THE SLEEPER FILE PROSPECTS TO WATCH FOR THE 2009 DRAFT OUTSIDE DIA FOOTBALL February 13): Safety not quite first… The 2009 draft is expected to be a relatively weak year for safeties. Indeed, it is entirely possible that no safety will be selected in this year‘s opening round. That said several safeties have caught the attention of NFL teams as potential second round steals including Rashad Johnson of Alabama and Louis Delmas of Western Michigan. Neither is very big, but both are quick, instinctive and very aggressive. Delmas, in particular, has made a rather meteoric up draft boards around the league, especially after a solid week of practice at last month’s Senior Bowl in mobile. WMU‘s Delmas, though, is just one of several very good MAC conference safeties that have a chance to make an NFL roster next fall. Tyrell Hebert of Toledo, for example, is a solid all-around FS with good range and decent instincts who hits like a SS when he gets to the ball. Hebert, who is a rangy 6-2, 195-pounder with is projected to run in the low 4.5 range over 40 yards, had 79 tackles in 2008 when he also picked off 4 passes. Meanwhile, pro teams are also intrigued by the speed and athleticism of Akron SS Bryan Williams who reportedly runs the 40 in under 4.5 seconds. Williams is a solid 5-11, 200 pounder who has been very aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage posting 7 tackles for loss last fall, although he still needs to improve his range in coverage. There are also a number of safeties worth a look outside the ranks of the D1A conferences. Jabir Perkins of Texas A&M Kingsville, for example, received more than his share of attention at last month’s Cactus Bowl all-star game for DII players. Perkins is another solid 5-11, 200-pound safety who is not shy about coming up in run support. Perkins real strength, though, is in coverage as he covers a lot of territory with what is reportedly track-like 4.3 speed over 40 yards. Meanwhile, both of Tom Nelson of Illinois State and Nick Schommer are smart, physical safeties who both run in the 4.5 range over 40 yards. Both have also been starters at their respective schools since they stepped on campus. Nelson, unparticular, is an excellent tackler who led the Redbirds with 81 stops in 2008; Nelson has also been opportunistic in his career when the ball is in the air and once picked off star Missouri QB Chase Daniel twice in the same game, although pro scouts would still like to see more plays when the ball is in the air. Schommer, on the other hand is more of a ball-hawker type who has 13 career picks. And in one of those two for one deals, Minnesota-Duluth features two lower level All-american DBs in FS TylerYelk and SS Jim Johnson. Yelk, a 5-11, 200-pound, is the acknowledged star of the UMD defense with over 300 career tackles, although the 6-2, 220-pound Johnson might ultimately be the better pro as he is a big hitter with some range who picked off 4 passes in 2008. Meanwhile, if one is going to play at the NAIA level, but has NFL aspirations, then one needs to pretty much dominate, however, that’s what St. Francis FS Paul Carter did in his career at that level as he posted 20 career interceptions, returning a record 6 for TDs. None were gimmes as Carter, who is 5-11, 198 pounds with 4.5 speed averaged over 70 yards on his half TD returns. February 4): Strangers in Indianapolis... Not surprisingly, for the most part, the players invited to this year's scouting combine in Indianapolis are mostly well-known prospects from college football's power conferences. In fact, of the 331 players invited to this year's combine, over three out of four (76%) are from schools in the six so-called BCS conferences, while another 17% are from the other D1A programs. Still, there's always room at the combine table for players from outside the ranks of the D1A conferences and this year 26 prospects - about 8% of the total - have been invited to Indianapolis for the week of physical and skills testing as part of the lead-up to the 2009 draft. Of course, many of the non-BCS players invited to the combine also are reasonably well known nationally. Indeed, lower-level prospects like QBs Rhett Bomar of Sam Houston State and Centrak Arkansas' Nathan Brown, Liberty RB Rashad Jennings, Cal-Poly WR Ramses Barden, Richmond DE Lawrence Sidbury and Jackson State CB Domonique Johnson were in Mobile for last month's Senior Bowl. A number of other small-school draft prospects, though, haven't received quite as much national attention to date. Perhaps the biggest - both literally and figuratively - of the emerging non-BCS prospects invited to this year's combine in Stillman DT Sammie Lee Hill. No shrinking violet, Hill is a 330-pound space-eating interior defensive lineman with exceptional strength and surprising short-area quickness. And while known primarily as a run-stuffer, Hill was also a strong pass-rusher at the lower level, racking up 17.5 career sacks including 7.5 in 2008. Indeed, at 6-4, Hill could also get some looks from 3-4 teams as a DE, although he lacks much in the way of closing speed with a projected 40-clocking in the 5.25 range. There is also some decent small-school size on the other side of the line starting with Tennessee State OT Cornelius Lewis, a 6-4, 315-pounder with decent quickness, who generally dominated at the lower-level of competition after transferring from Florida State. Lewis, who runs in the 5.20 range for the 40, may also get some looks at OG as he isn't all that tall for an NFL OT. No such problems, though, for 6-7, 310-pound Furman OT Joel Bell, a rangy RT prospect with long arms. Bell has adequate quickess and agility for a big man - he is projected to run the 40 in around 5.25 seconds - but he likely will need to add some bulk and strength to be more than a marginal player at the next level. Meanwhile, Missouri Western State OG Roger Allen is a 6-4, 320-pound mauler upfront, but needs to show pro scouts at the combine that he has the quickness and agility to handle the position at the next level. Pro scouts are intrigued to see just how big and fast emerging McNeese State OT Kyle Link is when he shows up in Indianapolis. Link is currently only listed at around 285 pounds, but he's a converted TE who just made the switch to the position in 2007 so has some room to develop. And at 6-5, the athletic Link also has the frame to add some weight; plus, for good measure, Link is an accomplished long-snapper; he's also an outstanding student majoring in engineering. Maybe the most surprising prospect invited to this year's combine is Weber State FB Marcus Mailei. Mailei didn't touch the ball all that often in college, although he is an adequate receiver who had 40 career catches for the Wildcats. No one in Indianapolis, though, is going to outwork Mailei, a weight-room warrior who takes that intensity to the field where he is a physical lead-blocker. Meanwhile, NFL teams looking for a speed infusion at WR will take a long look at Stephen F. Austin wideout Dominque Edison, a former Texas state sprint champion with reported sub-4.4 speed. At 6-2, 200, Edison also has decent size and is coming off a productive year at SFU where he averaged over 15 yards per catch on 67 total receptions and scored 18 times in 2008. Same for McNeese State WR Quinten Lawrence, another speedster with sub-4.4 speed. Lawrence, though, has had knee troubles in the past and classifies as a real sleeper after plying in just 5 games in 2008. ************ QB Jason Boltus, Hartwick College, 6-3, 225, 4,75... Playing at little Division III Hartwick College, which for the record is located in Oneonta in central New York, QB Jason Boltus hasn’t gotten much national attention. However, pro scouts have started to troop to the school to check out Boltus, who has one of the strongest arms in the country. Indeed, Boltus will be one of the 300-plus prospects in Indianapolis for this year's annual scoting combine in February. Boltus earned the trip to the combine as he has been one of the most productive passers in college football throwing for over 14,000 yards in his career including almost 4,000 yards in 2007 when he was named the outstanding player in DIII as a junior Boltus passed for another 3,300 yards this fall when he led the Hawks to the playoffs for the first time as he passed for 35 TDs this fall against just 8 interceptions. Along with a very strong arm, Boltus is also a good athlete who reportedly ran a 4.75 at his school’s pro day last spring in less than ideal conditions. Boltus has also reportedly benched 415 pounds and squated 500 and is known for a solid work ethic with excellent intangibles. If there is a concern about Boltus it’s a lack of touch; in fact, his career completion mark is well under 60%, although he did hit the 60% mark as a senior this past fall. If you have comments or suggestions, e-mail the Editor, Great Blue North Draft Report. 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