The focus on FCS prospects seems to grow with each draft, but if the 2018 class isn’t as bountiful, it’s not necessarily from a lack of talent.
Injuries have mounted among senior prospects, likely costing some the chance of being drafted.
Yet there are still plenty of players whom NFL teams are keeping a close eye upon.
Here is how some of the top FCS prospects are faring this season and a look at who’s been affected by the injury bug.
Dallas Goedert, TE
South Dakota State, 6-4, 260
Goedert is generally regarded as the player who will be drafted first out of the FCS. An unstoppable force as a junior, when he caught a school-record 92 passes, the Jackrabbits haven’t targeted him as much this season, although he had an 11-catch, 132-yard game against Montana State. He’s terrific in the red zone and has excellent speed for his position, adding bulk to his frame in the offseason.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)
Chase Edmonds, RB
Fordham, 5-9, 210
Right ankle and hamstring injuries kept Edmonds limited Edmonds over the first three games. He returned to action on Sept. 30, which put him back in pursuit of the FCS all-time rushing record (his 5,483 yards are 1,076 behind record-holder Adrian Peterson’s 6,559). To answer questions of his smaller size, Edmonds has worked on running between the tackles and pass blocking. The early NFL success of the Chicago Bears’ Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T) is probably helpful to Edmonds’ cause.
(Photo courtesy of Fordham Athletics)
Davontae Harris, CB
Illinois State, 6-0, 200
Harris is a good mix of size, speed and power, and will draw consideration as potential later-round draft pick. A sprinter on the track team in high school, Harris breaks well on the ball. He led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in passes defended with 15 (13 pass breakups, two INTs) a year ago, so opposing teams are trying to avoid him this year.
(Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics)
Darius Leonard, LB
South Carolina State, 6-3, 235
Leonard is a beast on the FCS level in the lower-rung MEAC, but he’s had terrific games against FBS competition, including a career-high 19 tackles against Clemson as a junior. He has an instinctive feel for the game and uses his excellent length to accelerate to the ball effectively. The four-year standout has seen his stock rise, set to be the latest product from a South Carolina State program that has produced recent NFL players.
(Photo courtesy of South Carolina State Athletics)
Brandon Parker, OL
North Carolina A&T, 6-7, 309
Parker has been so good to start his senior season that he was selected the MEAC offensive lineman of the week after each of his first four games. He has good length and tools, and has shown improved explosiveness coming out of his stance. He did not allow a sack and committed only two penalties as a junior. Parker’s O-line coach, Ron Mattes, had an eight-year NFL career.
(Photo courtesy of North Carolina A&T Athletics)
Timon Parris, OL
Stony Brook, 6-5, 320
This durable big man has never missed a start in his four-year career and continues to get better playing in one of the elite FCS conferences, CAA Football. He has a lean build and should add excellent weight for the next level. He uses his long arms and power to stand up defensive linemen and get them off-balance.
(Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics)
Cole Reyes, S
North Dakota, 6-2, 215
North Dakota has gotten off to a slow start in 2017, but its gritty defensive leader is trying to rally the Big Sky preseason favorite. Reyes plays with a hard-hitting style and can shut down the pass or come up and be a force as a run-stopper. But injuries have kept him out at least one game in each of the past three seasons, including in the Fighting Hawks’ most recent game, so there will be extra vetting before the 2018 draft.
(Photo courtesy of North Dakota Athletics)
Jake Wieneke, WR
South Dakota State, 6-3, 215
The physical, crafty pass catcher opened the season with a four-touchdown game against Duquesne. No active FCS player has as many career receiving yards (4,426) and touchdown receptions (49), and Wieneke is No. 2 in receptions (242). He uses his size well against defenders and has 100-yard performances in each of his three career games against FBS programs.
(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)
Hurt by Injuries
North Dakota State inside linebacker Nick DeLuca (6-3, 245) has been excellent when healthy, but he’s barely played in each of the past two seasons – suffering a shoulder injury in 2016 and torn knee meniscus this season. But when he returned to the lineup on Sept. 30, he picked up where he left off with a terrific performance.
Tennessee State defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko (6-3, 255) has missed time because of a lower leg injury. The Clemson transfer suffered through an injury-plagued junior season as well, missing three games.
Villanova safety Rob Rolle (6-0, 185) and Cal Poly fullback Joe Protheroe (6-0, 230) have both suffered season-ending ACL tears. They are eligible to seek a medical redshirt and return next season.
Colgate defensive end/outside linebacker Pat Afriyie (6-2, 240) just returned from being sidelined by a right ankle sprain.
(Photo courtesy of Villanova Athletics)
Other FCS Prospects to Watch
Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe (6-3, 225)
Sam Houston State defensive lineman P.J. Hall (6-1, 280)
Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson (6-0, 185)
Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert (6-5, 245)
Idaho State offensive guard Skyler Phillips (6-2, 322)
(Photo courtesy of Sam Houston State Athletics)
— 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.