space before shifting out of reach. He shows good timing in his cuts and the willingness to be patient where required rather than playing at one speed. While he’ll be at his best in the open field, he’s not to be under-estimated between the tackles, proving slippery and tough to corral.
Cons: While the praise above is fully warranted, there’s no question that few at his size make it in the pros. There are certainly plenty of recent examples to cite as players to emulate, however. Tucker will likely be asked to offer receiving value out of the backfield. His 17 receptions for 6.47 yards per catch is not ideal production on the surface. That said, Tucker looks an accomplished receiver on film with his opportunities. He often lined up and ran routes as a slot receiver. There will be limitations as a pass protector. It speaks to the mentality though that his effort in this area is outstanding.
Wrapping Up: Tarik Cohen, Trindon Holliday, Jakeem Grant, JoJo Natson, Deonte Harris. There are plenty role models for Tucker in recent seasons. His film clearly showcases a skillset to be a complimentary weapon in the pros with big play potential. It really would not surprise if the right team were to value him early on Day 3 above many on this list. NFL Comparison: Tarik Cohen.
42. Chris Rowland, WR, Tennessee State. Grade: HPFA
Height: 5’6”. Weight: 185lbs.
Pros: Highly versatile in his deployment throughout the offense and on special teams, the easy comparisons to other smaller playmakers such as Taylor Gabriel and Jakeem Grant are valid to make. His draft stock has risen thanks to a productive senior season that included 104 receptions for 1,437 yards and 8 TDs. In addition, he’s had impactful carries as a runner and 2 special teams return TDs in 2019. An outstanding athlete, Rowland appears to have legitimate NFL-caliber burst and speed.
Capable of some devastating jump cuts and shifts to evade would-be tacklers, the explosive Rowland can turn on the jets once loose in the open field and tear it up for huge gains and home-run hits. Creative play callers ought to love the potential ways to utilize his ability and get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. Beyond the dynamic traits, the Tigers’ senior has all the fundamentals as a receiver with great hands, tracking the ball effectively, and good feel for the position and where the space is. The good instincts as a runner take over after the catch.
Cons: At his size, it’s inevitable that Rowland won’t meet minimal thresholds for some teams. All it takes though, is the right fit with the right coaching staff. Even so, there’s a small catch radius to target and some physical limitations. He has the athletic abilities to work open but could be vulnerable to being disrupted early off the line.
Wrapping Up: The smaller frame will presumably eliminate Rowland from the draft board of some teams, but he could prove to be a bargain for someone and might even make an appearance in the latter stages of the draft. More than just shifty, Rowland is savvy, particularly showing he can exploit space in zones. That could see him become a reliable target underneath in addition to the highlight big play moments. NFL Comparison: Taylor Gabriel.
43. Zimari Manning, WR, Tarleton State. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’1”. Weight: 200lbs.
Pros: Commonly looked for in small school prospects, particularly at the Division 2 and 3 levels, is whether the player dominated their competition. Consider that box checked for Manning. After a strong junior season that including nearly 1,000 yards and 12 TDs, he upped his game in 2019. Manning destroyed the opposition, totalling 68 receptions for 1462 yards at 21.5 yards per catch. He finished with a monstrous total of 22 receiving touchdowns.
Manning is an absolute headache for defensive backs to deal with. The powerful receiver is physical under close coverage and challenging to disrupt off his route path. The alpha playmaker owns the catch space and is focused as the ball arrives. His film is littered with examples of ridiculous catches outside of his frame, high pointing the ball, one-handed grabs, claiming the ball out from a DB’s grasp. He showcases ultra-strong hands and an impressive vertical. The physicality is also present after the catch, with a mean stiff arm and a powerful running style.
Cons: It would have been useful to have seen some official workout numbers for Manning. He’s a solid athlete with some positive physical traits and a good vertical. It’s difficult to assess the burst and top speed from film, however. He’s more than fast enough while torching D2 opposition but might be more underwhelming relative to pro level athletes.
Wrapping Up: Even if there’s some uncertainty over his top speed, Manning has unquestionably strong hands and plus traits to win. His effectiveness in contested catch situations and the red zone stand out. The eye-popping production is worthy of a look in the NFL, regardless of what level he played at. Manning has a legion of draft fans that will feel vindicated if he earns a Day 3 draft selection, which would not surprise. NFL Comparison: Ryan Grant.
44. Dante Olson, LB, Montana. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’2”. Weight: 237lbs.
Pros: The Griz standout has been a tackling machine in the Big Sky throughout a prolific FCS career. He led the country with a ridiculous 179 stops in 2019 as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award given to the nation’s defensive player of the year. His consistently high level of play saw Olson twice named as an FCS first team All-American. Olson has NFL-level size with a stout build to hold up to the physicality of the pros.
One of the few small school invites to the Combine, the Montana linebacker had a bizarre combination of testing results but proved to have some of the best numbers in explosive tests. His 42” vertical led all LBs and also put up a strong 10-4 broad jump. Though not blessed with speed, his 7.00 cone was above expectations also. Olson is a phenomenal seeker, finding the football consistently. His active game sees him constantly around the action, aided by his hustle and overall high motor.
He wins with good football IQ and diagnosing skills, with reliable positioning and discipline. As indicated by his tackling production, Olson finishes well. Bringing force on contact, he wraps up ball carriers firmly and decisively. Though not rangy, Olson uses his anticipation and recognition to position himself well to make occasional plays in coverage.
Cons: While his 3-cone time impressed, on film Olson looks a little stiff with modest-at-best change of direction ability. Overall, his game lacks speed and range. He will be limited in his ability to contribute in space and outside the tackles. His issue with speed sees him often beaten to angles outside. The up-and-down Combine results mentioned included a very poor dash time of 4.81 that is reflective of his play speed on film. His angles to ball carriers aren’t always ideal, and on those occasions, Olson struggles to recover. It’s likely that the Grizzlies LB will be a bit of a liability in passing situations that limits his game.
Wrapping Up: The outstanding production and strong football IQ has been a part of Olson being one of the most watchable defensive players in the FCS the past couple seasons. It ought to earn him a good look at the NFL level. Ultimately though, his limitations as an athlete are notable and could leave him on the outside of the draft. At best, he projects to a depth spot on the roster and short-term spot starter. NFL Comparison: Jason Cabinda.
45. Kevin Davidson, QB, Princeton. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’4”. Weight: 224lbs.
Pros: The Ivy League passer features a tall, sturdy frame and strong arm. Those physical traits remain appealing in the eyes of many pro scouts. He led a good Princeton team to a 7-0 start, before he and the Tigers faltered to an 8-2 finish. His numbers included 66.8% completions and 20 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. It should be noted that his TD numbers were aided by an outlier 7 TD performance against Bucknell.
When provided with time in a clean pocket, Davidson distributes the ball well to every level of the field. His strong arm stands out to hit on impressive throws. He displays good ball placement and the timing to hit in stride within favourable windows. He can generate good velocity through his upper body when unable to fully step into some throws. He has regularly shown a lot of toughness in the pocket to take hits. All indications are that Davidson brings plenty of positive character and work ethic traits.
Cons: Davidson struggled down the stretch, including a 2:4 TD to INT ratio over the final 4 games. That run included games against some of the better opposition faced over the season. Davidson’s throwing motion isn’t overly compact, and his general mental processing speed can be a little slower than ideal. A bit of a statue in the pocket, his tendency to hold onto the ball a bit too long sees him take too many hits and sacks. That may in part factor in O-line protection but regardless, Davidson’s notably limited mobility won’t see him evade pressure often.
Davidson not only competed at a lower level but was only a one-season starter. While his minimal experience as a starter factors in, the Tigers QB shows some questionable decision making. The viability of some of his attempts into double coverage raises concerns over his reading of the defense and willingness to disengage from his primary receiver. Working through his progressions is either not present or slow, giving rushers that extra time required to get home. On a final note, take hand size concerns for what you will, but 8 ¼ hands is relatively small.
Wrapping Up: While Davidson ticks off some traditional boxes, his significant lack of mobility to buy time, overall pocket presence and processing speed suggests a longer-term developmental project with a potentially low ceiling as the pay-off. That said, his ideal frame, good mechanics and arm strength are appealing base traits. NFL Comparison: Tom Savage.
46. Christian Rozeboom, LB, South Dakota State. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’2”. Weight: 228lbs.
Pros: The list of accolades is extensive for the all-action linebacker who has been a stud starter since his instant-impact redshirt freshman season in 2016. The consistency in production has been outstanding. Rozeboom surpassed triple digit tackles all four seasons for the Jackrabbits. More than just a clean-up tackler, Rozeboom has also added eight career interceptions, two each season. Showing quickness working downhill, laterally and backwards, Rozeboom is consistently around the football as his gaudy numbers suggest.
The redshirt senior’s motor is non-stop, playing with a fantastic energy that resonates with his teammates around him. He appears on film to be a nice athlete for the next level. The Jackrabbit LB shows short area quickness, burst and loose hips. The combination of experience, production and high character will tick off plenty of boxes typically looked for in a smaller school prospect. Taking part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Rozeboom had a good week in front of scouts, including 4 tackles and a TFL during the game.
Cons: As fantastic as his energy and motor is, Rozeboom isn’t consistently efficient with how he applies it. Despite his extensive playing experience, he’s prone to some wasted motion and frequently taking less-than-ideal angles and rounded paths toward the action and through traffic. Such situations will be more exposed at the higher caliber of competition in the pros.
Wrapping Up: Rozeboom’s commitment to the cause as a physical tackler and his obvious love of the game will greatly aid his chances. He’ll have to work and fight for a roster spot, whether drafted late or invited to camp as an undrafted free agent. He brings enough quickness and range for the next level but needs to sharpen up his game. There’s little doubt that he’ll put that required work in, take well to coaching, and contribute well on special teams while he develops.
47. David Tammaro, QB, Johns Hopkins. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’3”. Weight: 210lbs.
Pros: Not the most hyped name in a diverse small school QB class but with as much potential as any. Tammaro has a sufficient combination of physical traits, with a solid frame, good arm and enough mobility. This is a heady football player with clarity for situations and making composed choices. His mental process is consistent, surveying the field well and making sound decisions. Tammaro takes what is available, willing to take the available yardage underneath and to take confident shots deep. His timing with his receivers is great, regularly throwing them open with anticipation.
Unlikely many QB prospects, Tammaro looks comfortable working through his progressions in a timely manner. There are rarely examples of sticking too long on his first read or forcing the ball into unfavourable coverage. He doesn’t panic when the pass rush is closing in, calmly stepping up in the pocket, finding a checkdown option or taking off to run. He’s capable of making plays with his legs and doesn’t shy from contact. His productive senior year including 25 pass TDs to just 5 interceptions. He added 7 rushing scores for good measure.
Cons: While he makes some excellent throws down the field, he does have a tendency at times to put too much juice on the deep ball. It’s good to see that he has the arm to do so, but over-shoots at times. That showed up on a few occasions at the Gridiron Showcase, but overall looked good at the All-Star event. The overall throwing mechanics are good but does have a fairly length motion. The footwork as he steps into his throws could be more consistent but is generally reliable.
Wrapping Up: A late addition to this draft board, Tammaro was a welcome addition to a fascinating group of small school QB prospects. His skill set gives him as good an opportunity as any in this class to find a roster spot in the pros. His pro comp below showed similar headiness and considered approach in his process that could see him similarly carve out a pro career for himself. NFL Comparison: Trevor Siemian.
48. Jared Koski, WR, Cal Poly. Grade: HPFA
Height: 6’1”. Weight: 186lbs.
Pros: A part of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl All-Star event, Koski flashed his burst and elusiveness. He produced well despite playing in Cal Poly’s triple option offense. His production improved every season, culminating in a stellar 2019 senior season that included averaging nearly 21 yards a catch and 8 touchdowns. He also has some returner experience on special teams, an area where his suddenness could be deployed at the next level.
His sharp change of direction ability ties into quick, efficient footwork that aids him in separation. He maintains his speed out of his breaks. JJ is perhaps at his best after the catch as a threat with the ball in his hands. His ability in space as a runner contributed to his big-play ability in college. Taking part in a wide range of sports in high school, he competed in basketball, track and swimming in addition to football.
Cons: Koski is notably slightly built that will concern over his ability to hold up physically in the pros, to break tackles, to take hits, even though there is no lack of toughness in his game. While he is solid tracking the ball, he often appears to favor making body catches where possible. His hands may need proving. Not being able to prove his catching abilities at a pro day was unfortunate. The option offense he played in gave him favorable looks with the attention on the run.
Wrapping Up: There’s no question that Koski has some dynamic athletic traits that are good enough for the pro level. His footwork and burst give him an opportunity to continue as a playmaker in the NFL. The hands are the biggest question mark to be answered. NFL Comparison: TJ Jones.
49. Doug Johnson, WR, Henderson State. Grade: HPFA
Height: 5’9”. Weight: 185lbs.
Pros: Speed will get you noticed, and that ought to be the case with Johnson. The Texas Tech transfer played at a different pace to those around him on the field at Henderson State. While unable to provide official testing numbers, he reportedly can run in the 4.3s, potentially in the 4.2s. Johnson may be smaller but looks to have long arms for a larger catch radius than most his height. Add in his vertical leap to challenge the ball at its highest point for a solid overall throwing window.
Johnson is more than a go route deep threat. His film shows a receiver effective to the sidelines, on out routes, over the middle, on shorter targets and runs after the catch. There’s potential to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways to utilize his skills. Johnson is explosive in short areas and offers shake off the line to evade press coverage on occasions. There’s a feisty play style that suggests a player who won’t back down from anyone.
Cons: With previous stops at Texas Tech, Blinn College and Arizona Western, it’s been a nomadic path through college. Teams will be asking about the multiple transfers before landing at Henderson State. Johnson himself has been open about acting “big-headed” and not being right minded during his time at Texas Tech. Hopefully he has matured and learned since that time, all indications are that he has.
Wrapping Up: Johnson didn’t pile up numbers as a senior, with 38 receptions for 530 yards (13.95 average) and 4 TDs. There’s no doubt though that the speedster has dynamic ability that can provide situational contributions in the pros. A returner on special teams, he has another avenue to a roster spot while he develops. NFL Comparison: Jacoby Ford.
50. Ben Ellefson, TE, North Dakota State
Height: 6’3”. Weight: 249lbs
Pros: Though he did not receive a Combine invite, Ellefson generally impressed in his opportunity at the East-West Shrine event. His best chance of making a roster is continuing to impress as a blocker. Ellefson consistently stood out at NDSU with his execution as both a lead blocker and as an inline pass blocker.
His shorter frame is compact and sturdy for his impending usage primarily as an H-back type. There’s efficiency in his movement, always in the right position. A smart football player with awareness, he consistently makes good decisions and locates the correct block to make on the second level. Though not used too much as a receiver in the passing game, he has safe hands and toughness at the catch point. Coming from a dynastic FCS program, he brings a winning mentality and character.
Cons: Ellefson has a solid build on his frame, but his length and overall size is average at best. Similarly, he doesn’t have a dynamic athletic profile. Given that his best skills lie as a blocker in the run game, he doesn’t have the upside that would warrant investing anything beyond a late round selection, potentially ending up as an undrafted free agent. Though technically sharp, he will probably struggle to find much separation with modest burst off the line and in his route breaks.
Wrapping Up: There are no major holes in Ellefson’s game yet little in his skillset to bang the table for either. While that might mean not hearing his name called over the 3 days of the draft, it would not surprise to see him make a roster. His run blocking abilities are not a high-end desired trait but are impressive and have value at the back end of a roster. Expect him to contribute well on special teams. There’s a certain positive character that is present in most prospects that comes from North Dakota State that has appeal. NFL Comparison: Lee Smith.
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Feature Image Credit: HBCU Gameday
CFB/NFL DRAFT analyst
Rebecca is an NFL Draft analyst focusing primarily on the FCS and Group of Five conferences, and a fan of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Stanford Cardinal. You can find her other articles here and follow on Twitter @bex_r86.