What does Fresno State, West Alabama, North Dakota State, and Minnesota State all have in common? They all have produced NFL stars. Everyone stays focused on the prospects from the big name schools but in reality, talent is found everywhere. Every draft class has a number of small school studs that slide under the radar, so let’s take a look at some of those guys in this upcoming draft.
Jaelon Darden Wide Receiver – North Texas
Every team is searching for a guy that can score whenever they touch the ball, and Jaelon Darden is that guy. He is one of the most elusive athletes in the draft with game breaking speed. Not only is he electric on offense, but his return ability is second to none.
This last season Darden caught 74 balls for 1,190 yards and had 19 touchdowns in only 9 games. Not to mention he was the only Wide Receiver in college football to score in every game he played in; five of those games, he scored more than once. Darden had more yards after the catch than Heisman winner DeVonta Smith. His explosiveness and playmaking ability is going to make an NFL team very happy.
Shemar Jean-Charles Cornerback – Appalachian State
When you look at the production Jean-Charles has created, it is hard to believe he is not generating more hype. According to Pro Football Focus, Jean-Charles produced the second lowest completion percentage (minimum 20 targets) in college football at 32%. He also allowed the fewest number of completions (minimum 50 targets) with 17. He is more than a one year wonder, as he has 27 combined pass breakups and interceptions, holding the record since 2019. Shemar Jean-Charles can flat out ball and he is going to improve whatever secondary he joins from day one.
Jordan Smith Edge/ Outside Linebacker – UAB
When you throw on the film of the former Florida Gator, he is all over the place. Smith has an extremely high motor and plays from sideline to sideline. His build and traits are what NFL scouts are looking for. He is 6”6, 255 pounds but is extremely athletic. He is decently versatile as well and possesses the ability to rush the passer and hold up in some coverages, which allows him to be on the field at all times. Smith might be more of a project, but his ceiling is sky high. When you combine his physical traits along with his high motor and energy, you get exactly what you want in a modern day defender.
Jaret Patterson Running Back – Buffalo
You may not know his name, but it is cemented in the FBS record book. Jaret Patterson had a historic performance against Kent State; he ran for 409 yards and tied the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game with 8, yes, 8. After this game, he became just the second player in FBS history to run for 300 plus yards in back to back games.
Patterson ran for 1,072 yards and had 19 rushing touchdowns in SIX GAMES. He averaged 178 yards and just over three touchdowns per game. Patterson is not the flashy, fast running back we are used to seeing on the fields today, as he is 5’9, 195 pounds, but he will bulldoze through you. Patterson might not be the biggest name but he will always get the job done.
D’Ante Smith Offensive Tackle / Guard – Eastern Carolina
Finding quality Offensive Linemen is very important in the NFL. D’Ante Smith is going to be a mid round pick who has tremendous upside. Smith is a massive human being who will surprise you with his athletic ability. Smith is 6’5, 295 pounds, and has a key feature many scouts crave, arm length. When Smith measured in at the Senior Bowl, they recorded his arm length at 35 inches and his wingspan at 85 inches (7.08 feet). His build mixed with his athleticism is every NFL team’s dream. Smith is one of the most underrated Offensive Linemen in this draft and should surprise a lot of people, but I will not be one of them.
Tarron Jackson Edge – Coastal Carolina
Tarron Jackson has had an impressive career but these last two seasons really put him and his school on the map. Over the last two years he produced 18 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus also credited him with the most Quarterback pressures by draft eligible players this year at 59. The crazy thing is when you watch him play, those numbers seem low, as he is all over the field and seems to be involved in every single play. Which is why his energy is another thing that stands out in his tape. He possesses an extremely high motor and a nose for the football. When those two things mix, only positive results follow.
CJ Marable Running Back – Coastal Carolina
CJ Marable is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, and in my opinion he is being greatly undervalued. The Coastal Carolina offense ran through him and he did not disappoint with a total of 890 rushing yards and with 230 receiving yards. Marable is a well rounded talent and has the perfect skill set for the modern NFL style. He is a good runner but he is a great pass catcher. He has true three down potential and CJ is not being talked about enough.
Jonathan Adams Jr Wide Receiver – Arkansa State
If you are ever bored one night and itching for some football, do yourself a favor and turn on some highlights of Jonathan Adams Jr. He has some of the most fun and exciting tape I have ever seen. When you watch him play, he is simply dominant. You will see teams double and triple team him, and he still comes down with the ball. His jump ball ability is unlike any other, he is an absolute freak of an athlete while being 6’3, 218 pounds. I am very, very, very excited to see how Jonathan Adams Jr develops at the next level.