Diverse group of candidates are on the radar
“Small” school or not, even the casual NFL fan knew the name Carson Wentz going into the draft last year.
The former FCS standout whom every fan should know for this week’s draft is Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The likely second- or third-round pick holds the Division I career records – that’s FCS and FBS – for receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464) and touchdown receptions (73).
But there are a number of FCS prospects to know as the subdivision continues to make an impact on the NFL with the recent likes of Wentz, David Johnson and Josh Norman.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington (6-2, 204)
Did You Know? The only player to win both the Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) and Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year) has a terrific NFL lineage. His grandfather Jake, who played offensive guard, is in the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame, and his father Craig, a quarterback, was the New York Giants’ fifth-round pick in 1990.
Derek Rivers, OLB/DE Youngstown State (6-4, 248)
Did You Know? Athletic edge rusher set the Youngstown State and Missouri Valley Football Conference records with 41 career sacks. The Penguins hadn’t qualified for the FCS playoffs in 10 years before Rivers helped lead them to the national championship game as a senior.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova (6-7, 289)
Did You Know? Freakish athlete with a body fat measurement under 5 percent started his Villanova career as a tight end.
Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State (6-4, 318)
Did You Know? Didn’t play high school football until his junior year and went on to spend a season at Florida before transferring and becoming a four-year starter at Tennessee State.
Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell (6-7, 318)
Did You Know? Four-year starter at left tackle is the cousin of another well-known New Jersey product, former Kentucky Wildcat and current Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar (6-0, 204)
Did You Know? Langley’s 22 reps on the 225-pound bench were the most for any cornerback at the NFL Scouting Combine.
De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina (5-7, 208)
Did You Know? Despite an injury-plagued senior season, Henderson ended his career with a touchdown in a Division I-record 35 straight games.
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake (6-5, 253)
Did You Know? Red zone threat is seeking to become the third-ever draft selection from the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, which formed in 1993. The first two were San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2008 eighth round) and Marist defensive lineman Terrence Fede (Miami Dolphins, 2004 seventh round).
Keionta Davis, DE, Chattanooga (6-3, 271)
Did You Know? The 2016 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year came back from sitting out two straight seasons – an ACL tear as a high school senior in 2011, which scared off FBS suitors, and then a redshirt season at Chattanooga in ‘12 to get stronger.
Corey Levin, OG, Chattanooga (6-4, 307)
Did You Know? Consistent standout started 51 games as a collegian and twice earned the Southern Conference’s top offensive lineman award.
Ezra Robinson, CB, Tennessee State, CB (5-11, 189)
Did You Know? Former Michigan State Spartan hopes to join Jessamen Dunker in giving Tennessee State a pair of draft selections for the third time in four years.
Lorenzo Jerome, FS, Saint Francis (5-10, 204)
Did You Know? In his final two seasons as a collegian, Jerome ranked first in the FCS in kickoff return average as a junior (31.2 ypg) and second as a senior (28.9).
Dylan Cole, Missouri State, OLB (6-0, 233)
Did You Know? The leading tackler in the vaunted Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2015 took it to a higher level as the leading tackler in all of the FCS last season.
Jerry Ugokwe, OG, William & Mary (6-7, 321)
Did You Know? Huge lineman didn’t play football until his junior year of high school. His father Dr. Jerry Ugokwe was the former Nigerian ambassador to Austria.
Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State (6-3, 264)
Did You Know? Excellent pass rusher followed head coach Bo Pelini from Nebraska to Youngstown State, where he spent his final two seasons.
Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T (5-6, 179)
Did You Know? Don’t be fooled by the diminutive size, the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher posted a streak of 508 straight touches without a fumble (and 530 straight without losing a fumble).
David Jones, SS, Richmond (6-2, 210)
Did You Know? Was considered a future mid-round talent while he totaled an FCS-high nine interceptions as a junior, but he suffered a broken left forearm twice in less than a year, including last October when his senior season ended.
Alex Torgersen, QB, Penn (6-2, 220)
Did You Know? Savvy signal-caller holds the Ivy League record for career completion percentage (67.4) and led Penn to back-to-back conference titles.
— 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 by Eastern Washington University Athletics)