The MAC has always had a few players make some impact in the NFL ranks, even getting drafted, but the recent success of Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Buffalo's Khalil Mack will have the conference under the microscope even more, with scouts hoping to mine the next great overlooked talent. While there doesn't to be any player ready to follow in the large footsteps of Fisher and Mack, there are definitely some intriguing prospects who could make a living at next level. Here are ten already on the watchlist:
Players are in alphabetical order.
WR Titus Davis, Central Michigan
Chippewa fans, and their opponents, sure know who Davis is. The senior receiver has led CMU in receiving yards and TDs in each of his three seasons, but this was the first year he led in receptions (61). He's a three-time all-conference picking, catching 144 passes for 2720 yards and 24 TDs.
At 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds, and speed in the 4.5 range, Davis has a decent size-speed combination, but he's hardly outstanding in either. Where he is very good is in his ability to run routes effectively, and use a variety of different methods to create separation, particularly on deep balls. The biggest concern for scouts is his lack of strength when playing physical corners, something Davis would see more of in the pros. He has shown the ability to return kicks and punts - an added bonus - and it would be a surprise if some team didn't take a late-round flyer on the Chips offensive star.
RB Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
Running backs popularity may have waned in recent years, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for productive rushers. Edwards certainly fits the bill, rushing for 3,306 yards and 39 TDs on 622 carries over the last three seasons (36 games). He has good size at 5 foot 10 and 225 pounds, and has the strength to be a force between the tackles, where he does much of his work for the Cardinals.
He's more than just a power pack (in fact, he's not really), he's a nifty runner who can make opponents miss in the open field, and displays excellent vision and explosion through the hole. On the flip side, he hasn't shown a great deal as a receiver (28-125-0 in his career), but does possess the strength and athleticism to be a solid pass blocker. He's not fast, likely coming in around 4.7, but that's not a big part of his game. He's a grinder, and could serve a team well late in games when faced with tired defenses. Another late round pick.
OT Tyler Loos, Northern Illinois
Loos has been an all-MAC regular during his two seasons as a starter, playing a key role in spearheading one of the conferences finest offenses. With Loos manning the left tackle spot, the Huskies allowed just 28 sacks (in 28 games) over the last two years, and paving the way for 238 rushing yards per game in 2012, and 297 last season. At 6'5 and 302 pounds, he's in the middle of the pack size-wise for an NFL offensive lineman, but he has great athleticism and is a rock whether blocking for pass or run.
Want a negative? Loos has failed to make it through his three post-redshirt seasons, missing all of 2011, and eight over the last two years. One of a bunch of late-round MAC prospects on the offensive line, Loos will likely have to move inside to move inside to survive in the pros, although his versatility could be his biggest selling point in the pros. He also needs to stay healthy.
OG Greg Mancz, Toledo
On the subject of productive offenses, Mancz has been one of the keys to the Rockets attack since he set foot on the field as a redshirt freshman back in 2011. After receiving freshman all-American recognition in his first season, he's been on the MAC honors list over the last couple of years. He's not huge at 6 foot 5(ish) and 300 pounds, but he's smart (an academic all-MAC), as tough as nails, and as effective pulling and trapping as he is in-line blocking.
In short, he's the kind of guy you run behind when you need a couple of yards. Mancz is also durable, and has yet to miss a game, and also versatile, having started at right tackle for three games. He's so well-regarded in football circles, he was named to Rimington Award list this season, when there was talk of him moving to center, but he's currently listed at left guard. For now, he'll probably go early on day three of the draft, but a dominant season could see him rise rapidly.
TE Tyreese Russell, Eastern Michigan
The Eagles haven't had a lot to shout about recently, but with a new coach on board, and some young talent on the roster, hopes are high for the future. Youthful talent doesn't guarantee instant results, but the Eagles have some good seniors on the roster too. Russell had just 15 total receptions in his first couple of seasons with EMU, in part due to the struggles in the passing game. Last season, he almost tripled his career receptions, catching 44 passes for 594 yards and 3 TDs, and being voted Second Team All-MAC.
At 6 foot 3 and 238 pounds, he is on the small side for an NFL tight end, but that seems to be less of problem nowadays, as offenses split their ends out more often to create mismatches. He has soft hands, and does a good job of quickly securing the ball and moving upfield. After catching the attention of the Mackey Award voters midseason last year, you can bet they'll be watching him from day one in 2014. A big season could see him move up the rankings.