The FCS level no longer sneaks up on anybody heading into the NFL Draft.
The next Carson Wentz — the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 and highest ever for an FCS player — may not be coming anytime soon, but the subdivision has continued to offer value up and down the draft in recent years, from Darius Leonard in the second round to Tarik Cohen in the fourth round to Foyesade Oluokun in the sixth round.
With Southern Illinois strong safety Jeremy Chinn and Dayton tight end Adam Trautman headlining this year's FCS class, here are five concepts to know before the April 23-25 draft.
— 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.
Fewer Picks Possible
The FCS has come to average about 18 selections per draft, but last year it fell to 13.
It seems the number will stay on the lower side this year after the majority of college pro days were canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Reese's Senior Bowl and an ESPN NFL Draft analyst, said NFL scouts suggest fewer small-school players will be drafted due to the lack of test numbers.
Three of the 13 FCS players taken in last year's draft did not participate in a postseason all-star game or the NFL Scouting Combine, but had pro days. Some of this year's leading FCS prospects didn't have any of the three, so the undrafted free agent route is more likely.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)
Chinn, Trautman in a Separate Class
Many projections suggest Southern Illinois strong safety Jeremy Chinn and Dayton tight endAdam Trautman will be the only FCS players selected during the first two days of the draft (first three rounds).
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Chinn gets his hands on the ball and disrupts offenses with his physical style. He finished his career with 243 career tackles, 13 interceptions, 18 pass breakups, six forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Trautman entered college as a quarterback, but quickly moved to tight end. He has soft hands and a large catch radius, turning 31 of his 171 career receptions into touchdowns.
(Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics)
No Surprise, Wide Receivers Abound
Rhode Island's Isaiah Coulter (6-2, 198), who stretches the field with 4.4 speed, has moved up draft boards since declaring for early entry into the draft. His cousin, Aaron Parker (6-2, 209), also is in the draft mix and was the more decorated wide receivers at URI.
Jacksonville State's Josh Pearson (6-3, 205) has risen since having a strong pro day (he was one of the lucky few before college campuses were vacated). Other wide receivers such as Albany's Juwan Green (6-0, 181), Maine's Earnest Edwards (5-10, 175), James Madison's Brandon Polk (5-9, 175), Tennessee State's Chris Rowland (5-6, 185), Morgan State's Manasseh Bailey (5-11, 189), Cal Poly's J.J. Koski (6-1, 186), Idaho's Jeff Cotton (6-2, 206), and North Carolina A&T's Elijah Bell (6-1, 225) will be signed if they go undrafted.
(Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics)
Three Day 3 Gems
The majority of FCS draft picks are selected on the third and final day of the draft (rounds 4-7). Among the potential value picks are South Carolina State offensive tackle Alex Taylor (6-8, 308), Illinois State running back James Robinson (5-9, 219), and Bucknell punter Alex Pechin (6-1, 213).
The athletic Taylor has excellent feet and an 88-inch wingspan (the longest at the Combine), which will mix well as he gets stronger physically. Robinson is a powerful workhorse, carrying the ball 364 times for 1,917 yards and 18 touchdowns in 15 games as a senior. Pechin was a two-time first-team All-American and averaged 44.5 yards on career 296 punts, including 95 going for at least 50 yards.
(Photo courtesy of Bucknell Athletics)
"Corner" the Market
Cornerback has come to be the position leader among FCS draft picks. In the 2010s, NFL teams selected 34 cornerbacks from the subdivision, including at least one in every draft. The next-highest positions among FCS players were offensive tackle with 19 picks and outside linebacker with 17.
This year appears much different. Maine's Manny Patterson (5-9, 180) may be the only draft possibility at cornerback and he's coming off an ACL tear as a senior. Others farther down draft rankings include Tennessee State's Dajour Nesbeth (6-0, 190), Southern Illinois' Madre Harper (6-2, 196), James Madison's Rashad Robinson (5-10, 188), Dartmouth's Isiah Swann (5-11, 190), and Stony Brook's Gavin Heslop (6-0, 197).
Quite simply, the FCS may get shut out at cornerback.
(Photo courtesy of Maine Athletics)