2014 NFL Draft: Sleepers to Watch in Mountain West Conference, Independent FBS Programs

Davante Adams has only played one season of college football, but the redshirt sophomore wide receiver is already making a name for himself at Fresno State. (Photo: Cary Edmonson — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis

The Mountain West Conference has been a consistent producer of NFL talent the past few drafts. An average of 11.2 players have been selected from the conference during the last five drafts, including three first-round picks (Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin and running back Doug Martin in 2012, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes in 2010).

Independent teams haven’t produced the amount of picks that the MWC has, but thanks to Notre Dame, they have had more top talent. There have been an average of 3.6 players selected from independent FBS programs during the last five drafts, including four first-round picks (BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in 2013, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith in 2012).

Notre Dame defensive linemen Louis Nix III and Stephen Tuitt and Brigham Young’s linebacker Kyle Van Noy give the independent teams a number of potential first-round picks again in the 2014 NFL draft. The MWC boasts quarterback prospects David Fales (San Jose State) and Derek Carr (Fresno State) and an intriguing, athletic defensive lineman in Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence.

In this article, we’ll explore some other players to keep an eye out for amongst the Independent and Mountain West teams.

Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State (RS So.)

As only a redshirt freshman last season, Davante Adams caught 102 passes for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns. He earned the Mountain West Freshman of the Year award and was a unanimous first-team all-Mountain West selection.

Adams is listed at 6’2” and 212 pounds with a good build and room to add a bit more bulk to his frame.

A former high school basketball standout, he possesses very good athleticism. He runs a 4.48 forty-yard dash time and has a 42-inch vertical jump, according to Fresno State’s official athletics website.

His jumping ability is very prevalent as he is a good red-zone threat and he always seems to come down with jump balls. His body control is also a strong point of his. He routinely does an excellent job reading the ball in the air and making the right adjustments to put himself in position to make catches.

Adams is a natural catcher who seems to have huge hands that engulf the ball. He rarely lets the ball get into his body.

Adams’ route running is good for a guy entering just his redshirt sophomore season, but will need to improve before he gets to the next level. He is a raw athlete at this point, but he is a very solid prospect with three years of eligibility left.

If he decided to declare after this season, Adams would probably be a solid Day 2 draft pick. With a solid 2013 campaign, he could be considered as a first-round prospect.

Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State

Despite his stocky build, Bene Benwikere seems to have the strengths and weaknesses of a smaller corner.

Listed at 6’0” and 192 pounds, Benwikere has a solid build and is a fluid athlete. While he doesn’t have elite speed, he has enough to keep up with most receivers.

Atypical of a guy of his build and tenacity, he struggles jamming receivers at the line and hardly disrupts opposing receivers at all.
However, he excels in off-man coverage and is natural at mirroring defenders. He also is solid in zone coverage, showing good reaction skills and that he knows his responsibilities in zone.

He is good at getting his eyes into the backfield to read the play, but he may do this a bit too long sometimes. At times, he will compromise his assignment by reading the quarterback and losing track of his receiver.

He may compromise his coverage at times, but he is a playmaker. He had seven interceptions in 2012 including a three-interception performance against Louisiana Tech. He returned both an interception and fumble for a touchdown last season. His ball skills are very good, especially when he’s allowed to play centerfield. He challenges for the football and can highpoint the ball.

Benwikere is also a ready and willing run defender. His tackling form is good, although too inconsistent. He too often overthinks tackles and whiffs, or tries to go for a big hit and misses.

Benwikere currently stands as an early mid-round pick. He could sneak into the third round, but even with a solid 2013, his stock will likely stay as an early Day 3 pick.

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Tags: Austin Wentworth, Bene Benwikere, Boise State, BYU, Davante Adams, Fresno State, Idaho, Kaneakua Friel, Michael LaGrone, Mountain West, Notre Dame, Prospects to Watch, Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe, San Jose State, Sleepers, Troy Niklas, Tyler Larsen, Utah State

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