With former South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert – and new member of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles – leading the way this past week, the FCS had a deep NFL Draft class, up four selections from last year to 19 this year.
The selections were hardly made, and undrafted free agents were signing deals, when it became time to starting looking forward to the 2019 class of prospects. It appears deeper in the skills positions, especially at wide receiver.
Here are 12 rising senior prospects (in alphabetical order) who scouts will be keeping a close eye on leading toward the 2019 draft:
Larry Allen III, Harvard, OL, 6-4, 290
Allen, who was out of school during the 2017 season, draws interest just from being the son of NFL Hall of Famer offensive tackle Larry Allen. But Allen also is technically sound, using great leverage to dominate in the Ivy League.
Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State, RB, 5-11, 216
With one explosive play after another during NDSU’s playoff run to the 2017 FCS national title, Anderson looked like a future pro, showcasing a mix of power and speed. The ability to return kicks adds to his attractiveness.
Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona, WR, 6-4, 220
A shoulder injury cut Butler’s season short last year, but he will chase a third 1,000-yard campaign as a fifth-year senior. His background in basketball reflects in his ability to snatch receptions over defensive backs.
Daniel Cooney, San Diego, OT, 6-8, 315
While Cooney has to shed the stiffness in his playing style, his size and long reach can’t be denied. It helps that San Diego’s success has provided him with more big games than a typical Pioneer Football League prospect.
Davion Davis, Sam Houston State, WR, 5-11, 180
Davis may flash sub-4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash during the draft buildup next year. He scored 21 touchdowns as a junior, when the addition of return duties added to his versatile skill set.
Keelan Doss, UC Davis, WR, 6-3, 210
Doss doesn’t hold back, he goes and attacks the ball with his speed and size in one-on-one matchups. One of the leading FCS prospects, he led all Division I players with 10.5 receptions per game last year.
Kaden Elliss, Idaho, OLB, 6-2, 222
If you’re just getting familiar with Idaho in its return to the FCS, focus on Elliss, who led the Sun Belt in solo tackles for a loss (15) last season. With good size and hands, he also caught seven passes, including two touchdowns, on offense.
Deion Harris, North Dakota, CB, 6-2, 200
An Achilles injury during offseason conditioning sidelined Harris last year. His excellent length is troubling for wide receivers, and he is adept at intercepting and deflecting passes.
Rashad Robinson, James Madison, CB, 5-11, 182
Robinson picked off seven passes as James Madison made a second straight trip to the FCS championship game. He has excellent ball skills and man-to-man cover skills.
Rob Rolle, Villanova, FS, 6-0, 190
Injuries were a problem among FCS draft prospects last year, with Rolle’s ACL tear among the biggest. He tied for the FCS lead with seven interceptions in 2016, using great athleticism to cover a lot of ground.
Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois, DT, 6-2, 310
Despite his size, Saunders moves well and is agile enough to turn a handspring into a back flip (check “World’s biggest cheerleader” on YouTube). He posted 12 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks as a junior.
Easton Stick, North Dakota State, QB, 6-2, 220
Despite a 34-3 career record for NDSU’s FCS dynasty, Stick tends to get overlooked with individual honors. But he is an excellent athlete, an accurate passer and highly experienced in a pro-style offense.
6 More Names to Watch
John Buss, Montana, OLB, 6-1, 220
Case Cookus, Northern Arizona, QB (will be junior-eligible)
Jesper Horsted, Princeton, WR, 6-4, 215
Damion Jeanpierre Jr., Nicholls, WR, 6-1, 190
Kamron Lewis, Saint Francis, WR, 6-3, 195
Troy Reeder, Delaware, ILB, 6-2, 245
— 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.
(Photo courtesy by James Madison Athletics)