Ye olde notebook:
There could, however, be one in-state surprise. (We'll get to that in a few.)
In regard to WVU, despite some glowing off-season reports, it appears running back Charles Sims won't be drafted until the third or fourth round. NFL Draft Scout, among others, had Sims ranked as the draft's No. 1 running back prospect at times during last season, but now has him No. 9.
The reason is easy to understand. It's because a record number of underclassmen (98) declared for this draft. That number blew away last year's record by 25.
Sims is now ranked below seven of those underclassmen: Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Auburn's Tre Mason, Washington's Bishop Sankey, LSU's Jeremy Hill, Florida State's Devonta Freeman, Baylor's Lache Seastrunk and Towson's Terrance West. The only senior to move ahead of Sims was Ohio State's Carlos Hyde. (Sims is, however, still ranked ahead of Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams of Boston College.)
Aside from Sims, WVU defensive end Will Clarke is expected to go in the fourth round. He's rated as the No. 12 defensive end. Safety Darwin Cook will surely get a free agent look. Sims and Clarke, however, will be the only Mountaineers to attend this week's NFL combine in Indianapolis. No Marshall players were invited.
There is, though, one other state player invited to the combine. He's rated as the nation's No. 19 outside linebacker. He's projected to be drafted in the sixth round.
His name is Howard Jones.
Doesn't ring a bell? Well, Jones is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound prospect that played at Shepherd this past season. The Rams, in case you're unaware, finished No. 9 in the final AFCA Division II coaches poll after an 11-1 regular season and DII playoff march to the quarterfinals.
"We've heard anywhere from the fourth to the sixth round," said Shepherd coach Monte Cater of Jones.
Jones was but a D2Football.com All-America honorable mention selection, but did play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, in which he rotated in and recovered a fumble. ("He could have got up and ran with it," Cater said. "But he forgot it was being played by pro rules.")
Cater said a scout was at Shepherd on Wednesday.
"I'm excited about Howard," said the coach. "The scout said he's definitely going to be drafted. It's neat to have someone in there."
The buzz around Jones apparently began last spring.
"We had a Detroit scout here," Cater explained. "Howard ran a 4.3, 4.36 and 4.38 40 [-yard dash]. They were fired up about him. Word got out and since then every NFL team has been here.