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Undrafted rookie sleeper alert: Keith Toston

When NFL-caliber talent goes undrafted, it’s typically due to an injury or off-the-field issue. Sometimes, though, “one-year wonder” concerns can adversely impact draft stock when a player has not compiled a lengthy track record of success. The one-year wonder concern is especially emphasized when the player performs at an average to below average level during pre-draft workouts.

Former Oklahoma State running back Keith Toston did not enter the 2009 college season as a starter, and with no more than 106 carries in any of his first three years was hardly on the radar for NFL scouts. Persistent knee and ankle injuries to star tailback Kendall Hunter vaulted Toston onto the Cowboys’ first team, however, and the fifth-year senior capitalized with a Big 12-best 5.4 yards-per-carry average and 1,218 rushing yards, good for second most in the conference.

Toston also caught 25 passes. The 9-4 Cowboys went 1-3 in games that Toston received 10 or fewer carries. Toston accumulated 140 or more total yards in five of Oklahoma State’s final eight regular season games. The lone constant for a Cowboys offense that played all but three games without star wideout Dez Bryant, Toston earned first-team All-Big 12 accolades.

Toston went undrafted in April after running a 4.7 forty at February’s Scouting Combine, and following it up with times of 4.6 and 4.62 at the Cowboys’ March 10 Pro Day -- a workout that was likely not as populated by NFL officials as it would’ve been had top OSU prospects Russell Okung, Perrish Cox, and Bryant taken part. Cox was barred from the Pro Day after being suspended for the Cotton Bowl, Bryant was injured, and Okung stood on most of his Combine numbers.

Not prone to negative plays as a north-south runner, Toston lost just 12 combined yards on his 227 carries last season. He catches the ball well downfield, displays plenty of “game speed,” and exhibits physicality between the tackles. Toston is well built at 6-foot, 213, and runs at enough of an angle that he’s not subject to devastating hits.

Toston landed with the Rams as a priority free agent. He’ll compete with underwhelming holdovers Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya to be Steven Jackson’s primary backup. Jackson is coming off back surgery and has played just one 16-game season in his career. Toston is a good bet to make St. Louis’ 53-man roster, and perhaps even start games if Jackson continues to suffer injuries.