FCS Roundtable of NFL Draft Experts: Evaluating the 2022 Class
The NFL has trended toward drafting fewer players from the so-called smaller schools below the FBS level, but that should change later this month.
The FCS level – the lower half of NCAA Division I – boasts a deep, talented class of prospects, and many have impressed during the buildup to the April 28-30 draft.
The Analyst called on a roundtable of experts who know the value of prospects coming from the FCS – Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan and CBSSportsHQ, Jordan Reid of ESPN and Ric Serritella of NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated. Over five days this week, we’re picking their brains on how the FCS class stacks up in this year’s NFL Draft.
Our first question surrounds the overall class of prospects:
What is your evaluation of the FCS draft class? Strengths, concerns, what excites you?
Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan), Football Gameplan/CBSSportsHQ
“I think this is a very deep class of FCS prospects. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re dealing with an unprecedented group of ‘super seniors’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the NCAA granted players an extra year of eligibility, and because of that, we’ve seen players get that extra year of game film and, most importantly, development that many pro scouts perhaps wanted to see from them after their previous season.
“To me, the strength lies with the wide receivers because of the nature of the position. We’re seeing more three-, four- and five-wide receiver sets now in college football than ever before, so it’s no surprise that guys at that position are developing at such a higher rate. Guys like Christian Watson (North Dakota State), Isaiah Weston (Northern Iowa), Lance McCutchen (Montana State), Dai’Jean Dixon (Nicholls) and Jequez Ezzard (Sam Houston) almost instantly come to mind as examples.
“QB is another solid position this year with E.J. Perry (Brown), Aqeel Glass (Alabama A&M) and Cole Kelley (Southeastern Louisiana) leading the way.”
(The numbers don’t lie: QB/TE/WR group at the NFL Combine)
Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid), ESPN
“I think this is one of the stronger FCS classes in quite some time. After Trey Lance was selected No. 3 overall by the 49ers a year ago, there likely won’t be an FCS player drafted that high, but the total number of players drafted overall should well surpass the six from each of the past two FCS draft classes. Way down from the 2018 (19) and 2019 (14) numbers. Spring seasons and even complete cancellations left scouts in tough situations with evaluating talent at the FCS level. Now, with a full season this year, I expect those numbers to be back in the 12-15 range.
“This FCS class is strong along the offensive line. Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa), Cole Strange (Chattanooga), Cordell Volson (North Dakota State), Nick Zakelj (Fordham), Matt Waletzko (North Dakota) and Braxton Jones (Southern Utah) are all names that I expect to hear at some point during the draft. This group of offensive linemen really excites me because all of them have tools to eventually be contributors in some capacity during their career.
(The numbers don’t lie: OL/RB group at the NFL Combine)
“Another strength that’s flown a bit under the radar is wide receiver. Christian Watson (North Dakota State), Isaiah Weston (Northern Iowa), Dai’Jean Dixon (Nicholls) and Jequez Ezzard (Sam Houston) are a few names that make this group strong.”
Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella), NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated
“With a full pre-draft evaluation process, we should see an increased result in FCS players chosen this year. The strength on offense seems to lay with the offensive line, as there are up to six prospects who could hear their name called. They are Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa), Ja’Tyre Carter (Southern), Cole Strange (Chattanooga), Matt Waletzko (North Dakota), Cordell Volson (North Dakota State) and Nicholas Zakelj (Fordham).
“On the defensive side of the ball, it’s a very strong year for cornerbacks, as the FCS class features players with solid grades, including Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston), Decobie Durant (South Carolina State) and Christian Benford (Villanova). Considering we saw a record-low six FCS players drafted in each of the last two years, the depth of these two positions alone tells us that number should spike.”
(The numbers don’t lie: DB/PK/ST group at the NFL Combine)