NFL Draft Notebook: Khristian Boyd tops list of small school players to watch in the 2024 NFL Draft

This week's NFL Draft Notebook highlights five small school players to watch, reviews the NFL Combine and much more.

Khristian Boyd
Khristian Boyd / David Purdy/GettyImages

As we enter the final steps of the 2024 NFL Draft process it is time to identify some underrated small-school prospects. This group is led by UNI’s Khristian Boyd who proved he can play against top competition in the East-West Shrine game, and during the regular season having played in the top conference in the FCS.

The group also has two more prospects from the Missouri Valley conference Mason McCormick and Myles Harden. It also contains two players who put up strong testing numbers in wide receivers, Ryan Flournoy and Jalen Coker.

In addition to highlighting these prospects this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also reviews who stood out at the NFL Combine last week. We also discuss some teams that will need to target certain positions in this year’s draft and much more.

Five small school players to watch

1. Khristian Boyd, DT, UNI

One of the more underrated players in the 2024 NFL Draft is Northan Iowa’s Khristian Boyd who surprisingly didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Combine. Despite not earning an invite to Indianapolis he still carries a fifth-round grade on my draft board. The reason I am so high on him is his ability to stop the run. Last season, Boyd routinely fought through double teams to make big stops and was named first-team All-Missouri Valley conference which is the best conference in the FCS. According to Tony Pauline, a couple of teams that have shown an interest in Boyd are the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, and Arizona Cardinals.

2. Ryan Flournoy, WR, SEMO

A player who put up impressive testing numbers is SEMO wide receiver Ryan Flournoy. At the NFL Combine, he posted a 4.44 40-yard dash and also had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches. The 6-foot-1 202-pound former Iowa Western receiver also had good production during his two years at SEMO. Having caught 118 passes for 1,823 yards and 13 touchdowns. A possible landing spot for him could be with the Arizona Cardinals who have three seventh-round picks.

3. Jalen Coker, WR, Holy Cross

Another small school wide receiver who put up some impressive numbers at the NFL Combine is Holy Cross’s Jalen Coker. Coker led all wide receivers with a 42.5-inch vertical jump and also had a solid 10'8 broad jump. One concerning number he did post though was a 4.57 40-yard dash which will raise concerns about him having NFL speed. However, his strong career and East-West Shrine Bowl allow him to carry a seventh-round grade on my board.

4. Mason McCormick, OG, South Dakota State

One of my favorite day three prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft is South Dakota State offensive guard Mason McCormick. McCormick is a physical run blocker who would be a great fit in a gap blocking scheme. The past two seasons he was named an FCS All-American and he was named to the 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl All-West Practice Team. One team that met with McCormick that would be a great fit for him is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

5. Myles Harden, CB, South Dakota

Teams looking for a physical press corner are going to want to take a close look at Myles Harden of South Dakota. Harden would be an ideal fit in this type of scheme due to his play strength, ability to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage, and overall tackling ability. One team he has already met with is the Philadelphia Eagles and they could add him late in the 2024 NFL Draft or as an undrafted free agent.

NFL Draft news and notes

NFL Combine Record: The most impressive thing to happen at the NFL Combine this year is Xavier Worthy running the fastest 40-yard dash in the event's history with a time of 4.21. This speed is also evident on his game film showing the speed to beat defenders off the ball, and the quickness to be a threat after the catch. It also could make him a late first-round pick for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs. However, to excel in the NFL he is going to have to be a more physical receiver and also improve his suspect hands which have led to several drops during his college career.

New RB #1: Going into the NFL Combine I had Florida State’s Trey Benson rated as the second-best running back in the 2024 NFL Draft. After his performance at the NFL Combine though he has moved up to the number one spot, and now carries a second-round draft grade. His most impressive performance of the day was his 4.39 40-yard dash and he also is the only running back to be in the top five for both 40-yard dash and 10-yard split. In addition to posting impressive testing numbers, he also looked good in position drills.

Not a concern: UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu mentioned last week that teams didn’t seem worried about the neck injury that briefly forced him to retire and transfer to UCLA. If this is the case then it clears up the biggest red flag I had with Latu. In addition to quieting medical concerns, Latu also had a strong week overall at the NFL Combine posting a 4.64 40-yard dash and looking good in position drills. Two teams he met with while in Indianapolis were the Chicago Bears, and Arizona Cardinals.

Cowboys interested in Edgerrin Cooper: One of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason is linebacker and a prospect they met with at the NFL Combine is Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper. While Cooper is not the big physical linebacker that Mike Zimmer usually prefers he is one of the top outside linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft. Where Cooper shines is getting after the passer having recorded eight sacks last year. He also holds up well in coverage and he earned the top grade from Pro Football Focus among linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Edgerrin Cooper
Edgerrin Cooper / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Daniels not the answer: There is growing speculation that the Chicago Bears are strongly considering Jayden Daniels with the number one pick. While I can’t see the Bears going with him over Caleb Williams, if they did it would be a big mistake. One of the reasons for this is Daniels similar to Justin Fields in that both are outstanding athletes who are still developing as passers. Another reason for this is Williams is by far the best quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, and is someone capable of hurting opponents in the pocket or by extending plays.

Texans looking at cornerbacks: One of the Houston Texans' biggest needs this offseason is cornerback with several of their top corners soon to be free agents. Houston will likely add a cornerback early in the draft to replenish this position and could take one with their first-round pick. They have already met with several cornerbacks including Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, and Nate Wiggins, and will likely host a couple of cornerbacks on predraft visits before the 2024 NFL Draft.

Sinnott impresses: Kansas State tight end Ben Sinnott had an impressive NFL Combine. He had the top vertical jump, 3-cone drill, and broad jump among all tight ends. This allowed him to earn the 29th best relative athletic score among tight ends since 1987. His production also impresses scouts as he has more touchdowns than any other tight end in Kansas State history and he also ranks third in receptions and fourth in receiving yards among TEs in Wildcat history. One concern I have with him is he is not a very physical blocker and he might be a liability in the run game.

Steelers looking at center: One position the Steelers could look at in the first or second round of the 2024 NFL Draft is center. This is a need as the team cut Mason Cole in late February, and even if Cole had returned the team would have been looking to upgrade this position. A prospect in the first round who would be a good fit is Jackson Powers-Johnson. If the team waited until the second round West Virginia’s Zach Frazier would make sense.

NFL Draft quotes of the week

“I’m just getting started. I’m not trying to be the best running back in this draft. I’m trying to be a name you’ll remember forever.” Kentucky running back Ray Davis via The Athletic

“I mean, we got criticized a little bit for how much we gave up for Josh. And I’m like, ‘Well, if he doesn’t work out, I’m not going to be here anyway. And if he does work out, nobody’s gonna give a s–t,’” Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane

“I feel like it’s more about my versatility. I’ve proven that I can play outside and inside. Obviously, I haven’t played safety in college. But I feel like I have the ability to play multiple different positions in the back end.” Iowa's Cooper DeJean on why some teams may be looking at him as a safety

“I mean, you put on the film of J.J. McCarthy and you just see a winner. You see a guy that if asked to hand the ball off, he will. If asked to throw the ball and be accurate and throw it on time and scramble around, make plays, he can. He can make every type of throw – off-balance throw, anything you want, J.J. can do. He can run the football if you wanted to. He’s extremely smart, extremely intelligent, he’s taken snaps on the center, he’s called a play from a wristband, he’s looked at the sidelines. He’s done everything you want, and he has the ‘it’ factor that you want in the quarterback." Michigan head coach Sherrone Moore on J.J. McCarthy via NFL Network

“Brock Bowers impacts the game every time he’s on the field – whether it’s third down, whether it’s red zone. This guy is an impact player. He’s fast, he’s a matchup nightmare and he plays a position that is highly valuable. This is one of the best college tight ends that I’ve seen in a long time. He’s 6’4, 240 pounds. He’s physical, he’s fast, he catches the ball beautifully and smooth. He plays a position that I value very much. Why? Because that’s who wins championships – teams that have players like Brock Bowers." FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt on Georgia tight end Brock Bowers

"Whatever team takes a chance on me is getting a guy that’s going to make an immediate impact, both on defense and special teams. I’m the type of guy that treats every practice like a game. I’m a team-first guy that practices hard. I’m a great teammate in the locker room. I love those good vibes. By the end of my rookie season, my team is going to be very happy that they drafted me. I’m going to make an immediate impact from day one." UTEP linebacker Tyrice Knight via the Draft Network

NFL Draft stats of the week

44.2: Last season, Arizona Cardinals wide receivers accounted for just 44.2 percent of Arizona’s receptions and 52.2 percent of its receiving yards. This is one of the reasons why they will look at Marvin Harrison Jr. in the 2024 NFL Draft

31: The amount of bench press reps Jared Verse did which was five more reps than any other defensive end.

12’2: This is the length Texas Tech defensive back Tyler Owens jumped at the NFL Combine on the broad jump. This is the second-highest number in NFL Combine history just behind Byron Jones who jumped 12’3 in 2015.

4.33: Louisville running back Isaac Guerendo posted a 4.33 40-yard dash which was the top number of any running back by 0.05 seconds.

38.5: South Dakota State's Garret Greenfield's vertical jump which is a Combine record for offensive linemen.

4.71: The 40-yard dash time of Notre Dame running back Audric Estime which was the worst time of any offensive skill player.