Small-School Sleeper Prospects to Watch in 2014 NFL Draft

After running into trouble at UCLA, safety Tevin McDonald has to rejuvenate his draft stock at Eastern Washington. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea — USA Today Sports)

Tevin McDonald, S, Eastern Washington (Jr.)

The safety position runs in the McDonald family, and Tevin should be the next member of the family to play in the NFL. His father, Tim, played 13 years in the NFL, while the St. Louis Rams drafted Tevin’s older brother, T.J., during the third round of the 2013 draft.

While his father and brother played at the University of Southern California, Tevin chose to attend crosstown rival UCLA. He played at UCLA for two years, recording 130 tackles and four interceptions, before being dismissed from the team in March due to a violation of team rules. He had also been suspended for the 2012 Holiday Bowl after he failed his third drug test, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Tevin McDonald transferred to Eastern Washington University, where he is listed as a starter at free safety on the preseason depth chart according to EWU’s official athletics website.

He has solid instincts and, despite being smaller than both his father and brother at listed measurables of 5’11″ and 190 pounds, he plays with the same physical demeanor that his bloodlines are known for.

Tevin McDonald is a prototypical free safety who can be a solid centerfielder, capable of delivering a big hit or provide good run support.

At this time, Tevin is likely a late-round pick or a priority free agent due to off-the-field concerns. But with a solid season at EWU including staying out of trouble, he could see his stock elevate up to the middle rounds.

Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana

Jordan Tripp is a big, athletic linebacker with four years of playing experience, although he earned a medical redshirt for the 2011 season after playing in only three games. A fifth-year senior, Tripp is a likely candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, given each year to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS.

While Tripp is listed at 6’3 1/2″ and 237 pounds by Montana’s official website, he looks a bit longer, possibly because still has room to fill out his frame if desired.

Tripp is an intense player with a great motor, yet he stays focused and disciplined. He always knows his assignments and does an excellent job of setting and keeping an edge.

He is also good in pursuit, especially from the backside. If he has to weave through the middle of the field, however, he’ll have tendency to “pinball around” as offensive linemen shove him. He always seems to be around the ball.

Tripp has good speed and adequate strength, but will have issues muscling up to linemen and will have a hard time shaking them if they get their hands on him.

When rushing off the edge, Trip displays some power because his quick acceleration off the line allows him to put some linemen “on skates.” He doesn’t have many pass-rushing moves, but he does an adequate job of getting to the quarterback for a linebacker.

He is a solid tackler with good technique driving through the ball carrier. He also looks for the opportunity to strip the ball as he tackles, with which he forced four fumbles last season.

Tripp is an archetypal weakside linebacker. He has the ability to chase the ballcarrier from the backside, but can also rush the passer when needed. His coverage skills are also good enough to stay with most tight ends and running backs.

It is unlikely Tripp goes any earlier than the later part of Day 3, but he’ll still be able to contribute immediately on special teams in the NFL before possibly developing into a starting outside linebacker.

More Names to Watch:

Ethan Westbrooks, DE, West Texas A&M

In his first season out of junior college, Ethan Westbrooks led all of Division II in sacks last season with 19.5. Westbrooks is a powerful prospect with good size and athleticism. He is raw, but there is a lot to work with.

Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton

A disruptive interior pass-rusher, Caraun Reid has recorded 13.5 sacks during the past two seasons. Reid should continue his success in 2013, and his quick feet and hands will impress in post-college football season all-star games in January.

Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State

Entering his fourth year as a starter, Billy Turner has been the anchor on the offensive line for the two-time national champion Bison. Turner has the size and athleticism of a NFL lineman. His father Maurice played five seasons in the NFL, and brother Bryan Kehl is entering his sixth pro season.

Marcus Williams, CB, North Dakota State

Since earning the starting cornerback job as a freshman, Marcus Williams has developed into one of the best corners in the nation and has accolades to prove it. Williams is solid in coverage and has showcased his playmaking abilities with 18 career interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns.

Joseph’s Previous Looks at Large-School Sleepers:

Atlantic Coast Conference

Big Ten Conference

Big 12 Conference

Pac-12 Conference

Southeastern Conference

American Athletic Conference + Mid-American Conference

Mountain West Conference + Independent FBS Programs

Conference USA + Sun Belt Conference

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Billy Turner, Caraun Reid, Cornell, Eastern Washington, Ethan Westbrooks, FCS, Jeff Mathews, Jordan Tripp, Marcus Williams, Montana, North Dakota State, Princeton, Sam Houston State, Sleepers, Small School, Small School Prospects, Tevin McDonald, Tim Flanders, West Texas A&M

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