No April Fools: If Only FCS Players Were Taken in the 2022 NFL Draft
FCS

No April Fools: If Only FCS Players Were Taken in the 2022 NFL Draft

It doesn’t take a scolding by Deion Sanders for NFL teams to know they should be gobbling up FCS players in the NFL Draft.

There’s always plenty to go around: About 200 players from the Division I subdivision have been on NFL active rosters and practice squads in recent seasons.

So imagine if NFL teams could draft only FCS players – we always do – they would fill seven rounds and beyond.

If that happened, here’s what you would see in the first round the night of April 28 (and, yes, FCS grad transfers to FBS programs are welcome):

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Nasty, indeed: While accepting congratulations, the 6-foot-7, 325-pound strongman inadvertently injures NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a bear hug.

2. Detroit Lions: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

No, Christian, you’re not in Fargo anymore.

3. Houston Texans: Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga

In Houston, helmets with an old-school crossbar face mask start flying off the shelf.

cole-strange-chattanooga
Chattanooga’s Cole Strange (69) entering college as a tight end didn’t last long as he developed into a two-time recipient of the Southern Conference’s top blocking award. (Chattanooga Athletics)

4. New York Jets: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah

Contractually obligated to boo at the draft, Jets fans express their disappointment when the pick isn’t local favorite Nick Zakelj of Fordham.

5. New York Giants: Troy Andersen, OLB, Montana State

Superman wishes he had as many skills as Andersen.

6. Carolina Panthers: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

No vertically challenged running back or cornerback will want to stand next to the 6-8 Waletzko in the team photo.

matt-waletzko-north-dakota
In their seven-game spring season last year, North Dakota left tackle Matt Waletzko anchored an offensive line that led the FCS in the fewest number of negative plays and allowed only two sacks. (UND Athletics)

7. Atlanta Falcons (trade with New York Giants): Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State

Sensing league-wide interest in the No. 7 pick, the Falcons move up one spot by flip-flopping later picks with the Giants, and draft an aptly named home run hitter.  

8. New York Giants (trade with Atlanta Falcons): Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham

Take that, Jets fans.

9. Seattle Seahawks: Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston

The hard-working 2020 FCS national champion does more grinding than a Seattle coffeehouse.  

10. Baltimore Ravens (trade with New York Jets): John Ridgeway III, DT, Illinois State/Arkansas

If the Giants are trading, so, too, are the Jets. The Ravens give them former Delaware tight end Nick Boyle to move up four spots to get every opposing quarterback’s not-so-favorite, 6-5, 321-pound Valentine.

11. Washington Commanders: Markquese Bell, SS, Florida A&M

Pit bulls are known for their brains and brawn, which kind of sums up the playing style of Bell, a proud owner of three of them.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Cordell Volson, OG, North Dakota State

When in doubt, pick a Bison. Even better, the biggest Bison (6-6½, 317).

13. Houston Texans: Bailey Zappe, QB, Houston Baptist/Western Kentucky

Given what Zappe has done against FBS opponents – even long before he set the FBS single-season record for passing yards – the Texans quickly place a call to the NFL schedule-maker.

14. New York Jets (trade with Baltimore Ravens): De’Shaan Dixon, DE, Norfolk State

The edge rusher’s initials represent a missing element of the Jets’ 2021 season.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Isaiah Weston, WR, Northern Iowa

This burner’s ability to stretch the field is a match for the “Fly, Eagles, Fly” fight song.

16. Philadelphia Eagles: Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State

Hey, buddy, can you spare a nickel (back) and dime (defense)?

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Noah Elliss, DT, Idaho

When the 6-4, 359-pound Elliss tackles you, you know it.

18. New Orleans Saints: Samori Toure, WR, Montana/Nebraska

If you break a Randy Moss record in the FCS (receiving yards in a playoff game), you go in the first round.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: James Houston III, OLB, Jackson State

Feeling bad about not attending Jackson State’s pro day, the Eagles let Coach Prime announce the pick.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana

Even bigger than Big Ben.

Cole Kelley Southeastern Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley (6-6, 249) received the 2020 Stats Perform Walter Payton Award and was the 2021 runner-up. (SLU Athletics)

21. New England Patriots: Jerreth Sterns, WR, Houston Baptist/Western Kentucky

One year after signing Cooper Kupp’s former college teammate Kendrick Bourne, Bill Belichick goes with a receiver who compiled a Kupp-like receiving Triple Crown in his only FBS season.

22. Green Bay Packers: Tanner Connor, WR, Idaho State

This is Connor’s second-biggest achievement to making Bruce Feldman’s 2021 College Football Freaks List.

23. Arizona Cardinals: J’Atyre Carter, OG, Southern

It just wasn’t fair to the opposition when Carter (6-3, 311) averaged a double-double for a Louisiana high school state championship basketball team.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Eric Johnson, DT, Missouri State

When your Twitter handle is @TheCreature93, enough said.

25. Las Vegas Raiders (trade with Buffalo Bills): Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls

More Blue Hens’ strut: Faced without a selection before No. 86 in the third round, the Raiders panic, er, trade that pick and newly signed defensive tackle Bilal Nichols from Delaware to dip into the deep wide receiver class.

26. Tennessee Titans: Christian Benford, CB, Villanova

A powder blue jersey at ‘Nova already looked good on the 2021 Division I leader in passes defended.

villanova-football-2021
Villanova’s Christian Benford (41) reeled in the most career interceptions (14) among FCS players in the 2022 NFL Draft class. (Villanova Athletics)

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: E.J. Perry, QB, Brown

For when Tom Brady retires again in five years.

28. Green Bay Packers: Roderick Perry II, DT, South Carolina State/Illinois

Did Aaron Rodgers leave anything in the budget? Show Rod the money!

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Jequez Ezzard, WR, Sam Houston

Who needs Tyreek Hill?

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Poe, OG/C (FB?), Mercer

The workout wonder, whose 34 bench reps on his pro day were more than anybody at the NFL Combine, would serve as Patrick Mahomes’ bodyguard if the Chiefs line him up at fullback.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Qwynterrio Cole, S, Alcorn State/Louisville

Already the coolest name in the NFL.

32. Detroit Lions: Julius Chestnut, RB, Sacred Heart

So many career 100-yard games, an emoji was created in his honor. Hundred points

On to Round 2. The Jaguars are on the clock …

Graphic design by Matt Sisneros.