Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not Big on Small Schools; but McCray's Success encouragesJags to Keep Open Mind in Draft

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not Big on Small Schools; but McCray's Success encouragesJags to Keep Open Mind in Draft

Article excerpt

Byline: Hays Carlyon

The Jaguars used to be a haven for small-school draft picks under former general manager Gene Smith.

That didn't go so well.

Current Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell has used 16 of his 17 draft picks in his two drafts to take players competing at college football's highest level. The lone exception is a quality one. Cornerback Demetrius McCray was selected in the seventh round out of Appalachian State in 2013 and has become a solid starter.

"It really takes two years for most of these college guys, regardless of what level they play, to develop into their own," Caldwell said. "With the smaller school guys, you need a little more patience that will it take until Year 3. That's why we've been so encouraged by what D-Mac has done in his first two years. We felt it was like a breakout year for him last year going against the top receivers and how he fared. Now, he's coming in with more confidence."

This year could see another small-school selection for the Jaguars among their seven picks.

Why? Because there will be many teams drafting prospects from non-Football-Bowl-Subdivision schools.

"There are some interesting guys," Caldwell said. "We have a couple of guys who are under the radar that we have some interest in."

The crop of possible hidden gems is strong this season, with eight prospects likely to be selected in the first four rounds and roughly 15 to 20 considered safe bets to be drafted. The headliners: Hobart offensive guard Ali Marpet, Northern Iowa running back David Johnson, Samford strong safety Jaquiski Tartt and William & Mary receiver Tre McBride.

While the level of competition will always be a concern, general managers can make an evaluation watching the player's skills.

"Certain things don't change," Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said. "It's not his fault he's playing against whatever small school it is. At the core, you still scout him as an athlete and as a football player. You are still evaluating his quickness, his feet, his balance and his athleticism."

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah served as a scout for Philadelphia, Cleveland and Baltimore. He goes back to an old bit of advice he received.

"This is one of the scouting tricks an old scout told me when I started," Jeremiah said. "When you pop on tape of guys that aren't Division I players, especially more Division II or III-type guys, don't look up his number. Pop on the tape and within five plays if you can't figure out who the NFL prospect is, he's not an NFL prospect."

Jeremiah believes the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Marpet stands out. On the first tape he watched, Marpet had 15 knockdowns on the first 30 plays. Marpet was invited to the Senior Bowl in January, helping him get the exposure many players at major programs don't receive.

"There is a nice mix of under-the-radar players," Jeremiah said. …

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