The playmakers are striking back in FCS college football, and NFL teams are taking notice.
Teams often look to the offensive line for top FCS prospects – four of the 13 FCS selections in the 2019 draft play the position, and there were 34 overall picks in the entire decade.
For 2020, though, the potential draft class is led more by skill position players, pass rushers and defensive backs.
Here are 10 of the top FCS prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft. Seven of them — Manny Patterson, Josh Pearson, Nasir Player, Dante Olson, James Robinson, Christian Rozeboom, and Charlie Taumoepeau — were named to the Athlon 2019 FCS Preseason All-America Team.
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
School: Southern Illinois
Position: Strong safety
Height, Weight: 6-3, 212
2018: All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection with 55 tackles, three interceptions for 95 return yards, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a blocked field goal.
Notable: Offering tantalizing size, Chinn communicates well in the defensive backfield and gets to the ball quickly. He has bounced back nicely from a shoulder injury suffered during his freshman season.
(Photo courtesy of Southern Illinois Athletics)
Position: Inside linebacker
Height, Weight: 6-3, 237
2018: All-Big Sky first-team selection and Athlon FCS All-American with 151 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, six sacks, two interceptions, three pass breakups, five QB hits, and three forced fumbles.
Notable: Emerged last year from the preseason shadow of fellow Montana linebacker Josh Buss to set the school’s single-season record with 151 tackles. Hard-hitter led the FCS in tackles per game (13.7).
(Photo courtesy of Montana Athletics)
Height, Weight: 5-10, 180
2018: All-CAA first-team selection with 47 tackles, three interceptions, and 22 pass breakups.
Notable: A strong postseason last season (two interceptions) bodes well for the shutdown corner, who quarterbacks should stray from. He leads all active FCS players with 52 career pass breakups.
(Photo courtesy of Maine Athletics)
School: Jacksonville State
Position: Wide receiver
Height, Weight: 6-4, 205
2018: All-Ohio Valley Conference first-team selection with 67 receptions for 1,123 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Notable: Tied for the FCS high while setting Jacksonville State’s single-season record in touchdown receptions (17). Separates well on the perimeter and uses his long frame to shield off smaller defensive backs.
(Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics)
School: East Tennessee State
Position: Defensive end
Height, Weight: 6-5, 271
2018: All-Southern Conference first-team selection with 43 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, six sacks, two pass breakups, 11 QB hits, and three forced fumbles.
Notable: Nasir has added quality weight to his frame without losing athleticism from the edge. He has 30 tackles for loss across his productive career.
(Photo courtesy of ETSU Athletics)
School: Illinois State
Position: Running back
Height, Weight: 5-10, 220
2018: All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection with 205 carries for 1,290 yards and 12 TDs (117.3 ypg) plus 21 receptions for 164 yards and a TD.
Notable: Rushed for 9,045 yards and scored 158 touchdowns in high school – both Illinois state records. Stays low going through the line and cuts back well with a nose for the goal line.
(Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics)
School: South Dakota State
Position: Inside linebacker
Height, Weight: 6-2, 225
2018: All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection with 105 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, two pass breakups, two QB hits, a fumble recovery, and three forced fumbles.
Notable: Three-time All-MVFC first-teamer leads all active FCS players in career tackles (364). He plays with an edge and has the versatility to stop the run or cover receivers.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)
School: Montana State
Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker
Height, Weight: 6-5, 250
2018: All-Big Sky second-team selection with 61 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and two pass breakups.
Notable: Started career at Washington, where he was heavily recruited by then-assistant Jeff Choate, now the Bobcats’ head coach. Has good size and speed, and plays with a high motor.
(Photo courtesy of Montana State Athletics)
School: Portland State
Position: Tight end
Height, Weight: 6-3, 240
2018: All-Big Sky first-team selection with 28 receptions for 580 yards (20.7 ypc) and five TDs.
Notable: Sure-handed pass catcher and excellent route runner who often splits wide to create mismatches. Has been slowed by injuries, but has 73 receptions in his last 20 games.
(Photo courtesy of Portland State Athletics)
Position: Tight end
Height, Weight: 6-6, 253
2018: All-Pioneer Football League second-team selection with 41 receptions for 604 yards and nine TDs.
Notable: Small school draft expert Josh Buchanan has helped bring added attention to Dayton’s big tight end, who is long, lean and productive. Plays with consistency and uses athleticism to overwhelm defenders.
(Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics)