Super sleepers in 2010 NFL Draft
Chargers have shown interest in quarterback Matt Nichols
Versatile return man Ray Fisher could end up with Browns or Jets
Raiders, Panthers both have interest in Brown DT David Howard
With the NFL draft just a few days away, attention has centered on the top prospects expected to be selected in the early rounds. Yet every year unknown players chosen in the middle and late parts of the draft make rosters around the league and positively impact NFL squads. Here are 14 players, none of whom were invited to the combine, creating a buzz in the scouting community, and the teams which have shown interest in them:
Matt Nichols/QB/Eastern Washington: Nichols, a four-year starter at Eastern Washington, threw for more than 12,600 yards and had 95 career touchdowns. He's patient and has an excellent feel for the game and command of the offense. Nichols, who has already visited with a half-dozen NFL teams, possesses the size and skill to back up at the next level.
Deji Karim/RB/Southern Illinois: Karim is not only one of the hottest small school running back prospects in the draft, but also one of the fastest risers at the position. The junior college transfer set the FBS world on fire last season, rushing for 1,693 yards while averaging 31 yards on kick returns. Scouts think Karim could be selected as early as the fourth round
Ray Fisher/WR-CB-RS/Indiana: The versatile Fisher was a productive receiver for the Hoosiers before moving to cornerback as a senior. More than anything else, Fisher was a game-breaking return specialist at Indiana. He averaged 37.4 yards returning kicks as a senior and took two back for scores. Fisher's special team skills will place him in the draft's late rounds while his versatility to play cornerback or receiver is added value.
Terrell Hudgins/WR/Elon: Hudgins amassed 394 receptions, 5,200 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns at Elon. During his pro-day workout, the 229-pound receiver surprised scouts by running the 40 in the mid-4.5 range. He's a sure-handed possession wideout with a nose for the end zone.
Marc Mariani/WR/Montana: Mariani elevated his game the past two seasons and is a terrific combination of reliability and toughness. He could easily be a fifth receiver at the next level; the ability to return punts is added value.
Scott Sicko/TE/New Hampshire: Sicko is a terrific pass-catching tight end who has averaged 52 receptions over the past three seasons. He shocked scouts last month by running the 40 under 4.55 seconds at his pro-day. Sicko has moved into the late rounds of the draft
Chris Campbell/OT/Eastern Illinois: Campbell could be the best kept secret in this year's draft. He's already visited three while six offensive line coaches have privately met with Campbell. He's an athletic left tackle prospect with terrific size (6-foot-6, 328 pounds) as well as growth potential. Just a one-year starter in college, Campbell's best football is ahead of him.
Nick McDonald/G/Grand Valley State: McDonald is a two-year starter who held down the left tackle spot as a senior yet is a better fit inside at guard. He possesses a good frame (6-5, 300) and will only get bigger and stronger in time. Five offensive line coaches traveled to Grand Valley State for private workouts with McDonald.
Darryl Jackson/DT/Kean: The Union, N.J., school is not a hotbed for NFL talent but scouts made the trip this year to watch Jackson. The 343-pound nose tackle moves well on his feet and plays with a degree of athleticism. He must improve his consistency yet his ability to collapse the pocket and control blockers up front has teams intrigued.
David Howard/DT/Brown: Howard has been a fast riser recently as a number of NFL teams have become enamored with his athleticism. His quickness and burst help him consistently beat opponents off the snap.
Danny Batten/DE-OLB/South Dakota State: Batten has been flying up draft boards after a dozen private workouts and visits the past month. The intense defender plays with a non-stop motor and could be a surprise middle-round pick on Saturday.
Tim Knicky/OLB/Stephen F. Austin: Like Batten, Knicky plays with a warrior mentality and is consistently disrupting the action behind the line of scrimmage. He totaled 24.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss the past two years. His 6-4, 240-pound frame is better suited for outside linebacker than the defensive end position he played in college. Knicky's speed, 4.60 in the 40, should make for a smooth transition. He could end up as a late-round pick.
Josh Morris/CB/Weber State: Morris possesses prototypical cornerback measurables at 5-11, 180, which nicely compliments his speed (4.45 in the 40). He improved week-to-week since transferring to Weber State three years ago and was one of the best small-school cornerbacks by the end of 2009. Franchises across the league have been receiving rave reviews on his skills from Andre Dyson, a six-year NFL veteran and presently the cornerbacks coach at Weber State.
Terrence Johnson/CB/California-PA: Johnson plays in the same conference as another highly rated cornerback, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah of IUP, and is often overlooked. He's a feisty, three-year starter with eight interceptions to his credit the past two seasons. Johnson offers potential as a dime back at the next level and should be a demon on special teams.
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