Keep an eye on these 5 small-school NFL prospects this week
Are you still like a kid, counting down the hours until Christmas day? Fear not, as there is a full slate of bowl matchups this week to help the days go by.
With NFL draft season just around the corner, we’re taking a scouting look specifically at five intriguing small-school prospects playing their final college games. Here’s who to look for:
Kyler Fackrell, Utah State, OLB
(6-5, 245 pounds)
Fackrell has been towards the top of our 34 OLB rankings all season (currently rated fourth), as his heavy hands and dynamic ability on the edge has given his opponents fits. Although not an explosive athlete, he does a solid job of leading with his hands to set up a variety of moves and appears to have a natural feel for rushing the passer in space.
Fackrell has good length and the frame to add muscle, and should be able to hold his ground well against TEs at the next level. One of the chief concerns with his game is his ability to finish, as his 35 pressures are on par with the rest of the country’s elite, but his three sacks certainly are not. After cooling down in November (just one sack and six total pressures), he’ll want to show well in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Akron before heading to Mobile, Alabama for next month’s Senior Bowl.
Dakota Gordon, SDSU, FB
(5-10, 235 pounds)
Gordon is our highest-graded FB (+35.2 overall) by a wide margin (second is Wisconsin’s Derek Watt at +22.4), and it is easy to see why when watching him on film. He was the lead blocker of one of the most explosive backs in the country, Donnel Pumphrey, and in many ways the catalyst for the entire Aztec offense.
He will need to add bulk to his frame for the next level, but he is a consistent performer when lead blocking, displaying the ability to not just bull rush defenders at the point of attack but effectively seal off his man with directional blocks as well. Although he touched the ball just 33 times, he’s also our third-highest graded runner at the position, but it is without question his run blocking that makes him a potential late-round draft pick this year.
Corey Davis, WMU, WR
(6-2, 205 pounds)
Bronco teammate Daniel Braverman may have the flashier reception count, but Davis is the superior pro prospect. He has the height, length and bulk teams want at the WR position, and his explosiveness and all-around athleticism is outstanding.
He can run routes at full speed and make explosive cuts, which allows him to consistently create separation coming out of his breaks. He also flashes the ability to pluck the ball away from his frame, but needs to be more consistently aggressive when high-pointing jump balls. If he can improve his physicality against the jam, he is the special type of athlete who can change games in a flash at the highest level.
Tyler Matakevitch, Temple, OLB
(6-1, 230 pounds)
Matakevitch is ranked 8th in our 43 OLB grades and has been a steadying force on Temple’s defense for four years. While undersized, he is a physical player at the point of attack who isn’t afraid to take on and shed blockers in order to make plays. He’s been one of the most balanced performers in the country at his position, as he is the only 43 OLB to grade better than +5.0 against the run, in coverage and on the pass rush.
Don’t expect to be wowed by elite athleticism, as he is not likely to win many foot races in the open field and isn’t expected to shine at February’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. The biggest concern with his game, however, is tackling, as his 19 missed tackles this season is fifth-worst at his position. He will need to convince teams his instincts, toughness and leadership will help him overcome these concerns, and ending his college career with a top performance against Toledo in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday could go a long way towards helping his draft stock.
Jatavis Brown, Akron, OLB
(5-11, 217 pounds)
Brown is likely to be a much-debated prospect in NFL war rooms this winter, as his size suggests he lacks a natural position for the next level, but his top-end athleticism and production when rushing the passer is likely to convince teams to take a gamble on him.
His explosive play-making ability is easy to see on film when he has a free lane to the ball carrier, but not surprisingly he is easily swallowed up by blockers, in particular in the run game. He flashes a variety of pass rush moves, but is most effective when operating in space on the edge. His aggressiveness in man coverage should also excite teams, but don’t expect to see much of his play on the back end against Utah State’s run-heavy scheme.