NFL rookie impact: FAU’s Smith, UAB’s Nelson make Top 100

Djoun Smith 4

Score one for Conference USA — well, two actually.

Two former C-USA players are listed in’s Top 100 rookies — Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith and UAB’s J.J. Nelson.

Smith, a cornerback who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts moments after graduating from FAU, was listed at No. 53 among rookies who should make the biggest impact this year. “Expect him to be a quick study as the nickel corner for a team looking for a few missing pieces on the back end,” wrote’s Bryan Fischer.

Smith expects bigger things than No. 53.

“Under the right tutelage and the right coach that’s going to make my technique even better,” he told the Colts’ website, “I’m probably going to be the best cornerback to play the game.”

Nelson TwitterNelson, ranked 61st, might be one of the fastest to play the game. The 5-10, 156-pound wide receiver topped the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with a time of 4.28 seconds. He is expected to handle returns for the Arizona Cardinals, but that’s not all.

“A threat to take it to the house in the return game,” Fischer wrote, “don’t be surprised if Nelson makes his presence known in a crowded receiver corps, too.”

Both players opened minicamp with their teams this week, the final organized team activities before training camp starts in July.

Another rookie from C-USA making an NFL debut this season will be Sarah Thomas, the league’s first full-time female referee.

Above: Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith. (Courtesy Ralph Notaro)