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 first question surrounds the overall class of prospects:
What is your evaluation of the FCS draft class? Strengths, concerns, what excites you?
Eric Galko (@EricGalko), Optimum Scouting LLC/East-West Shrine Bowl
“Despite it getting more difficult for FCS programs to put out NFL draft pick talent, this year’s class still features a good number of draft picks. Receiver and defensive line are especially strong this year, and I think we’ll see a good number of those two positions drafted from the FCS, maybe as many as four or five each at those two positions.
“While a lot of the FCS talent excites me as future NFL contributors, I think NFL teams are really excited by the potential of (edge) B.J. Thompson of Stephen F. Austin. He’s incredibly athletic, dominated at the (East-West) Shrine Bowl, and impressed at his pro day despite dealing with sickness. Thompson should be one of the first non-Combine invites drafted.”
Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan), Football Gameplan/CBS Sports HQ
“This is a very strong FCS class, as it has been since 2020. I believe the reasoning behind this is due to the COVID season of extra eligibility, the transfer portal and the development of the current talent on the roster. All of which has contributed to the depth of talent we’re seeing at the FCS level.
“I’m excited about the defensive side of the ball this year, as there’s a bevy of talent spread throughout the different positions. There’s not as many running backs coming from the FCS this season, which isn’t usually the case for the subdivision.”
Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella), NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated
“My evaluation of the FCS landscape is that since the transfer portal morphed into college free agency, many of the top players have sought greener pastures. As a result, the FCS and small school bias is greater than ever amongst the NFL scouting community. The concern is that many players are not receiving proper looks. Just nine players out of 319 invited to the scouting combine hailed from the FCS ranks – unacceptable!
“In turn, schools that did not have players ranked on national scouting services failed to have any scouts at pro days, while getting into bigger (FBS) workouts has become more difficult. Yet we know that 6.2% of all players on NFL Week 1 rosters in 2022 were from FCS schools. The FCS running backs are plentiful and there are several players who excite me at that position, including Owen Wright (Monmouth) and Aidan Borguet (Harvard), both of whom have a shot to make a roster as undrafted free agents.”
(Here are the FCS-era programs with the most NFL Draft picks)