FCS Roundtable of NFL Draft Experts: Effect of the ‘Small School’ Label
Everybody loves to find value with hidden games and sleeper picks in the NFL Draft.
Many come from FCS college football – the lower half of Division I college football – with recent examples including Cooper Kupp, Darius Leonard and Foye Oluokun.
This year, another class of FCS prospects will be selected during the April 27-29 draft in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Analyst called on a roundtable of experts to evaluate the prospects – Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting and the East-West Shrine Game, Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan and CBS Sports HQ, 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 second question surrounds the “small school” label of FCS prospects:
Do FCS players have to do more to impress NFL teams because of the “small school” label? Why or why not?
Eric Galko (@EricGalko), Optimum Scouting LLC/East-West Shrine Bowl
“Absolutely. It’s less about proving something or reaching an arbitrary threshold, it’s much more about risk. Risk of the things you’re seeing on film not translating to the NFL as compared to players at the FBS, or especially the Power-Five conferences, going against other top players on an every-week basis.
“So they don’t have to do ’more’ necessarily, they just have to show they have other aspects, such as a highly intriguing background, reasons to expect a jump and elite athletic upside to reach a ceiling that’s harder to feel confident on film than their FBS counterparts.”
Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan), Football Gameplan/CBS Sports HQ
“Yes, they still have to shake that stigma of playing at a small school, even though there are many FBS bounce-backs there. For whatever reason, many in the scouting community don’t view it the same as playing consistent FBS ball.
“I understand it to some degree. If you’re playing at the FBS level, there’s a certain bar of size and athleticism you’ll see consistently across the board, while at the FCS level, maybe a few conferences come to mind that could say that.”
Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella), NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated
“The problem resides in the ‘group think’ mentality at the lower level of scouting. In order for FCS players to get recognized, an area (regional) scout must identify them. If said player is not on the radar in the preseason, it becomes even more difficult to get on the NFL radar. Most scouts do not want to stick their neck out on the line for a player who may have incomplete measurements, unverified test results or play at a lower level of competition.
“In many aspects, the scouting process needs to evolve and more larger, regional pro days and mini-combines need to be orchestrated. Since it’s not a revenue generator, the NFL is unlikely to take action.”
(Here’s a breakdown of FCS players who have been selected in the NFL Draft first round)