Part of The Analyst’s FCS college football series called “By the Numbers,” which analyzes data to help tell the story of the Football Championship Subdivision.

It’s been 30 years since the annual NFL Draft was decreased to seven rounds, but that lucky seventh round has been a special place for FCS-level players.

The final round was perhaps changed forever in 2022 when an FBS quarterback, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, was chosen last – a draft pick affectionally celebrated as “Mr. Irrelevant” – but has gone from underdog to being as much of an NFL standout as many first-round picks.

The most-recent “Mr. Irrelevant” pick from FCS college football occurred in 2010 with Weber State wide receiver Tim Toone, taken by the Detroit Lions with the 255th pick. Since that draft, the FCS has gained 226 selections, and the most have come in the seventh round – 60, or 26.5%.

In his first two NFL seasons, former Yale safety Rodney Thomas II has made 25 starts and played in 34 with the Indianapolis Colts. He was a seventh-round draft choice in 2022. (AP)

Are we talking about future NFL Hall of Famers being drafted in the NFL Draft’s seventh round? Probably not.

But some of the players have taken advantage of their opportunity and produced at a high level for multiple seasons. Some have played in Super Bowls, others in the Pro Bowl.

We take a look at 10 of those 60 FCS seventh-rounders since 2010 who made names for themselves in the NFL.

With, well, relevance.

Phillip Adams, South Carolina State, CB/PR

When Taken: 2010 – No. 224 by San Francisco 49ers

Career: Six seasons (2010-15), six teams, 78 games

Career Statistics: 128 tackles, 15 passes defensed, five INTs

The Skinny: Adams came out of one of the most successful FCS programs for producing NFL Draft picks. He had a lot to be happy about in his life, including a productive NFL career, but sadly it turned for the worse afterward. In 2021, Adams shot and killed six people, then turned the gun on himself at age 32. He was diagnosed afterward with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has affected many former football players later in their life due to drama to the brain while playing the sport.

Sean Lissemore, William & Mary, NT/DE

When Taken: 2010 – No. 234 by Dallas Cowboys

Career: Six seasons (2010-15), two teams, 69 games

Career Statistics: 135 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hurries

The Skinny: Lissemore started 21 games in his career and was an active nose tackle across three-year stints with both the Cowboys and San Diego Chargers. He also spent the 2016 season with the Chargers on injured reserve. He gained attention before the 2010 NFL Draft with a pro day that included 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press and a 4.8-second 40-yard dash, a strong time for a defensive lineman.

Marc Mariani, Montana, PR/KR/WR

When Taken: 2010 – No. 222 by Tennessee Titans

Career: Seven seasons (2010-2016), two teams, 70 games

Career Statistics: 3,766 punt return yards (9.2 average), 1,275 kick return yards (24.5 average), three kick/punt return touchdowns; 27 receptions, 324 yards

The Skinny: After lighting up the Big Sky Conference during his time playing at Montana, Mariani was an immediate sensation as a rookie for the Titans, averaging 25.5 yards per kickoff return and 12.2 yards per punt return and scoring twice to make the Pro Bowl. He proceeded to be a primary return man in 2011, ‘14, ‘15 and ‘16 (he spent the 2012 and ‘13 seasons on injured reserve). While playing for the Chicago Bears in 2015, Mariani also started five games at wide receiver and finished with 22 catches and 300 yards.

Mike Person, Montana State, OL

When Taken: 2011 – No. 239 by San Francisco 49ers

Career: Nine seasons (2011-19), six teams, 73 games

Career Statistics: Started 48 games at guard and center

The Skinny: After playing in only one game while bouncing around NFL teams in his first three seasons, Person’s career gained footing with the St. Louis Rams in 2014. He made his way back to the 49ers in 2018, and one season later had 14 regular-season starts for the 2019 Niners, allowing just one sack and two penalties, before he started all three of the team’s playoff games, including in Super Bowl LIV. That game would mark the final one of his career as he was released in the offseason, then announced his retirement in the summer of 2020.

San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Mike Person, covered in mud during a 2019 game, said it was a dream come true to play in Super Bowl LIV after previously being cut from three teams that went on to play in the NFL title game – the 49ers in 2012, Seattle Seahawks in 2013 and Atlanta Falcons in 2016. Collegiately, he was a standout at Montana State. (AP)

Jimmy Wilson, Montana, DB

When Taken: 2011 – No. 235 by Miami Dolphins

Career: Five seasons (2011-15), four teams, 73 games

Career Statistics: 199 tackles, five INTs, 18 passes defensed, four TFLs

The Skinny: Wilson picked off such quarterbacks as Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Colt McCoy during his five-year career. His best season occurred with the Dolphins in 2014, when he started 13 of his 14 games and registered 58 tackles as a free safety. He did not play in a game in 2016 while being a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.

Nick Williams, Samford, DL

When Taken: 2013 – No. 223 by Pittsburgh Steelers

Career: Nine seasons (2014-23), six teams, 97 games

Career Statistics: 157 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 21 TFLs, seven passes defensed

The Skinny: After bouncing around in the NFL and registering just 18 tackles from 2013-18 (he wasn’t on a roster in 2017), Williams began to get his chance on the field in the 2019 season, and he totaled six sacks and 42 tackles for the Chicago Bears. He has started 48 games since 2019 and was a full-time starter for the Detroit Lions in 2020 and ‘21. He’s a free agent after playing 14 games for the Los Angeles Chargers last year.

FCS strong: Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Nick Williams, from Samford, celebrates after making a sack in a 2023 game. (AP)

Shelby Harris, Illinois State, DL

When Taken: 2014 – No. 235 by Oakland Raiders

Career: Nine seasons (2014-23), four teams, 115 games

Career Statistics: 289 tackles, 26 sacks, 46 TFLs, 34 passes defensed

The Skinny: Talk about a gem in the NFL Draft’s seventh round. Harris began his career at Wisconsin, but after a redshirt freshman season, he transferred to Illinois State and became a standout. After playing sparingly with the Raiders in 2014 and ‘15, he found his chance as a Denver Broncos defensive tackle during the 2017-21 seasons, including as a starter the final three years. Last season, Harris started seven of the Cleveland Browns’ 17 regular-season games and had two tackles in a playoff loss. He’s since signed a one-year contract extension. 

Lachlan Edwards, Sam Houston State, P

When Taken: 2016 – No. 235 by New York Jets

Career: Five seasons (2016-21), five teams, 74 games

Career Statistics: 45.7 yards per punt, 376 punts, 116 inside the 20-yard line

The Skinny: Edwards was born in Australia and is one of a handful of stellar punters who have come from that country and made a name for themselves in both the college and professional ranks. He was the starting punter for the Jets in his first four years in the NFL, and had a high of 47.9 yards per punt in 10 games with the 2021 Carolina Panthers. He was not on an active roster in 2020.

Kaden Elliss, Idaho, LB

When Taken: 2019 – No. 244 by New Orleans Saints

Career: Five seasons (2019-23), two teams, 65 games

Career Statistics: 223 tackles, 12 sacks

The Skinny: Elliss played only his senior season at the FCS level after Idaho dropped back down from the FBS in 2018. But once the Vandals made that move, the son of former Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss rose as a draft prospect. He finally became a starter with the Saints in 2022, and his first season with the Atlanta Falcons a year ago is clearly the best of his career – he started all 17 games and totaled 122 tackles and 11 tackles for loss.

Rodney Thomas II, Yale, DB

When Taken: 2022 – No. 239 by Indianapolis Colts

Career: Two seasons (2022-23), one team, 34 games

Career Statistics: 86 tackles, six INTs, 10 passes defensed

The Skinny: After his five-year, four-season Yale career, Thomas posted an impressive pro day and was considered a multi-dimensional defensive player who could help a team at safety, cornerback or edge linebacker. He’s since made a smooth transition to the NFL, registering his first professional interception against Russell Wilson and returning it 35 yards during his 2022 rookie campaign. He also had 52 tackles that season.

While few and far between compared to the NFL Draft’s seventh-round picks, here’s a list of all FCS players who have been selected in the first round.)

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