Coming off a banner class of prospects this past April, FCS college football will seek to keep the momentum going this fall and into the 2023 NFL Draft.
While it seems impossible to match the 24 selections or two first-round picks – neither of which had happened since 2008 – it will be fun to see the development of this year’s prospects.
As the class continues to evolve this fall and into the draft build-up this winter, here are key FCS prospects to know (with input from Josh Buchanan of NFL Draft Scout) heading toward April 27-29 at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri.
Anthony Adams, S, Portland State
Height: 6-0; Weight: 185
Statistic to Know: Adams’ 40 career passed defended (nine interceptions, 31 breakups) are the most of any returning FCS player this season.
The Skinny: A starter in all 35 of his career games, Adams covers ground well, whether in pass coverage or run support. He’s been in on 165 career tackles, including 14.5 for loss.
McCallan Castles, TE, UC Davis
Height: 6-5; Weight: 235
Statistic to Know: Castales has a reception in all but one of his 17 career games with UC Davis, catching the Aggies’ only touchdown in a 2021 FBS win at Tulsa.
The Skinny: The athletic former Cal recruit adjusts well to the ball in the air, and has solid blocking skills.
McClendon Curtis, OG, Chattanooga
Height: 6-6; Weight: 328
Statistic to Know: Curtis’ durability reflects in his 38 career games and 27 starts.
The Skinny: O-line isn’t quite the focus with 2023 FCS prospects as it was this past draft, but scouts got plenty of looks at Curtis while studying Chattanooga’s 2022 first-round pick Cole Strange (New England Patriots). He brings big size to the interior of the line and plays with a high football IQ.
Justin Ford, CB, Montana
Height: 6-2; Weight: 190
Statistic to Know: Ford’s productivity last season was undeniable – an FCS-leading nine interceptions, a takeaway in 10 straight games and three touchdowns (two pick-sizes and one off a blocked field goal).
The Skinny: The lanky corner, who played at Louisville before Montana, has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He gets a lot of work in pass coverage by playing in the pass-heavy Big Sky.
Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F. Austin
Height: 5-9; Weight: 170
Statistic to Know: No returning FCS player has more career receiving yards (3,142) or TD receptions (30) than Gipson, and he’s second among qualifiers in yards per catch (17.7)
The Skinny: Gipson lacks prototypical size, but his body control, explosiveness in the open field and punt return skills compare to former Sam Houston standout Jequez Ezzard, the most outstanding performer of the 2020 FCS championship game.
Noah Gindorff, TE, North Dakota State
Height: 6-6; Weight: 256
Statistic to Know: The former high school quarterback knows about the red zone, turning six of his 10 receptions in 2019 into touchdowns, and 11 of his 38 career catches.
The Skinny: A 2022 NFL Collegiate Bowl invitee, Gindorff decided to use an extra season of eligibility after he suffered a fractured fibula in the FCS playoffs last December. The good-sized athletic tight end is a noted blocker on NDSU’s dominant O-line.
Jaxon Janke, WR, South Dakota State
Height: 6-2 1/2; Weight: 210
Statistic to Know: Janke, whose twin brother Jadon also is a starting wide receiver at SDSU, took a big step in the 2021 season, totaling six of his seven career 100-yard games, including in an FCS quarterfinal and semifinal.
The Skinny: Utilizing his quick burst off the line of scrimmage and size, Janke excels in the downfield, over-the-top passing game. He consistently makes the tough catches in coverage.
Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
Height: 6-5; Weight: 255
Statistic to Know: In a breakout season last fall, Kraft led all FCS tight ends with 65 receptions.
The Skinny: Kraft, coming from the SDSU program that produced Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, puts his excellent size and speed to good use as both a pass catcher and blocker. He is an early-entry candidate for the 2023 NFL Draft, and a big junior season may prompt him to take that step.
Isaiah Land, Edge, Florida A&M
Height: 6-4; Weight: 215
Statistic to Know: The 2021 Buck Buchanan Award recipient led the FCS in sacks (19), sack yardage lost (121), tackles for loss (25.5) and tackles for loss yardage (147).
The Skinny: Listed by FAMU as an outside linebacker, Land often lines up as a defensive end. Utilizing a high motor to dominate in the SWAC, the lanky pass rusher will seek to add quality weight without losing any quickness.
Hunter Luepke, FB, North Dakota State
Height: 6-1; Weight: 234
Statistic to Know: Luepke scored three touchdowns in the first half while earning the Most Outstanding Player award in NDSU’s 2021 national championship game win over Montana State.
The Skinny: While evoking images of former NFL fullbacks Tom Rathman (who also wore No. 44) and Mike Alstott, Luepke bounces off contact and finds the goal line as either a runner or pass catcher. He’s averaged a touchdown (20 overall) with every 10 touches.
Devonnsha Maxwell, DT, Chattanooga
Height: 6-3; Weight: 296
Statistic to Know: The sturdy-built SoCon defensive player of the year is a closer: 11 of his 12 sacks last season occurred in the fourth quarter.
The Skinny: Maxwell often moves around on Chattanooga’s four-man defensive front. With 29.5 career sacks, he’s nearing Davis Tull’s school record of 37 from 2011-14, which also is the Southern Conference’s all-time mark.
B.J. Thompson, DE, Stephen F. Austin
Height: 6-6; Weight: 210
Statistic to Know: Having ranked second in sacks on Baylor’s 2018 squad, Thompson has 15.5 sacks in 22 games the last two seasons at SFA.
The Skinny: Thompson is a long, athletic pass rusher who will seek to add quality weight to his frame. SFA’s only selection in the last 11 NFL drafts was a defensive end, John Franklin-Myers going to the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth round in 2018.
More Prospects to Know
Mark Evans II, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Garret Greenfield, OT, South Dakota State
Ryan Greenhagen, LB, Fordham
Isaiah Ifanse, RB, Montana State
Ferlando Jordan, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
Titus Leo, OLB, Wagner
Cody Mauch, OG, North Dakota State
Ryan Miller, TE, Furman
Spencer Waege, DE, North Dakota State