Take a good hard look at last year’s draft class. Will Rackley came from Lehigh. Cecil Shorts came from Mount Union. Chris Prosinski came from Wyoming, and Rod Isaacs came from Middle Tennessee State. The only player we drafted last year who actually came from a “big” school was Blaine Gabbert. Last year’s class isn’t the only example that Gene Smith enjoys his small school value picks.
In the second installment of this series we will examine four more day 2 and 3 prospects, with a focus on players who come from small schools. You never know who the next player will be who “comes out of nowhere.” Many would argue that this is exactly what’s wrong with this franchise-we don’t get players who come from big time programs. I think it’s one of the things that makes this franchise great. Gene Smith is not afraid to give talent a shot, no matter where that talent may come from.
So let’s get started shall we?
Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State:
Wagner is a player I’ve been keeping a close eye on in mock drafts for the last few months. I recall browsing through the numerous mock drafts that pop up this time of year and seeing this guy’s name in the 2nd round. I asked myself, “who is this guy?” Some time went by. The combine came and went without Wagner participating. Then came his pro day last week. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.46 seconds, had a 39 1/2 foot vertical jump, and a 11 ft. broad jump. His 40 time beat out Cal’s Mychal Kendrick’s which led all linebackers. His vertical jump matched Kendrick’s which led all linebackers, and his broad jump was only 1 inch behind the likes of WR Stephen Hill, and CB Josh Robinson. This kid is one heck of an athelete.
He played inside in college, and I think this is just the type of clean cut, blue collar, working man with loads of atheletic talent that Gene Smith likes.
Janzen Jackson, FS, McNeese State:
- Dec 30, 2010; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers safety Janzen Jackson intercepts a pass as North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Erik Highsmith (88) fights for the ball during the Music City Bowl at LP Field. The Tar Heels defeated the Volunteers 30-27 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
Ok. Notice the picture. Jackson played at Tennessee. He ended up at McNeese State, however. Wonder why? He had a slew of off the field issues and ended up being dismissed from the Vols program. He was involved in an armed robbery with two other Tennessee players. So I know what you’re thinking. Not a Gene Smith guy, but Jackson has some talent. He has a lean, athletic build, and can read the quarterback’s eyes very well. He has fluid hips and has explosiveness out of his breaks. He is a very big hitter despite his lean frame, and can create an impact that could possibly separate the ball from the ball carrier. He is an NFL calibre player. He’s projected to be picked around the 5th-6th rounds. Everything aside, would you really want to forfeit the value he offers in those rounds because of past mistakes? I believe he’s worth a look, especially considering the revolving door that was the epitome of our secondary. Jacksonville could be just the place to help this kid not only on the field, but off the field.
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana:
Trumaine Johnson seems to be very popular right now. He’s another small school talent with big time play making ability. He has several different strengths to his game. He has great ability in zone coverage to locate the ball and use his closing speed to either make the interception or wrap up receivers immediately after the catch. He has a bit of shiftiness in his game, and is pretty decent in the open field. He does his job and makes the easy interceptions. He is strong enough in run support to pull off blockers and throw smaller receivers to the ground. He takes the outside angle and either swipes the ball carrier or wraps them up and brings them down. He has the strength and length to prevent receivers from getting YAC (yards after the catch) and does a very good job of tackling runners in the flat. Did I mention this is one tough kid? He played with a broken bone in his forearm. Just the kind of grit Gene Smith admires.
Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State
Silatolu is a small school prospect, but he’s ranked by cbssports.com as the #3 OG prospect and #32 overall. If he falls, Jacksonville could get him in the 2nd round if they are interested. He may be ranked high, but he’s still a small school prospect which is why I’m taking a closer look at him. Want to know why I like this player so much? He is VIOLENT on the field of play. He attacks defenders in the run game and finishes his blocks, something that will be greatly appreciated by the league’s leading rusher. He can crash down the edge and take down multiple defenders at a time. He’s quick enough to trap inside and even pull around to the strong side of the formation.
We can talk about what this kid does well, but really what intrigues me so much about Silatolu is his mean streak. This kid is nasty and I believe he can take our running game to the next level…yes, I know running the football is the strength of this team, but you can never ever do anything TOO well in the NFL.
Chances are we probably will not draft any of these prospects, although you never know. What we DO know is that the 2012 draft class will have at least one small school prospect. Just keep an open mind when it comes to these kinds of players. Jerry Rice came from Mississippi Valley State University.
Tune in next week for the third installment of day 2 and 3 prospects and GET EDUCATED! I will be taking a look at 6-7 rd. prospects ONLY. I mean, who does that? I’m such a swell guy…
- David Johns