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5 Takeaways From the FCS Class in the 2018 NFL Draft

Darius Leonard.jpg

Former SCSU LB Darius Leonard

The quality of depth among FCS prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft assured it would be a strong year for the subdivision, but once the picks began to fly off the board, the class was even more impressive than expected.

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The FCS boasted four selections in the top 65 picks, 10 in the top 150 and 16 in the top 200. By the time the draft concluded, there were 19 FCS selections — four more than a year ago.

The class was widespread by school (19), conference (10) and position (most of them).

Here are five takeaways from the standout year:

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What’s in the water in Orangeburg, South Carolina?

Appalachian State and Montana used to rule the FCS, so it’s not surprising they have the most FCS players selected in the draft in the 2010s with seven each. But sitting third is — surprise! — South Carolina State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school gained its sixth with the first FCS draft selection this year, outside linebacker Darius Leonard, who went to the Indianapolis Colts with the fourth pick of the second round (36th overall). The rangy tackle machine became the school’s highest selection since 1995.

Draft day surprises

All it takes is for one team to see the potential in a player. Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall — the all-time FCS leader in tackles for a loss — was the highest drafted player who wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round at 57th overall. It didn’t even seem a guarantee Fordham running back Chase Edmonds would be drafted, but the Arizona Cardinals scooped up the Patriot League’s all-time rushing leader in the fourth round at 134th overall.

Power of the pro day

Many of this year’s FCS draft selections were All-Americans and won conference awards in their careers. Yale safety Foye Oluokun, Western Carolina cornerback Keion Crossen and Southeast Missouri State outside linebacker Kendall Donnerson weren’t even the most well-known player on their respective defense as a senior. But outstanding results at pro days boosted their stock and each sleeper was drafted — Oluokun by the Atlanta Falcons (sixth round), Crossen by the New England Patriots (seventh) and Donnerson by the Green Bay Packers (seventh).

Three more selected from the CAA

CAA Football butts heads with the Missouri Valley Football for the mythical title of “best conference in the FCS.” The two joined the MEAC with an FCS-high three draft selections this year. But the CAA can lay claim to having the most selections among FCS conferences this decade (25) after the selection of Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta (New York Giants, fourth round), Delaware defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (Chicago Bears, fifth) and Maine offensive lineman Jamil Demby (Los Angeles Rams, sixth).

— 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 courtesy of South Carolina State Athletics; Dallas Goedert photo courtesy of @goedert33)