With Boise State out of conference and most teams looking to bail as soon as possible, this may be the WAC’s last season to have draft prospects…or have a conference at all. And while new addition Texas State has one adequate junior prospect, the rest of the conference does little to pick up the slack.
Regardless, here are six juniors that could eventually pique the NFL’s interest, whether they are playing in the WAC or some other conference.
MDD Lead Editor: Eric Galko
1. Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State
Likely the Spartans best receiver the past two seasons, Grigsby has been a consistent, short area pass catcher for this team. He already broke the team record for single season receptions last season, and he’ll look to duplicate that despite having his fellow top three receivers back. Still, his quick reflexes and consistent short area routes could get him NFL looks in 2014.
2. Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech
The 330 pound nose tackle is a defensive staple for this team that allowed for two 100+ tacklers and five total that finished with over 60 tackles. Ellis doesn’t dominate as a pass rusher, but his shear size and bulk along with flashes of balance through double teams allows for holes to naturally open up for rushers. If he can develop more consistent balance and be more disruptive with quickness off the snap, he could develop into a worthwhile draft pick.
3. Keith Smith, OLB, San Jose State
The WAC’s most consistent tackler the past two seasons, Smith attacks the ball with a violent hit and flows well through traffic with adequate balance. He is given some free reign on the outside, but does tend to backpedal at times and not engage blockers and shed the way you’d like. He flashes some coverage ability, but he’s at his best in run support when he can just sit and react to the running back’s hole.
4. Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State The small-ish cornerback has been consistently active for this team, both in run support and pass coverage. A more than solid open field tackler, he reacts quickly from run coverage, gets up field quickly, and is in position to both make the tackle and not absorb all of the contact. While his ball skills are solid, he needs to be more effectively physical as receivers try to get down field, and not let his size become an issue down field.
5. Xavier Daniels, S, Texas State
One of the new additions to the conference this season, Daniels is among the leaders of a defense that gave up an average of 400 yards per game last season in at the FCS level. Daniels was one of the few bright spots on that defense, showcasing some range, ball skills, and anticipation as a center fielder for that defense. He and his defense will have their hands full early in the 2012 season however, as they face Houston and Texas Tech to start their season.
6. Dominique Blackman, QB, Idaho
The transferring quarterback from Old Dominion, Blackman finally gets a chance to shine at the FBS level after playing well in junior college in 2009. The 6’5, 274 pound monster of a quarterback isn’t one I’ve seen yet, but based on his size and production at the JUCO level, the team should be excited about his ceiling.