by Colin Lindsay
    GBN Editor and Publisher

    For the most part, the NFL draft is the preserve of the big-time college football programs. Indeed, every year, something in the neighborhood of 85% of all players drafted are from a D1A school with the large majority of those coming from BCS conferences. Hope springs eternal though, and NFL teams - and their most loyal followers - are always looking for that diamond in the rough who just might be the difference between an also-ran and a championship team and over the course of the next couple of months we'll profile some of the more intrigued so-called sleepers for the upcoming draft.

    February 14, 2014

    Profiles of 5 unheralded prospects who have been invitedto this year's scouting combine in Indianapolis

    DT Tenny Palepoi; Utah, 6-1, 300, 5.15 …  Underrated interior defensive lineman was a junior college All-American in 2011 and then was part of a rotation backing up 2013 first rounder Star Lotulelei last fall, but had a productive year this past season when he finally got a chance to start regularly. Built a little bit like a fire hydrant with very good strength, he did a nice job clogging up the middle as the Utes’ nose tackle this past year as he finished with 53 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 5 other tackles for loss. Has good quickness off the snap and can deliver an effective punch; also plays with good leverage and has a quality motor, but lacks much in the way of polished pass rush moves and maybe limited to a two-down role at next level; has good bloodlines though as he is the younger brother of former NFL DE Anton Palepoi who played for 6 years in the league.

    DT Mike Pennel; Colorado State - Pueblo; 6-3, 365, 5.25 … Could be one of the biggest stories of the combine - both literally and figuratively - although he does not have much of a track record on the field and also appears to be bringing a lot of baggage. Indeed, brings new meaning to the term ‘million-dollar talent, 5-cent brain!‘ Certainly will be hard to miss at the combine as he is a genuinely massive guy at over 365 pounds who was a junior college All-American in 2011 when he had 5 sacks at Scottsdale CC in Arizona. Originally committed to Arkansas for his junior year in 2012, but ultimately ended up at Arizona State where he played in only 5 games that year after being suspended twice for not meeting team standards. Pennel then moved on to CSU-Pueblo last fall, but again spent much of the season in the coach’s proverbial doghouse. In fact, was suspended three times for a total of 6 games this past season for a variety of infractions. However, NFL teams still want to see this guy at the combine as he has been described as having “once-in-20-years" physical talent. When motivated he is a true space eater with surprisingly light feet and while he likely lacks the overall range to make a lot of plays himself at the next level, could be a dominating pocket buster who demands constant double-teaming.
    CB Todd Washington, Southeastern Louisiana; 5-11, 190, 4.55 … Originally a top 50 type prep recruit who signed at Memphis and started for the Tigers as a true freshman, before transferring to SE Louisiana. Was also considered to be one of the top small-school prospects in the country heading into the season, but ultimately played in only 8 games because of an injury. Physical player with good length could also get some looks at safety at the next level; has been effective jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and has reasonably fluid hips, but lacks true top-end recovery speed. Also aggressive when the ball is in the air, but lacks great ball skills.

    CB Keith Reaser, Florida Atlantic, 5-11, 190, 4.45 … Athletic 5th year senior was also a track star in high school where he qualified for the Florida state championships in both the 100 and 200Ms with a PB of 10.7 in the former; and its that speed that likely got Reaser invited to the combine as he has never been super productive at FAU, although he was a three year starter; versatile corner also played some safety at FAU and could get looks at the next level as a slot corner; has good size and is a solid tackler with a knck forgetting into the backfield; indeed, had 158 career stops at FAU including 17 for loss; also had 5 career picks, but has never been that instinctive when the ball is in the air and lacks great ball skills; may also be limited at the combine as he suffered a second ending torn ACL in October.

    OG Conor Boffeli; Iowa, 6-3, 295, 5.20 … Veteran interior offensive linemen with some athletic ability who could get some late-round interest from team’s looking for a developmental prospect upfront. Fifth senior barely played at all until late in his junior season, but started the past 15 games for the Hawkeyes and was an Honorable mention on the Big Ten conference team this past fall; was an all-state TE in high school; well built OG with good length and the frame to add some weight; has long arms and very good feet; physical run blocker fires out off the snap, can get to the second level and goes all out every play; versatile player could also be a factor at C; needs to get stronger, though, and refine technique especially in pass protection; outstanding character player earned academic all-conference honors the past four years.

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