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FCS Football: Top 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

FCS Football: Top 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

FCS Football: Top 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

A lack of college pro days due to COVID-19 damaged the 2020 NFL Draft class out of the FCS, resulting in an all-time low six selections in late April.

Even with a number of key players jumping to the FBS as grad transfers, the FCS should have a better draft in 2021. The class is especially strong across the lines of scrimmage and at linebacker and wide receiver.

There are plenty of FCS standouts to watch throughout the 2020 season. NFL scouts are surely taking a closer look at the following list.

— 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.

Troy Andersen

School: Montana State

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Position: Outside linebacker

Height: 6-2; Weight: 233

What to Know: Andersen is so versatile that he's been named first-team All-Big Sky at quarterback (2018) and linebacker (2019). He's athletic and fast, often drawing on his offensive background to make intelligent decisions defensively.

(Photo courtesy of Montana State Athletics)

Christian Elliss

School: Idaho

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Position: Outside linebacker

Height: 6-2; Weight: 233

What to Know: Elliss comes from an NFL family — his father Luther was a first-round pick in 1995 and had a 10-year career, and his older brother Kaden, also a linebacker, was drafted out of the Vandals program in 2019. The younger Elliss ended his junior season with more than 10 tackles in six of his final seven games.

(Photo courtesy of the Lewiston Tribune)

Liam Fornadel

School: James Madison

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Position: Offensive guard

Height: 6-3; Weight: 308

What to Know: The 2019 first-team All-American anchored the offensive line of the FCS runner-up's highly efficient offense. While displaying durability in college, Fornadel anchors with a strong base to be effective as a run blocker.

(Photo courtesy of James Madison Athletics)

Drew Himmelman

School: Illinois State

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Position: Offensive tackle

Height: 6-10; Weight: 315

What to Know: Himmelman's size is undeniable, and the three-year starting left tackle's background as a high school tight end and basketball player adds to his ability to keep a relatively lower center of gravity. He's particularly strong as a run blocker.

(Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics)

Changa Hodge

School: Villanova

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Position: Wide receiver

Height: 6-1; Weight: 200

What to Know: The athletic Hodge has had injury problems, but he remained healthy as a junior and broke out in a big way with 65 receptions for 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns, including four against Villanova's rival Delaware. He's an explosive receiver who runs excellent routes.

(Photo courtesy of Villanova Athletics)

Cade Johnson

School: South Dakota State

South Dakota State Jackrabbits WR Cade Johnson

Position: Wide receiver

Height: 5-10; Weight: 180

What to Know: Johnson's smaller size works against him, but his productivity is high. He's averaged nearly 18 yards per catch through three seasons and his 25 touchdown receptions over the last two years rank him third among FCS players. He's also averaged nearly 27 yards on 56 career kickoff returns.

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(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)

Trey Lance

School: North Dakota State

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Position: Quarterback

Height: 6-3; Weight: 224

What to Know: There's early talk that Lance will be a first-round prospect if he applies for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He was the first freshman to ever receive the 33-year-old Walter Payton Award. He plays in a system that produces pro-ready signal-callers, is accurate (FCS-best 180.6 passer rating and 28 touchdown passes to zero interceptions in 2019) and mobile (1,100 rushing yards).

(Photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics)

Jace Lewis

School: Montana

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Position: Inside linebacker

Height: 6-0; Weight: 230

What to Know: Montana has basically been Linebacker U. in the FCS over the last decade and Lewis is set to emerge from the shadow of Buck Buchanan Award winner Dante Olson, who graduated. Smaller than Olson, Lewis makes tackles in space – he had 131 stops as a junior — and is effective on blitzes.

(Photo courtesy of Montana Athletics)

Romeo McKnight

School: Illinois State

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Position: Defensive end

Height: 6-5; Weight: 260

What to Know: Last year, the lean, athletic McKnight soared to a higher level of play in his second season since transferring in from Iowa, totaling 16 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. He's come back from knee injuries that kept him off the field for two years at Iowa.

(Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics)

Dillon Radunz

School: North Dakota State

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Position: Offensive line

Height: 6-5; Weight: 301

What to Know: The 2019 first-team All-American has been the starting left tackle on the Bison's FCS championship squad each of the last two seasons. He moves well and is excellent at latching on and sustaining blocks in space. He's a standout in the 2021 FCS draft class.

(Photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics)

Elerson Smith

School: Northern Iowa

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Position: Defensive end

Height: 6-6; Weight: 245

What to Know: At UNI, the towering Smith has added much-needed weight (about 45 pounds). After gaining a full-time role as a junior, he posted jaw-dropping stats, including 21.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.

(Photo courtesy of Northern Iowa Athletics)

More Key Prospects to Know

D'Angelo Amos, FS/RS, James Madison (6-0, 185)

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Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa (6-8, 321)

Zerrick Cooper, QB, Jacksonville State (6-3, 225)

Paul Grattan, C, Villanova (6-3, 300)

Clint Ratkovich, FB, Western Illinois (6-1, 220)

Brady Schutt, P, South Dakota (6-1, 220)

Devin Taylor, CB, Illinois State (6-1, 200)

Samori Toure, WR, Montana (6-2, 190)

(Photo courtesy of Montana Athletics)