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Former Central Mass Stars Look Ahead To NFL Draft

Monday, March 03, 2014


The NFL currently has 12 players from the state of Massachusetts on active rosters. Of those 12, only two started their road to the NFL from Central Mass high school's; John Griffin of the New York Jets and Emil Igwenagu of the Philadelphia Eagles.

That number is almost guaranteed to grow with the 2014 NFL Draft. Former Central Mass stars Rob Blanchflower, Richard Rodgers and Yawin Smallwood are all going to partake in the 2014 NFL Draft, with all three expected to be drafted.

In preparation of each players NFL Draft journey, here is a look back at the journey of each player, from Central Mass through the 2014 NFL Combine.

Rob Blanchflower:

Blanchflower is a 23 year-old tight end from Leominster. Blanchflower attended St. John's high school in Shrewsbury where he played both defensive end and tight end. He broke out in his senior season, compiling 32 tackles and eight sacks as well as two receiving touchdowns en route to being named Central Mass DI North Co-defensive MVP.

From St. John's, Blanchflower went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he redshirted his freshman year. Blanchflower started four games in his Redshirt Freshman year (2010) grabbing 21 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. In 2011, Blanchflower started eight games, bringing in 18 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. In 2012, Blanchflower helped UMass transition form being in FCS to the higher-level FBS and enjoyed his best season. He started 10 games, catching 43 passes for 464 yards and two touchdowns.

Finally in his Redshirt Senior season (2013) Blanchflower struggled with injury, starting in just five games as a team captain. He brought in 27 passes for 313 yards and three touchdown. With the 313 yards, Blanchflower became the all-time leading recover as a tight end in UMass history with 1,164 career receiving yards.

Following his senior season at UMass, Blanchflower was invited to the 2014 NFL Combine. He did attend but was unable to compete in on-field drills due to his continued battle with injuries. Blanchflower did measure 6-foot 4-inches and 256 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms and 95/8-inch hands.

Blanchflower has received draft grades ranging from a late-fifth round prospect to a seventh round prospect. He is known as a tight end with strong hands, good blocking skills. He will look to compete in on-field drills at UMass' pro day on March 25.

Richard Rodgers:

Rodgers is a 22 year-old tight end from Worcester. Rodgers also attended St. John's in Shrewsbury where he played wide receiver and defensive end. Rodgers had an extremely successful prep career at St. John's, being names defensive player of the year in 2009 and leading Massachusetts Division C-1 in receiving, scoring and sacks. This earned him a four and a half star ranking and being names the number nine athlete in the country, and the number 168 ranked prospect overall.

Rodgers ended up at Cal as a tight end where he played in all 13 games as a true freshman. Although he did not play much offense, Rodgers blocked the only kick for the Bears on the season. Rodgers started six games as a sophomore and brought in 20 receptions for 288 yards and one touchdown. His junior season brought career highs of 39 receptions and 608 yards and a career-high-tying one touchdown. Rodgers dropped 30 pounds before his junior campaign and played some of the season as an inside receiver.

Rodgers competed at the 2014 NFL Combine where he measured 6-feet 4-inches tall and 257 pounds with 32 5/8-inch arms and 10 1/8-inch hands. Rodgers ran a 4.87-second 40-yard dash while posting 16 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press. He measured a 31.5-inch vertical leap, a 116-inch broad jump and ran a 7.23 second three-cone drill and a 4.47 second 20-yard shuttle.

Rodgers is an extremely athletic prospect who is a good middle of the field pass catcher. He does, however, lack the polish that teams look for in tight ends and is in-between the true size of a tight end and the size of a large wide receiver. Rodgers is considered to be a late sixth to early seventh round draft pick. Rodgers will take part in Cal's March 18 pro day.

Yawin Smallwood:

Smallwood is a 22 year-old linebacker from Worcester. Smallwood attended Doherty high school where he played running back and linebacker. Smallwood was a three-time DI all star and two-time DI defensive MVP. His successful prep career landed Smallwood at the UConn.

Smallwood redshirted his freshman year at UConn (2010) but broke out in his redshirt freshman season, starting all 12 games at middle linebacker. He registered 94 tackles, with 2.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks in that season, finishing second on the team in tackles. He continued that success into 2012 when he had an All Big East season. Smallwood registered 120 tackles, good for 20th in the country in tackles per game with 10. He also recorded 15 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumble. Smallwood finished his collegiate career in 2013 with an All American Athletic Conference season and was a Butkus Award semifinalist, an award given to the best linebacker in the country. Smallwood piled up an impressive 118 tackles, nine and a half for loss and four sacks.

Smallwood also competed at the 2014 NFL Combine, measuring 6-feet 2-inches and 246 pounds. He measured 31 3/4-inch arms and 9 1/2-inch hands. Smallwood ran a 5.01-second 40-yard dash while putting up 18 reps on the bench press. He measured a 36.5-inch vertical leap and a 108-inch broad jump.

Smallwood is considered one of the top inside linebackers in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is a fluid athlete who has great field vision and attacks the entire field well. He is graded as a second to third round pick in the upcoming draft. Smallwood will workout at UConn's pro day on March 11.


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