February 13, 2024   10 MIN READ

Small But Significant

DiCecco: Small-School Draft Prospects To Watch


The NFL Draft is often headlined by talent from premier college programs, many with a decorated history of success and constantly displayed on TVs across the countryside on Saturdays.

Prospects from these power programs are most recognizable to the novice college football fan, even the lukewarm draft enthusiasts.

While many of those players are sure to hear their names called on opening night, the reality is that they comprise a small percent of NFL rosters.

It’s the second and third days of the draft that produce a larger percentage of an NFL team.

Delving beneath the surface even further, you’ll find a host of undervalued small-school standouts who slot in under the tired “sleeper” label. These are players I take great pride in identifying, spotlighting, and bringing to light, perhaps introducing them to a larger audience for the first time.

As the second phase of the pre-draft process – the NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Days – loom, here are 10 small-school, under-discussed prospects you should know about:

Dylan Laube

GETTY IMAGES: New Hampshire product Dylan Laube is a multidimensional RB who can fit many systems.

Dylan Laube, RB, New Hampshire

Laube, whom New Hampshire threw a lot at in terms of demands, functioned as a pseudo wide receiver in addition to his typical duties at running back. He easily fits the bill as a third-down back out of the gate. At 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, Laube represents a do-it-all prospect, almost chameleon-like in that his skill set translates to any system.

In the passing game, Laube is a decisive mismatch in space against linebackers and offers the versatility to line up at multiple spots in formations. As a runner, Laube evokes patience in navigating running lanes and offers the burst and agility to stretch and create yardage outside. Finishes runs with good contact balance and capably sifts through traffic without losing momentum.

For rookie running backs, the fastest way onto the field is often tied to pass protection. While having little experience in that department at Westhampton Beach High School – in an offense that ran the Wing T – Laube understood that it would be critical to work on that aspect of his game, and it became a strength.

The Eagles, who currently have only Kenny Gainwell under contract in 2024, could look to add a multi-dimensional runner to complement Kellen Moore’s offense.

Here’s how his position coach, Thomas Herion, described Laube to Inside the Birds:

“I think his vision is a big reason for his success at the college level. He has a great feel for zone runs and his tempo is something he really used to his advantage this past season. He naturally just does a lot of things to an elite level. He’s great out of the backfield and the slot. We used him to get favorable matchups throughout the year in the passing game. He has a great feel for zone defense and separates vs. man. His special teams aspect will help him as well, he was the special teams player of the in the CAA [Colonial Athletic Conferece] this past season where he returned punts and kicks for us. I truly think he is a jack of all trades and can help teams in a variety of ways. Whether it’s on offense, special teams, or both, he is going to make an NFL team very happy.”
Others to know: Isaiah Davis (South Dakota State), Kimani Vidal (Troy)

Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky

Corley is a prospect who won’t be much of a secret for long, as his stock is expected to elevate in coming months. A compactly built 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Corely is custom built to operate from inside, accentuating his short-area burst, explosiveness, strong hands and run-after-the-catch physicality. The last trait reminds me a bit of 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

Corley is very good in space. His need for refinement and polish, specifically in terms of route-running, could scare some teams during draft weekend as he faces a steeper learning curve. Corely’s natural skill set would be a welcome addition to any modernized NFL offense. It’s up to his coaches to help him refine his craft and maximize his potential.

Ryan Flournoy, WR, Southeast Missouri State

If you’re noticing a trend, it’s because the Eagles could stand to bolster their wide receiver depth with more competition. Flournoy, who’s been on my radar for a little while, gained widespread recognition following a productive week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound wideout secured 57 receptions for 839 yards and six touchdowns this past season, capping a two-year Redhawk career in which he accumulated 1,823 yards and 13 touchdowns on 118 receptions.

Physical at the catch-point and on the move after the catch, Flournoy routinely demonstrates elite body control and balance and has inside-outside versatility. If you ask Flournoy, he’d tell you his game most resembles that of former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and he looks up to Jerry Rice.

His electric Senior Bowl showing proved he could compete with the nation’s best, and his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine could be what puts him on the map for both evaluators and draft pundits nationwide.

De'Corian Clark

GETTY IMAGES: UTSA product De’Corian Clark is a big-bodied pass catcher.

De’Corian Clark, WR, UTSA

Equipped with prototypical size (6-3, 215) and 4.4 speed, Clark’s stock has been relatively stagnant due to a late-season ACL tear at the tail end of the 2022 season, hampering what would’ve otherwise resulted in a senior campaign that vaulted Clark into household name terrain.

A big-bodied pass-catcher with outstanding body control, Clark is at his best tracking the football, reeling in contested catches and attacking the ball at its highest point.

The Eagles would be wise to pounce on Clark if presented with an opportunity late on Day 3, presuming the medical element checks out. Clark represents another dynamic pass-catcher who could aid Jalen Hurts in climbing the proverbial ladder and playing above-the-rim.

Ethan Driskell, T, Marshall

Heralded for his larger-than-life frame (6-9, 329), power, and intensity, Driskell should be an ideal target early on Day 3 if the Eagles don’t spring for a tackle early. Driskell’s basketball background – he played center for Holy Cross High School, in addition to defensive tackle on the gridiron – the mammoth tackle is an athletic, fluid-mover boasting nimble footwork, which would appear to check off the initial boxes of offensive line guru Jeff Stoutland’s preferred requirements.

A projected reserve swing tackle as a rookie, Driskell would be an ideal replacement for pending free-agent Jack Driscoll, who served an identical role for four seasons with the Eagles. He’s also sure to reach his full potential under Stoutland’s tutelage.

Kiran Amegadije, T, Yale

Like Driskell, Amegadije would theorteically qualify as an intriguing developmental project under Stoutland, though Driskell is further along and more pro ready. Still, it’s absolutely worth acquainting yourselves with Amegadije, one of my favorite Day 3 offensive linemen.

As it pertains to Amegadije’s senior tape, there isn’t much to glean, as a torn quad ended his final season prematurely. Still, the former Bulldog is light on his feet, rangy, highly intelligent and plays with a mean streak. He also offers guard versatility, spending the 2021 season at right guard before ultimately settling into his left tackle post for his remaining two seasons.

Jalyx Hunt, EDGE, Houston Christian

Hunt (6-2, 248) got a taste of the national spotlight last month, participating in the Senior Bowl. A small-school prospect still learning the subtleties and nuances of the position with a “tweener” build, Hunt has his work cut out for him, though his stint in Mobile more than deemed him worthy of Day 3 consideration on draft weekend.

Originally beginning his football journey at Cornell – where he played safety – before pivoting to Houston Christian in 2022, Hunt proved disruptive in his two seasons, registering 13.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. A lengthy, twitchy, moldable ball of clay with an engine that runs hot, Hunt offers quite a bit of appeal early on Day 3.

The Eagles, in some form or fashion, need to invest in multiple edge rushers to replenish a depleted room, and Hunt could be a long-term solution as part of a new-look rotation.
Others to know: Javon Solomon (Troy), Mohamed Kamara (Colorado State)

Tyrice Knight

GETTY IMAGES: UTEP’s Tyrice Knight stood out among Senior Bowl linebackers.

Tyrice Knight, LB, UTEP

Given the expected razor-thin numbers at this position, the Eagles are likely to leave Day 2 with an upside-laden building block to complement in-house options. Still, Knight – a projected early Day 3 selection – is a player who needs to be on more radars. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker, who appeared in 43 games for the Miners, originally took the JUCO route, playing the 2018-19 seasons at Independence Community College, a program once featured on Netflix’s Last Chance U.

Adept in coverage, Knight also possesses sideline-to-sideline range, instincts, and anticipatory traits flash on tape. Though far from a finished product – some elements of his game require refinement – Knight is an intriguing developmental prospect who could potentially provide a boost situationally while moonlighting as a special teams maven.

Willie Drew, CB, Virginia State

Senior Bowl bid notwithstanding, Drew remains one of the lesser-known defensive backs in this class who I’m partial to and felt warranted a mention. Drew, a 6-foot, 185-pound cornerback, initially began his collegiate campaign at James Madison before transferring to Virginia State for the 2020 season, so he isn’t short on experience.

Despite sporting a wiry frame, Drew offers first-rate change of direction and the fluidity to flip his hips and run. He’s also not one to easily concede a reception, routinely battling through the catch. Hailing from a Division II program – with an enrollment of roughly 4,600 students – Drew, a 2023 first-team American Football Coaches Association All American, will face more scrutiny than most of his peers.

Sure, Drew held up against stiffer competition at the Senior Bowl, which likely quelled some doubt, but it’s imperative he uses his recent eye-opener as a springboard through the pre-draft process. As of now, I’ve assigned a late Day 3 grade to Drew, which would represent tremendous value for some club.

Trey Taylor, S, Air Force

Taylor (6-0, 210), a 2023 Jim Thorpe Award winner and first-team All-Mountain West selection, collected 74 tackles, four passes defended, three interceptions (1 TD), and a half-sack in his final season with the Falcons, parlaying his production into an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl.

Taylor is an athletic back-end player with a nose for the ball, flowing to ball-carriers with urgency. He’s in his element attacking downhill. Perhaps most notably, the fifth-year senior showcases a high-level football intellect, a desirable — and necessary — characteristic for a Vic Fangio safety.

As of now, I have a late Day 3 grade on him. For a team in need of multiple safeties, like the Eagles, Taylor could provide late-round value, immediately aiding in special teams coverage while acclimating defensively.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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