FCS Roundtable of NFL Draft Experts: Sleeper Picks
Few terms excite NFL draftniks like “sleeper pick.”
Shh! Don’t give any away.
With each year, more overlooked gems are being uncovered as NFL teams pay even more attention to FCS and other small-school prospects.
Heading toward 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.
(Who’s next? 2021 All-NFL Team of Former FCS Players)
Our fifth and final question surrounds FCS prospects who may be flying under the radar:
Who are some sleeper picks in the FCS class of prospects, especially those you feel are potential undrafted values?
Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan), Football Gameplan/CBSSportsHQ
“In such a deep class, I’m excited to see where the Sam Houston guys end up. And I’m talking about cornerbacks Zyon and Tristin McCollum, wide receiver Jequez Ezzard and tight end Isaac Schley. All four guys can legit ball. Also, Montana State’s Troy Andersen, who could end up being a first-round pick, along with the sleeper of the linebacker/edge group, Daniel Hardy, could have immediate impacts as rookies.
“But to fully answer your question about sleepers, I would say Southern’s linebacker Caleb Carter could be a deep sleeper that no one is talking about. He put up really strong numbers at Southern’s pro day, so much so that he could be one of those surprise seventh-round picks as a core special teams player. That’s how ridiculously athletic he is as a player. That’s as about as deep of a sleeper as you can get.”
Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid), ESPN
“Let’s start with Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut. This one is a deep sleeper. I had the opportunity to see Chestnut during the all-star game circuit and it didn’t take long for him to stand out. At 6-1, 215, he possesses a solid build, but has plenty of athleticism to be a bigger running back. If he can regain his 2019 and 2020 form (following a 2021 knee injury), he’s an undrafted free agent that has a chance to stick on a roster.
“There’s Sam Houston State cornerback Zyon McCollum. Up until the NFL Scouting Combine, McCollum was one of my biggest sleepers in the draft. That’s far from the case now, but I still want to list him because he’s a name that’s continued to rise throughout the pre-draft process.
“Also, Jackson State linebacker James Houston. After coming over from Florida, he proved to be the nucleus of a tough Jackson State defense. His performance against Alabama A&M was one of the best performances of any defender all season. After playing stand-up outside linebacker for the Tigers, he’s likely to transition back to off-ball linebacker on the next level.”
Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella), NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated
“There are some really impressive players who may not hear their name called due to an extremely deep draft class as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which granted all players an extra year of eligibility. This year’s draft class size is nearly double that of a year ago. On offense, players such triple-threat running back Julius Chestnut of Sacred Heart and do-it-all wide receiver Jequez Ezzard of Sam Houston State possess the skill set to earn spots on 53-man rosters.
“On defense, any team in need of a two-down plugger should investigate mammoth nose tackle Noah Ellis of Idaho. Linebacker Jack Cochrane (South Dakota) recently had an outstanding pro day which elevated his profile, and Jackson State cornerback C.J. Holmes seems to have learned well from his head coach, Deion Sanders.”