Five small-school sleepers to watch


Every team is looking for diamonds in the rough on draft weekend. Over the past two weeks, I've taken a look a handful of Football Championship Subdivision prospects who could fit the bill.

These players don't project as immediate difference-makers at the next level, maybe not even starters, but they have the potential to develop into effective role players who could help a team on the cheap in the later rounds.

The prospects don't have full Scouts Inc. profiles and grades, but I've offered up initial projections on where they could possibly come off the board.

Tennessee-Martin DT Montori Hughes

Hughes comes with some character baggage, and coaches have questioned his effort in the past. Inconsistent pad level was an issue in a season-opening win over Memphis, and he was a split-second late getting off blocks at times in that game.

Still, Hughes (6-foot-4, 322 pounds) helped his cause with his performance in that game, including with his effort. He was part of a rotation, but he never stopped working despite having to consistently fight though double-teams. In fact, Memphis committed three blockers to him at times.

Hughes may never be more than a bull-rusher when rushing the passer, but he collapsed the pocket and chased the quarterback outside the tackle box. He has the frame to quickly contribute as a nose tackle regardless of the front, and he could even line up at end in base three-man front. Given that versatility, he projects as a middle-round pick.

Stony Brook RB Miguel Maysonet

Determination is the first word that comes to mind while watching Maysonet. He never stops churning his legs, flashes the ability to spin out of would-be tackles and can be seen hurdling defenders at times. Maysonet (5-8¾, 204) plants his foot in the ground and gets his shoulders turned upfield as soon as he locates a seam, and he doesn't miss many chances to get to daylight.

He is quick enough to turn the corner, and his 72-yard touchdown run against Syracuse this year eases concerns about his top-end speed. Maysonet shows average awareness and the ability to help out in pass protection.

There are some concerns, though. Maysonet is tougher than he is strong, and he is not going to drag defenders for extra yards or consistently push the pile at the next level. He lacks ideal production as a receiver and is an unpolished route runner who could do a better job of setting up his breaks.

Still Maysonet has done enough to move into the late-fifth or early-sixth round range at this point in the process.

Old Dominion OLB Craig Wilkins

Wilkins (6-1, 235) gets engulfed by offensive linemen at times, but he is a tough run defender for his size. He has the upper-body strength and strong punch to stack tight ends and stand up fullbacks, and there is a lot to like about his ability to close down cutback lanes and make plays in pursuit.

While he doesn't always wrap up as a tackler, he doesn't shy away from contact and flashes the ability to deliver the big hit. In terms of coverage, Wilkins shows good range, reads the quarterback and flashes the ability to play the ball. He could get better depth in his drops and diagnose routes quicker, however.

When it comes to rushing the passer, he doesn't bend the edge that well but does show good speed-to-power moves and can redirect inside after starting outside. Finally, it's important to point out that Wilkins is a four-time team captain. All things considered, he projects as a late-fifth or early-sixth round pick.

Old Dominion DT Christopher Burnette

Burnette flashes the ability to develop into an effective three-technique depth player at the next level. He has above-average initial quickness, his relatively low center of gravity makes it hard for blockers to win the battle of leverage, and he flashes the ability to make plays in the backfield.

His potential as a pass-rusher stands out. He flashes an effective rip move, and he can redirect. However, Burnette (6-2⅝, 287) is never going to be a massive space-eater. He doesn't have the frame to add substantial weight and struggles when teams commit two blockers to him. His narrow base makes it a little too easy to wash him down the line on angle blocks.

Burnette hasn't realized his potential as a pass-rusher either. He struggles to counter when he doesn't win with his first move, and he relies on his power too much. Still, Burnette projects as a late-round pick or priority rookie free agent who could develop if he gets on an NFL roster.

Cornell OT Joseph Tretter

Tretter is a former tight end who made strides in his first season at tackle in 2011. In particular, he did a better job of recognizing and picking up pressure in pass protection as the season progressed. His quick feet and good punch also stand out.

However, he doesn't consistently dominate despite playing in the Ivy League, and the level of competition Tretter (6-3⅝, 291) faces at Cornell isn't the only concern when it comes to him making it in the NFL. He is still very much a project. His footwork is inconsistent, and he takes too many false steps both as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. There is also room for improvement in terms of adjusting to line stunts and blitzes.

Tretter's fit is an even greater concern. He doesn't have great length for an offensive tackle prospect, and he is on the lighter side for a guard prospect. He projects as a late-round pick or priority rookie free agent, but that could change if he makes strides in terms of technique and starts to show better power at the point.