April 25, 2011

2011 NFL draft preview

Mount Union wide receiver Cecil Shorts III has been the best NFL prospect in Division III football for some time, dating to last season. But although Shorts was the only one drafted, certainly he won't be the only one to get a shot at the big time.

Teams cannot sign undrafted players as free agents during the NFL lockout. The top prospects to hear their name called, either on draft day or from a general manager or player personnel person (eventually) over the phone, listed alphabetically:

Tommy Becker
Inside linebacker
St. Thomas
6-1, 248

Becker impressed at the University of Minnesota pro day, with a 4.71 40, a 36-inch vertical and 24 reps at 225 pounds. Becker transferred to St. Thomas from Minnesota. A third-team all-region selection by D3football.com, Becker forced two fumbles, intercepted two passes and blocked two kicks to go along with 106 tackles.

Tyler Beiler SIGNED: Tyler Beiler
Wide receiver
Bridgewater (Va.)
6-0, 190 

Beiler, a D3football.com first-team All-American, opened eyes with a 40.5-inch vertical and 4.39 40 at James Madison's pro day. He caught 61 passes for 1,342 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He's worked out for the Eagles, Steelers, Jaguars, Broncos and 49ers, among others.

Video of Beiler's workout

SIGNED: Keith Darbut
Outside linebacker
Baldwin-Wallace
6-4, 230

Darbut, a second-team All-Region selection by D3football.com last season and the most outstanding defensive lineman in the Ohio Athletic Conference, compiled 10-1/2 sacks for the Yellow Jackets at defensive end. He's being looked at as an outside linebacker at the pro level. He ran a 4.38 40 in a pro day at Akron, with 26 225-pound bench reps and a vertical of 38.

Jared Jenkins SIGNED: Jared Jenkins
Wide receiver
UW-Stevens Point
6-2, 212

Jenkins has drawn interest from almost every NFL team and flew to Seattle for a private workout recently. He had a disappointing pro day at UW-Madison, with a 4.62 40, a 33 vertical, and 10 bench-press reps. He reportedly ran a 4.47 for the Packers with a 35-inch vertical. He also has punting skills in an emergency. 

Kyle Miller SIGNED: Kyle Miller
Long snapper
Mount Union
6-5, 258

Miller ran a 4.85 40, had a 28-1/2 vertical and had 14 reps on the bench press. Although Miller has receiver or tight end size, the rest of his measureables don't stack up quite as well. Long snappers don't get drafted but every team needs one.

Lane Olson Lane Olson
Strong safety
UW-Whitewater
5-8, 203

Olson was hardly on the radar before his pro day at UW-Madison, in which he posted numbers comparable, if not better than the strong safeties invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Of course, at 5-8 he has a bit of a disadvantage in the size department. He ran 4.48 40, posted a 38 vertical, and had 24 bench-press reps.

Mike Preston SIGNED: Mike Preston
Wide receiver
Heidelberg
6-4, 204 

Preston, a third-team D3football.com All-American as a senior, has a 4.60 40, a vertical of 35 inches and 13 reps at 225 pounds. He caught 76 passes for 1,213 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season for the Student Princes.

Justin Rindt
Defensive end
UW-Stout
6-3, 267 

Rindt started the season at tackle but was moved back outside for the final six games of the season. He's run a 4.72 40 at two separate tests, including the UW-Madison pro day, benching 25 times and showing a vertical of 31-1/2 inches. 

Video of a Rindt workout

DRAFTED: Cecil Shorts
Wide receiver
Mount Union
6-0, 205

Shorts, along with Beiler, was a D3football.com first-team All-America selection. He has been projected to go as high as the third round and frequently in the fifth. He has run a 4.50 40, with a 34-1/2 vertical and 21 bench-press reps. Scouting services love his quickness off the line of scrimmages and his adjustment to poorly thrown balls. 

Caleb Urban Caleb Urban
Wide receiver
Trinity (Texas)
6-0, 204

The brother of NFL (and fellow Trinity alum) Jerheme Urban has a shot to make a name of his own in the league. The Chargers, Saints, Falcons, Jaguars, Dolphins, Panthers, and Texans have been in contact and he posted a 4.51 40 with a 35-inch vertical and 17 reps. 

Matt Wenger, by Steve Woltmann Matt Wenger
Linebacker
North Central (Ill.)
5-10, 233

The D3football.com Defensive Player of the Year, Wenger ran a 4.64 40 at a pro day in March, putting up a 34-1/2 vertical and 23 reps at 225.

Wenger's workout video

Marcus Wilson
Defensive back
Wesley
6-2, 216

Wilson started his football career at Iowa in 2006, which gives him a leg up. He intercepted seven passes, returning three for touchdowns for the Wolverines, while breaking up five other passes. He ran 40s of 4.52 and 4.54 and sports a 34-inch vertical. Teammate Ellis Krout could still get picked up as well coming off his late-season injury, but he hasn't been able to work out for teams.

Other names have been mentioned as well, such as Leer Biddle of William Paterson, ZaVious Robbins of Hardin-Simmons, Nate Heard of UW-Oshkosh, Michael Galatas (SIGNED) of Millsaps. And every year, it seems, someone comes from out of nowhere to get a camp invite or a post-draft tryout. Sometimes quarterbacks are brought in to tryout camps solely to give preferred wide receivers a workout. But any opportunity is a chance.

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