After Carson Wentz’s No. 2 overall selection in last year’s NFL Draft, casual football fans are paying attention to FCS-level prospects the way diehard draftniks have long done.
This year’s class of FCS prospects is quite diversified. Depending on what you’re looking for in the seven-round draft April 27-29 in Philadelphia, here’s the best of the best attributes:
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
The son and grandson of former NFL players could have been a mid-round pick had he entered the draft following his junior season. But he returned for another season, got bigger, polished his skill set and set the Division I records for receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464) and touchdown catches (73).
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
At nearly 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, Kpassagnon is an athletic specimen for an edge rusher. Along with his sculpted frame, he has 35 5/8-inch arms and 10 5/8-inch hands. That kind of freakish size is always in demand with NFL teams.
Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar
A former wide receiver at Georgia, Langley blazed through testing at the NFL Scouting Combine, clocking the seventh-best overall time, and second-best time among cornerbacks, in the 60-yard shuttle (11.19 seconds). He also impressed in the 40-yard dash (4.43) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21).
Derek Rivers, DE/OLB, Youngstown State
The postseason was already good enough for Youngstown State’s all-time sacks leader (41 – 19 more than the second-best total), but then he went on to have an excellent Reese’s Senior Bowl and Combine. He’s moved into the second- or third-round range.
Alek Torgersen, QB, Penn
The three-year starter in the Ivy League has a pro-style skill set and, not surprisingly, an intelligent style of play. Boasting an excellent touch, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound signal-caller set the league’s career record for completion percentage (67.4).
Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
It would surprise many to learn the 5-foot-6, 179-pound speedster has 10 1/8-inch hands. That helps explain why the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher posted a streak of 508 straight touches without a fumble (and 530 straight without losing a fumble).
Dylan Cole, OLB, Missouri State
Before Cole led the FCS in tackles as a senior, he brought attention to himself in the summer with a video of his 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press. At Missouri State’s pro day last month, he had 32 reps, which was five more than any linebacker at the Combine.
De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina
There’s often a lot of value with FCS picks, but Henderson could be among the best as an excellent change-of-pace back taken in the sixth or seventh round. He’s fast (4.48 in the 40), catches passes (97 career receptions) and scored a touchdown in a Division I-record 35 straight games.
Best Small “Small School” Prospect
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake
If the likes of James Madison, North Dakota State and Eastern Washington are considered the “small school” level, then what’s the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League? The 6-foot-5 Saubert, excellent in the red zone, could be the league’s third all-time draft choice.
Best “Other” Guy
Corey Levin, OG, Chattanooga
So much attention has been paid to Mocs defensive end Keionta Davis, who played in the Senior Bowl, but the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Levin isn’t far behind. He displayed excellent athleticism at the Combine and is a model of consistency who should flourish inside on an NFL line.
Best Offensive Lineman
Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State
The FCS has a number of offensive line prospects and Tennessee State often produces NFL candidates. This year’s standout has a wide base yet moves well in space. At 6-foot-4 and 318 pounds, he is moving inside after starting at left tackle for four seasons.
Best Underrated Prospect
Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego
Few are projecting Agnew to get drafted out of the Pioneer League. If not, NFL teams will immediately try to sign him as a free agent after the draft. Although Agnew is undersized (5-9, 185), college teams avoided throwing his way because of his speed and coverage skills.
Lorenzo Jerome, FS, Saint Francis
Jerome basically checks off all the boxes for NFL teams except one that is so emphasized at the next level, especially for defensive backs – speed. Jerome clocked only 4.70 in the 40 at the Combine. But if his game speed is more important, Jerome could be a surprise.
— 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.
(Top photo by Youngstown State Athletics, Cooper Kupp photo by Eastern Washington Athletics)