NCAA

Top Non-Power Five Conference NFL Draft Prospects

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Watching Alabama running back Derrick Henry demolish opposing defenses is entertaining for any spectator. Seeing Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell beat the nation’s top defensive backs routinely for touchdowns is commonplace on any Saturday afternoon.

Those two collegiate stars and first-round prospects are play on the biggest stages in the “Power Five Conferences” that consist of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) and Southeastern Conference (SEC).

The ‘Power Five’ is the highest level of collegiate football in the country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate NFL draft prospects outside of the conferences you see on television every week. Scattered throughout college football is a bounty of NFL caliber players absent from being a member of the “Power Five.”

There are simply too many quality players to mention that deserve recognition.  Below are a few top non “Power Five Conferences” players in the country to keep close tabs on in the coming months.

Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Mississippi

Conference USA

Thomas finished his senior season with Golden Eagles by catching 62 passes for 1,201 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Despite missing large chunks of time in the first two games of the season, he was able to post numbers worthy of being considered for First-Team Conference USA honors. His size (6-foot-1 and 201 pounds) makes him a legitimate NFL prospect and is why he has received invitations to both the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He is also an alternate for the Senior Bowl if there are roster openings. Thomas is a quicker version of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He possesses excellent hands and is also a very potent kick return specialist.

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State

Mountain West

The Spartans leading rusher with 1,469 yards, also led the team with 2,410 all-purpose yards. He was first-team All-Mountain West and has accepted his invitation to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on January 30th.  Ervin, the fifth-year senior and native of San Bernardino, California is one of the nation’s most versatile playmakers. He has played running back, slot receiver, return specialist and even spent some time at cornerback while at San Jose State. He is shifty and strong for his size (5-foot-9 and 178 pounds), and displays great hands and durability. Though you may have never heard of him, Ervin is one of the most explosive players heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.

DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS, William & Mary

Colonial Athletic Association

Houston-Carson began his career at William & Mary as a defensive back, and made the most of his transition to free safety this season. He quickly established himself in the Tribe secondary and led the team in tackles (109) and interceptions (four). He has earned CAA honors at both cornerback and safety while at William & Mary.  DHC was a two-time CAA Special Teams Player of the Week and he posted nine blocks on special teams in his collegiate career. Typically, not many CAA athletes receive invitations to the nation’s top all-star game. That is not the case for Houston-Carson, who has received and will play in the Senior Bowl. He has been selected as a finalist for the Dudley Award, which honors the top Division I player in the state and also a finalist for the 2015 STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Willie Beavers, OT, Western Michigan

MAC

Beavers possesses good size (6-foot-5 and 309) and agility for his position.  He has an unorthodox, but effective back-pedal into his stance. He does appear at times a little stiff, but his athletic frame and overall ability is why he was invited to the Senior Bowl. He had his hands full against the front seven of Ohio State earlier this season and did an admirable job. The Senior Bowl is an incredible opportunity for Beavers to showcase his talent and build upon a great senior season at Western Michigan.

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

American Athletic Conference

Lynch could be the top pick of the entire 2016 NFL Draft.  The Memphis Tigers’ quarterback has been dialed in all season as he elevated a formerly downtrodden Memphis program into the Top 25 and posted an upset victory over Ole Miss. His former head coach, Justin Fuente, who recently took the Virginia Tech head coaching job and along with offensive coordinator, Darrell Dickey, played a critical role in the development of Lynch. He has the ability to spread the ball around and has all the characteristics of a top-flight NFL prospect. Lynch has the size (6-foot-5 and 225 pounds) and arm strength that is equal to, if not better than the other quarterback prospects from the “Power Five Conferences.”


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.