FCS Primer for the NFL Draft: Everything You Need to Know
North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty is usually associated with national championships, but come late April, the Bison’s story of jaw-dropping success also has increased the interest in the Division I subdivision among football fans.
Since Carson Wentz became the highest draft pick ever among FCS players in 2016 – No. 2 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles – draft followers have been clamoring to know who’s the next Carson Wentz.
NDSU’s 11 draft picks over the last 10 years are more than half of the FBS programs. Even better for the entire FCS, it’s coming off a 2022 draft in which its 24 selections were the most in 14 years.
The 2023 FCS class of prospects is strong again, and NFL teams hope to land some of the gems and sleeper picks over the three-day draft this week outside Union Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.
Here are facts, figures and everything you need to know in an FCS draft class primer:
The 88th annual NFL Draft is scheduled for broadcast on the following networks (all times ET):
Thursday, April 27 – 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (NFL Network; ABC; ESPN; ESPN Deportes)
Friday, April 28 – 7 p.m.-11:30 p.m. (NFL Network; ABC; ESPN, 7-8 p.m.; ESPN2, 8-11 p.m.; ESPN Deportes)
Saturday, April 29 – noon-7:30 p.m. (NFL Network; ABC; ESPN)
Thursday, April 27
Round 1: Picks 1-31 (10 minutes allotted to teams between selections)
Friday, April 28
Round 2: Picks 32-63 (seven minutes)
Round 3: Picks 64-102 (five minutes)
Saturday, April 29
Round 4: Picks 103-135 (five minutes)
Round 5: Picks 136-177 (five minutes)
Round 6: Picks 178-217 (five minutes)
Round 7: Picks 218-259 (four minutes)
Haley’s Top 10 FCS Prospects
- Cody Mauch, North Dakota State, OT/OG, 6-5, 302 (Round 2 projection)
- Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State, TE, 6-5, 254 (Round 3)
- Hunter Luepke, North Dakota State, FB, 6-1, 230 (Round 4)
- Andrei Iosivas, Princeton, WR, 6-3, 205 (Round 5)
- McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga, OG, 6-6, 324 (Round 5)
- Isaiah Land, Florida A&M, OLB, 6-3 1/2, 236 (Round 5)
- B.J. Thompson, Stephen F. Austin, OLB, 6-5, 238 (Round 5)
- Marte Mapu, Sacramento State, OLB/SS, 6-2 1/2, 217 (Round 5)
- Aubrey Miller Jr., Jackson State, ILB, 6-2, 225 (Round 6)
- Kobie Turner, Richmond/Wake Forest, DT, 6-3, 299 (Round 6)
What the Draft Experts are Saying
The Analyst called on a roundtable of experts to evaluate the FCS 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.
The five-part series:
Part 1: Evaluating the 2023 class of prospects
Part 2: Effect of the “small school” label
Part 3: Who are the rising prospects
Part 4: Potential rookie successes in 2023
Part 5: Prospects flying under the radar
In addition, Josh Buchanan, an FCS analyst for NFL Draft Scout and Phil Steele Publications, sums up the FCS prospects: “The class is solid in terms of Day 3 and PFA-types (priority free agents), but, as you can guess, it appears a little thin at the top. The transfer portal losses did thin it out a little bit. I think the strength of the class is wide receiver followed by linebacker in terms of depth among the top 50 FCS prospects.”
Major All-Star Games
While the college careers of FCS prospects are the most-important aspect of their resume, all-star games also put them up-close with pro scouts.
Here are FCS recaps from the major college all-star games plus the draft stock risers at those events.
NFL Combine and Pro Day Leaders
Drill results at the NFL Combine are well-publicized, including those from the FCS who participated in Indianapolis.
Buchanan has compiled a list of top results across FCS pro days:
4.33 seconds – Isaiah Bolden, CB, Jackson State
4.34 – Benito Speight, CB, Maine
4.38 – Cody Chrest, WR, Sam Houston
1.46 seconds – Cody Chrest, WR, Sam Houston; Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F. Austin
1.48 – Nathan East, LB, Samford
1.49 – Morgan Vest, S, Northern Arizona
41 feet, 5 inches – Colton Dowell, WR, UT Martin
40-5 – Garett Maag, WR, North Dakota; Ty Okada, S, Montana State
40-0 – Johnny Buchanan, LB, Delaware; Hunter Nichols, S, San Diego; Destin Talbert, CB, North Dakota State
11 feet, 8 inches – Keenan Isaac, CB, Alabama State
11-2 – Matthew Jackson, LB, Eastern Kentucky
11-1 – Colton Dowell, WR, UT Martin; Nick Okeke, LB, Southern Illinois
6.65 seconds – Ty MacPherson, WR, Weber State
6.77 – Cody Chrest, WR, Sam Houston
6.78 – Bryce Miller, WR, Southern Illinois; Miles Oldacre, S, Yale
20-Yard Short Shuttle
3.98 seconds – Ty Okada, S, Montana State
4.00 – Sean Coyne, WR, New Hampshire
4.01 – Donovan Banks, S, Tarleton
37 reps – Blake Haynes, OG, Tarleton; KeShaun Moore, DE, Hampton
35 – Aidan Borguet, RB, Harvard
34 – Kendall Dearth, OG, Tarleton
First-Round FCS Picks
The Division I split into FBS and FCS levels began in 1978. Since then, 23 FCS players have been first-round selections in the NFL Draft.
FCS Programs With Most Draft Picks
Jackson State leads the way among programs with the most NFL Draft picks during their FCS era.
Number of FCS Picks by Year
Since the NFL Draft switched to seven rounds in 1994, here are the picks by year (the number in parentheses reflects any grad transfer who completed NCAA eligibility at an FBS program):
1994: 25; 1995: 21; 1996: 30; 1997: 30; 1998: 20; 1999: 26
2000: 28; 2001: 20; 2002: 18; 2003: 14; 2004: 15; 2005: 17; 2006: 16: 2007: 17; 2008: 24; 2009: 15
2010: 19; 2011: 21; 2012: 15; 2013: 19; 2014: 19; 2015: 18 (1); 2016: 20; 2017: 15; 2018: 19; 2019: 14 (1)
2020: 6; 2021: 6 (1); 2022: 24 (4)
Undrafted Free Agents
A signing frenzy starts immediately after the draft, when well over 100 former FCS players are generally among the undrafted prospects who are signed by teams or invited to tryouts.
Offensive lineman Nick Leverett (North Carolina Central), linebacker Alex Singleton (Montana State) and strong safety Ryan Neal (Southern Illinois) were selected to The Analyst’s 2022 All-FCS NFL Team and are examples of recent undrafted free agents.
Looking Back One Year
The 24 FCS selections in last year’s NFL Draft were the most since the same number in 2008 and tied for the sixth-most since the draft was switched to seven rounds in 1994. First-round picks Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) and Cole Strange (Chattanooga) led the way in the 2022 FCS draft class.
Just for Fun
We weren’t April foolin’ when we held a mock draft that allowed NFL teams to select only FCS players (and grad transfers to FBS programs).
As always, please do not try this at home without proper supervision.