On average 18 FCS players are selected in the NFL draft, and while only 15 went last year, the depth of this year’s class should make it above-average.
Expect more than 20 to come off the board at the seven-round draft April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas, led by South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert.
Depending on what attributes are in demand, here are the best of the best from the not so “small school” level:
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
In the last nine drafts, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (2016) is the only FCS player selected in the first round. Goedert has the size (6-5, 256) and skill set (agility and reliable hands of a wide receiver) to be a possibility.
Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
At 6-foot-8, and 305 pounds with an 84 7/8-inch wingspan, “Big Stuff” (above, right) casts an impressive shadow on the O-line yet he moves well for his size.
Tremon Smith, CB, Central Arkansas
Smith’s unofficial 4.32-second time in the 40-yard dash at UCA’s pro day was as fast as any cornerback at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina State
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Leonard’s fluid, get-to-the-ball range is undeniable and he’s a workman. In an FCS draft class that is top-heavy on offense, he (right) should be the first defensive player selected.
Foyesade Oluokun, OLB/SS, Yale
Scouts have awakened to this sleeper prospect, who impressed with speed and power at his pro day. A natural linebacker (6-2, 229), he’s viewed as a hybrid safety.
Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
The MVP of the Reese’s Senior Bowl is a heady leader who probably has impressed even more in team interviews. He’s projected as a No. 2 signal-caller yet has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State
The 6-foot-4 Wieneke has high-point ball skills to snare passes away from defenders. He grabbed 288 career receptions, including 59 that went for touchdowns – second most in FCS history.
P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
At his pro day, Hall (6-0, 308) lifted 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He continually powered through double-teams on the way to posting 42 sacks and an FCS-record 86.5 tackles for a loss in his career.
Justin Watson, WR, Penn
Projected for the sixth or seventh round, Watson has the size (6-2.5, 213), physicality and productivity (286 career receptions) that combines for an ideal mix for a slot receiver.
Best Small “Small School” Prospect
Greg Senat, OT, Wagner,
Wagner College has never been a hot bed for NFL talent, and the 6-foot-6, 302-pound Senat’s background adds to the story. He’s a late bloomer – a power forward on the basketball team who added football as a junior. He became the first Northeast Conference player to be invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
Best “Other” Guy
Siran Neal, SS, Jacksonville State
Neal teammate’s Darius Jackson won the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS defensive player of the year, but he should come off the board sooner on day three as a versatile defender who was a safety as a sophomore, a linebacker as a junior and a cornerback in his senior season.
Best Underrated Prospect
Skyler Phillips, OG, Idaho State
Quarterbacks dominate the headlines in the Big Sky, but they all need to be protected by the bruisers up front. Phillips can play just about anywhere on the offensive line with his upper body strength and good footwork.
Best Boom-or-Bust Prospect
John Franklin, DE, Stephen F. Austin
Franklin’s stock has risen off his excellent Combine showing, but maybe too quickly considering his pass-rushing technique is inconsistent. He also played for a Greenville, Texas, high school team that went 0-40 during his four seasons.
— 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.
(Dallas Goedert courtesy South Dakota State Athletics; Brandon Parker photo courtesy of North Carolina A&T Athletics; Darious Leonard photo courtesy of South Carolina State Athletics)