Here are some under-the-radar prospects for this year’s NFL Draft class.
Quarterback: Amir Hall, Bowie St.
One of the greatest HBCU QBs of all time, Hall has nearly everything you could want in a quarterback. He ranked 1st in Division II with 4152 passing yards, 4th in passing touchdowns with 31, and 3rd in passing yards per game averaging 319.4. He can also escape the pocket when needed and has great height at 6’4, with his only negative trait being his weight. He weighs about 195, and needs to put on more weight so he can withstand taking hits from NFL players, which is a huge jump from the DII level he played in. However, him being underweight should not be something that keeps him off an NFL roster.
Running Back: Darwin Thompson, Utah St.
There’s a lot of talented backs to choose from in this year’s class, but one who excels in multiple aspects of a complete running back is Thompson. Despite him being only 4th in rushing yards in the Mountain West Conference (1044) behind fellow draft prospect Alexander Mattison, who was first in the conference with 1415 and is a talented back himself, Thompson just looks like the best running back prospect out of that conference. Furthermore, Thompson had himself a great pro day, which included 28 bench press reps and a 4.5 in the 40 yard dash, both better than Mattison’s 4.67 40 and 22 bench press reps at the combine. Some “analysts” may say his size at 5’8 and 200 lbs makes him an undersized running back, but he plays a lot bigger than his size, and can be a three-down back. He had 1210 all-purpose yards after contact last year, and had forced 61 missed tackles on 175 carries. Thomspon is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on.
Wide Receiver: Jalen Hurd, Baylor
In his first year as a receiver, the former running back showed great potential as a route runner and catcher, and already is a great red-zone target, posting fairly decent stats last season with 946 yards. To be put as the starting running back over current NFL star Alvin Kamara, Hurd is clearly a very talented player and with time, he can be a great NFL receiver. Hurd may get negative criticism because he left Tennessee mid-season, but his reason for leaving is easily understandable, and Baylor coach Matt Rhule (who should currently be the New York Jets coach) was able to use utilize his skillset very well. What Hurd should get more credit for, is playing on an injured knee in the last game of the season against Texas Tech, even when Rhule wanted him to sit and prepare for the draft. His recent procedure on that injured knee is a reason why his 4.66 40 at his pro day shouldn’t be taken that seriously, especially because he plays much faster than that time, assuming he can fully bounce back from that injury.
Tight End: Donald Parham, Stetson
Do you know who was the only tight end in the FCS last year to make it to the top 50 list in receiving yards? Do you know that tight end also happened to rank 6th on that list with 1319 yards? If you’re thinking to yourself that only a freak athlete who stands at 6’8 could do something like that, then you’re absolutely right. Parham plays more similar to a slot receiver, but he’s just simply too tall and lengthy to not be a tight end. He’s slim, only weighing around 240 lbs right now, but there’s no reason Parham shouldn’t be drafted.
Offensive Lineman: Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls
Only one sack was given up by Pipkins in 2017, earning second-team All-NSIC in Division II, later earning first team All-NSIC and first-team Division II All-American his final season. Pipkins is a very athletic lineman with great size and has potential to be a starter at left tackle.
Defensive Lineman: Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
There’s so many talented defensive players in this class whether it be from the inside or outside, and Ximines absolutely deserves to be in the top edge-player conversation, and could’ve made it to the top prospects list. There is no knack on Ximines, this class is just honestly stacked with very talented defensive players stemming all the way down to the Division II level with players such as Kahzin Daniels. In his junior year, Ximines had 14 tackles for loss, a school-record of 8.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles, which tied for second-most in the FBS. His senior year he had 18.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and another four forced fumbles. Whether it was college, the combine, the Senior Bowl, Ximines has been dominating everything, and is really a first round talent that will likely get drafted on the second day of the draft only because there’s so much talent in this class overall.
LB: Cody Barton, Utah
The brother and former teammate of offensive lineman Jackson Barton, who’s a draft prospect this year as well, Cody Barton is a former safety that used his experience at that position to his advantage at linebacker. He’s not a good pass rusher at all yet, but he’s strong and can cover tight ends and some slot receivers, which is nearly just as much needed in the NFL from the linebacker position as much as pass rushing. He was a tackling machine with 116 tackles last season, along with 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, six pass breakups, and an interception. Barton needs to more time to be more of a complete outside linebacker, but he can play right away in coverage situations.
DB: Jordan Brown, South Dakota St.
A former wide receiver, Brown has great size and athleticism for a corner who did decent at the combine and is 6’0 and 201 lbs. He had a team high of 12 pass breakups last season to go with three interceptions. Brown has the potential to be a solid corner.
Safety: Chris Johnson, North Alabama
Speed is the first thing that stands out when you watch the former track runner play. Combine that with great size (6’3, 200lbs), good coverage skills, and outstanding special teams talent, you have a solid safety. Johnson can either be a free or strong safety in the NFL, he just needs to play more aggressive.