May 10, 2014

Division III blanked in draft for second year in a row

Cole Klotz, UW-Whitewater linebacker, had an impressive workout. And he has the size.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com

Six Division III football players have been drafted by NFL teams in the past eight seasons, including Mount Union wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who starred first for the Colts and now for the Redskins.

No Division III players were drafted in this season's draft, making it the second year in a row without a D-III draftee. We'll track players as they sign free agent contracts or get minicamp tryouts.

But it isn't necessary to get drafted in order to be an impact player in the NFL. Just ask Coe's Fred Jackson or Mary Hardin-Baylor's Jerrell Freeman, now starting in the NFL, or Middlebury's Steven Hauschka, who was drafted out of grad school at N.C. State and kicked the Seahawks to a Super Bowl ring this past season.

The poster man for undrafted D-III players was London Fletcher, whose amazing career in the NFL ended this offseason, when he announced his retirement. Will Freeman inherit the mantle or will someone step up out of the 2014 draft class and have a long NFL career? 

Here are some of the prospects who could get picked up by NFL teams. 

Invited: Mitch Hallstrom,
WR, Bethel

Invited to rookie camp by the Minnesota Vikings.

Hallstrom, a D3football.com All-American, is 6-2, 211, but has a huge wingspan. He started his career as a safety for the Royals but moved to the offensive side of the ball and had 171 receptions for 2,226 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

Invited: Seth Mathis, LB, Bethel

Invited to rookie camp by the Minnesota Vikings.

Mathis, a two-time D3football.com All-American, stands 6-2, 240 and ended his career with the Royals as the program's leading tackler after 361 career tackles. He also intercepted 11 passes, forced six fumbles, and had 3.5 sacks. His 40 time is 4.87.

Invited: Rob Ruggiero, DL, Bridgewater State

Invited to rookie camp by the Indianapolis Colts. 

At 6-1, 237, Ruggiero looks more like an inside linebacker in the NFL. He started his career with three seasons at Springfield before transferring and sitting out 2012. Ruggiero's 40 time is 4.66 and he had 25 bench reps at 225.

Bruce Doyle, OL, Brockport State

Doyle missed time at the end of the season because of injury, hurting his draft preparedness. At 6-4, 308, Doyle has the size for someone to still take a flyer on him in a rookie camp or in training camp in the summer.

Signed: Jamaine Sherman, WR, East Texas Baptist

Picked up by the St. Louis Rams.

Sherman, who played at two separate junior colleges in Arizona, then Abilene Christian and played club football at Alderson-Broaddus, used his final year of eligibility at East Texas Baptist. He caught 62 passes for 1082 yards and seven touchdowns for the Tigers last fall. 

Invited: Adham Talaat, DE, Gallaudet

Invited to rookie camp by the Seattle Seahawks.

Talaat, who dominated the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference and was seen by more than 20 scouts this season, has been training at the TEST Parisi Football Academy. Talaat had 46 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss for the 9-2 Bison. He's 6-6, 271 pounds, and has speed comparable to top prospects at the position. 

Signed: Ryan Montague, RB, Louisiana College

Signed by the Seattle Seahawks.

A D3football.com All-Region selection, Montague ran for 1,080 yards for the Wildcats last season. At 5-8, 221, looks like a third-down back in the NFL.

Invited: Mason Espinosa, QB, Ohio Wesleyan

Invited to rookie camp by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Espinosa, a four-year starter for Ohio Wesleyan, was fifth in Division III in passing yards per game last season and 17th in total offense. Espinosa stands 6 feet, 2-1/2 inches, and weighed in at 199 pounds with an official 40 time of 5.14. Sometimes Division III quarterbacks are brought into minicamp just to serve as a "camp arm" to throw to prospect wide receivers but any exposure is good.

Invited: Garrett Maloney, P, St. Thomas

Invited to rookie camp by the Minnesota Vikings.

Maloney averaged a hair under 40 yards per punt for the Tommies last season, with 10 punts landing inside the 20 compared to just two touchbacks. St. Thomas opponents managed just seven returns on his 24 punts.

Invited: Willie Schneider, FB, St. Thomas

Invited to rookie camp by the Indianapolis Colts.

Exclusively a fullback for the Tommies last year, Schneider got no carries in 2013 and only a handful of them in 2012. Schneider measures at 5-11, 230.

Invited: Randall Carroll, CB,
Sul Ross State

Invited to rookie camp by the Minnesota Vikings.

You wouldn't expect a defensive player from the offense-happy American Southwest Conference to be on a list of pro prospects, other than someone from Mary Hardin-Baylor. But Carroll has a Division I pedigree, which gives him a little extra credibility with scouts. He played three years at UCLA, catching a total of 21 passes at wide receiver. Carroll recorded one interception and broke up three passes for the 1-9 Lobos this past season.

Invited: Cole Klotz, LB, UW-Whitewater

Invited to rookie camp by the Green Bay Packers.

Klotz was the D3football.com Defensive Player of the Year, and the track record on those players getting a shot in the league is pretty decent. Measuring up at 6-3, 240, Klotz has the size to play linebacker in the league, rather than try to make the transition to safety. He and fellow Warhawk Kyle Wismer have a chance to get called for free agent contracts.

Octavias McKoy, RB, Western Connecticut

McKoy made headlines when he set the NCAA all-divisions rushing record last season vs. Worcester State. Even though Heidelberg's Cartel Brooks surpassed that record a few weeks later, McKoy's performance got him on the radar. His 40 time from his pro day at Yale puts him in the 4.8 range and at 24 years of age he is a stretch as a draftee but he studies the game relentlessly and could play his way in through a tryout.

Signed: Dave Wright, TE, Westminster (Pa.)

Picked up by the Tennessee Titans.

Wright got an extra year of eligibility after an injury cut short his senior year. He caught 20 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns for the Titans. Wright is 6-5, 252 pounds.

Diante Jackson, WR, Whittier

Jackson had 58 catches for 1,114 yards and 10 scores for the Poets. At 6-1 with a 40 in the high 4.5 range, Jackson has the measurables, and a heck of a lot more stats than former Whittier wideout Giovanni Stanley, who got a free-agent call from the NFL in 2011.

Invited: Dashawn Johnson, OL, William Paterson

Invited to rookie camp by the Green Bay Packers.

Johnson started 33 of 37 games at William Paterson. At Wagner's pro day, he measured in a 6 feet, 2-1/2 inches, and 313 pounds. His 40 time was 4.97 and he had 24 reps at 225.

If you've seen media coverage on other players, add links in the comments below.

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