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2017 D2 Pro Hopefuls led by Ashland Early Entry
Josh Buchanan

The top three prospects are all offensive players while seven of the top 10 are on offense.

My top rated prospect is Ashland junior tight end Adam Shaheen. Shaheen is a freak of nature who reminds many of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.  He is followed by Kutztown offensive lineman Jordan Morgan and Shepherd wide receiver Billy Brown.

Everyone in the top eight who was eligible to play in an all-star game played in one of the three major bowls.

Below is a look at each player individually who I have labeled an official Pro Hopeful, as someone who should make a roster and be a PFA or better for sure, and below is my full top 20 with the rest who were considered and very close to being profiled.

RB WILLIAM STANBACK, VIRGINIA UNION

5-11 ½, 225lbs, 4.65E

Analysis: Stanback transferred from Central Florida prior to the 2016 season and was an impact player. While he lacks great top end speed and runs upright he is a big, strong runner who has a decent burst off the snap. He has good vision and can break outside or run between the tackles. The former All-AAC selection at UCF transferred when dismissed for failed drug tests. He would be a good practice squad player but his off field past may keep him off a roster but he is a player to keep an eye on.

Projection: Priority Free Agent

TE ADAM SHAHEEN, ASHLAND

6-5 5/8, 277lbs, 4.70E

Analysis: Shaheen has been unstoppable the last two years earning All-America honors as a sophomore and junior along with 1st team All-GLIAC accolades as well. It is hard to find big body tight ends who can run, block, and catch just about anything but that is Adam Shaheen. He is a smooth runner who has really improved since he redshirted in 2013 and gone from a role player to one of the best players to come through D2 in recent memory. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does at the NFL Combine. He should be a top 100 pick.

Projection: 3rd round

WR BILLY BROWN, SHEPHERD

6-3 3/8, 254lbs, 4.65E

Analysis: There has been no receiver in this class with as much production over the last two years. Brown is a two-time All-American and three-time All-MEC pick who has hauled in 32 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016 combined. Prior to sitting out 2013 due to a torn ACL he was an honorable mention All-WVIAC pick in 2012. Billy has a big body with strong hands who uses his frame to shield defenders. He can catch very well and has been a nightmare matchup for defenders in the slot or out near the sideline. There is talk he may be a tight end for some teams and receiver for others. His speed will be key but if he can run a 4.6, as scouts expect, at the NFL Combine then he should be a definite mid to late round pick.

Projection: 5th-6th round

WR JAMESON PARSONS, ST. CLOUD STATE

6-0 5/8, 194lbs, 4.60E

Analysis: Parsons did not show much early on his career by not playing in 2012 after a 2011 redshirt season and only ha 23 receptions in 2014 but burst onto the scene big time in 2015 with 61 catches for 1,272 yards and 9 touchdowns. He then followed it up with another big year in 2016 with 71 catches for 1,142 yards and 7 scores. He has just average speed and size but is a smooth runner who catches the ball well and should be a very good camp body who could perhaps make a practice squad. If he could run in the 4.4 or low 4.5 range he would answer the biggest question after running in the high 4.6s during the spring of 2016.

Projection: Priority Free Agent

OT NATE THEAKER, WAYNE STATE (MI)

6-4 ¼, 319lbs, 5.25E

Analysis: NFL scouts first noticed Theaker back in 2014 when he was a dominant force in both the run game and a consistent pass blocker but saw a speed bump in his career with the back injury that kept him out of the 2015 season. He came back and showed pretty well in 2016 by earning 1st-team All-GLIAC honors again and also was named the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the GLIAC in 2016. Theaker will need to answer the questions on his back during medical exams at the NFL Combine. If he is healthy he is a player who should be a first wave PFA and make a practice squad due to his physical tools. Keep an eye on his arm length as well because if he comes in at under 33 inches and is under 6’4 ½ then he will likely be asked to kick inside to guard.

Projection: Priority Free Agent

OG JORDAN MORGAN, KUTZTOWN

6-2 ¾, 313lbs, 5.15E

Analysis: Every year there seems to be a high riser in the fall from the D2 level and Morgan was that guy this year. Some scouts rejected him in the spring and most who did not only gave him a camp body free agent grade. He had a great senior year in which even those who rejected him also considered him a mid round pick. Morgan is a 3-time All-PSAC selection who was named an All-American by the AFCA and Associated Press at left tackle as a senior. It’s no surprise he played in the Senior Bowl and got a NFL Combine invite with his footwork, quickness, ability to finish, and consistent play during the fall. I expect him to come off the board in the 5th round and be a good backup in the rotation early in his career and have a good career as an eventual starter.

Projection: 5th round

OG ETHAN COOPER, INDIANA (PA)

6-2, 334lbs, 5.30E

Analysis: At IUP, Cooper played right tackle due to need in 2016 but was a left guard prior to that and that or right guard is his likely NFL position. He is a big man with a wide frame who displays good strength and power in the run game. The big question is how good of an athlete he is, which he can answer at the NFL Combine. He showed up a little over weight at the NFLPA Bowl and could get himself drafted if he shows up in great shape and tests better than expected at Indy. His road grader style and ability to finish are among the most impressive in this draft class and worst case I expect him to be a priority free agent who makes a practice squad.

Projection: Priority Free Agent

DE DYLAN DONAHUE, WEST GEORGIA

6-2 3/8, 243lbs, 4.75E

Analysis: The big concern about Donahue is his lack of height, length, and not being a freak athlete but he is the tough, hard nose, lunch pale type player every coach wants. It should be noted that his dad, Mitch, played in the NFL for 4 years. After transferring from Palomar College for the 2015 season he has been a dominant player the last two years as a two-time 1st team All-GLIAC and All-American pick. The 2016 Gulf South Defensive Player of the Year uses his hands well and will chase plays backside and has very good field range. If he tests well at the NFL Combine he should find himself coming off the board as a linebacker in the late rounds. Regardless of where he ends up I predict he makes a roster and plays for a few years in the NFL.

Projection: 7th round

DT GROVER STEWART, ALBANY STATE (GA)

6-4 ¼, 347lbs, 5.20E

Analysis: If you are looking for a potential combine snub to get drafted this is my highest rated as Stewart is such a massive and strong man that I’ll be shocked if he is not drafted. The Albany State product was dominant in his career earning All-SIAC honors four straight years and completely pushed around and dominated the SIAC competition. His strength, big body, and ability to dictate plays made him a big buzz guy late in the season and he showed that ability at the NFLPA Bowl. The upside is there as he is very raw but if he tests well at pro day and interviews well then I expect him to go in the late rounds and play for a long time in the NFL.

Projection: 6th round

ILB CONNOR HARRIS, LINDENWOOD (MO)

5-11, 241lbs, 4.60E

Analysis: No defender in this class is more decorated than Connor Harris. He is a four-time All-MIAA selection who has been named an All-American three times and the Cliff Harris Award winner in 2016. Harris was invited to the Senior Bowl where he showed out and the NFL Combine where he should cement his status as the best small school linebacker with good testing numbers. Despite being just 5’11, 241 pounds he plays with good speed, has outstanding instincts, and has very good range. I see his range as high as the 4th or 5th round and no lower than early 7th round. He is a tackling machine who should play for a long time in the NFL and eventually become a starter.

Projection: 6th-7th round

V

K MATT DAVIS, UNC PEMBROKE

6-0, 190lbs, 4.90E

Analysis: Every year there seems to be a kicker or punter who creates a lot of buzz and Davis happened to be one of two small school kickers who did. Davis is a bit of a late bloomer for major production as a guy who redshirted in 2011, had mediocre kickoff numbers in 2012, did not play in 2013, and had no game action in 2014. During the 2015 season he began to show some signs of a really good kicker by hitting 81.8% of his field goals but still was not quite the kickoff specialist you want and did not show the leg. As a senior he showed he could do all three phases, has good hang on his kicks, and the leg strength to hit from almost any distance. He earned All-America honors as a placekicker by hitting a 58-yard long and 84.4% of his field goals. He also punted showing off a strong leg with a 78-yard long and 41.0-yard average. His ability as a kicker should land him a contract and I expect him to make a roster like RPI kicker Andrew Franks did in 2015.

Projection: Priority Free Agent

Here are my top 20 overall.

D2 TOP 20 PROSPECTS

Rank

Pos

First Name

Last Name

School

Rd. Proj.

1

TE

Adam

Shaheen

Ashland

3rd

2

OG

Jordan

Morgan

Kutztown

5th

3

WR

Billy

Brown

Shepherd

5th-6th

4

DT

Grover

Stewart

Albany State

6th

5

ILB

Connor

Harris

Lindenwood

6th-7th

6

DE

Dylan

Donahue

West Georgia

7th

7

OG

Ethan

Cooper

Indiana

PFA

8

OT

Nate

Theaker

Wayne State (MI)

PFA

9

WR

Jameson

Parsons

St. Cloud State

PFA

10

ILB

A.J.

Wentland

McKendree

PFA

11

K

Matt

Davis

UNC Pembroke

PFA

12

RB

William

Stanback

Virginia Union

PFA

13

FS

Daquan

Holmes

American International

FA

14

WO

David

Moore

East Central

FA

15

TE

Josiah

Thropay

Azusa Pacific

FA

16

DE

Collin

Bevins

Northwest Missouri

FA

17

FB

Alex

Armah

West Georgia

FA

18

WO

Garry

Brown

California

FA

19

FS

Christian

Carpenter

Gannon

FA

20

OH

Austin

Ekeler

Western State

FA

WHAT KEPT OFF 13-20 FROM BEING PROFILED?

13. FS Daquan Holmes, American International- Just needs to show what his exact speed is because his film and productive are very good.
14. WR David Moore, East Central- Has not run for scouts yet and he needs to answer that question.
15. TE Josiah Thropay, Azusa Pacific- People question his passion for the game and if he wants the NFL along with the fact that his speed is unknown.
16. DE Collin Bevins, Northwest Missouri State- Bevins is coming off an injury that forced him out of the NFLPA Bowl and he needs to show he is fine at pro day.
17. FB Alex Armah, West Georgia- Armah will definitely get a shot but needs to give a definitive answer to his pro position at pro day.
18. WR Garry Brown, California (PA)- Brown was outstanding all year long but the big question is his speed and if he answers that well he will be added.
19. FS Christian Carpenter, Gannon- Carpenter is a talented player but has some off field issue from his past that may keep him off.
20. RB Austin Ekeler, Western State- Ekeler has had some off field and medical concerns from the past.

 

 
         
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