Day 3 is typically the busiest day of the NFL Draft for FCS prospects. While the subdivision has had 22 first-round picks since 1978 and several more on Day 2 in rounds two and three, a majority of players are getting selected in the later rounds.
The first round of the 2022 draft will have FCS fans paying attention to all 32 picks, though, as there is a chance multiple FCS players hear their names called.
The FCS/Division 1-AA has had multiple first-round selections in 1988, 2000, and 2008:
Northwestern State RB John Stephens
Pick 17, New England
Eastern Kentucky DE Aaron Jones
Pick 18, Pittsburgh
Jackson State WR Sylvester Morris
Pick 21, Kansas City
Jackson State DB Rashard Anderson
Pick 23, Carolina
Tennessee State DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Pick 16, Arizona
Delaware QB Joe Flacco
Pick 18, Baltimore
In 2022, Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning is a consensus first-round pick. ESPN’s Todd McShay calls the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder a top-tier tackle on the board.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, who has Penning going at No. 18 to New Orleans, said, “Penning is a rock-solid offensive tackle with a nasty disposition and a grown man’s game.”
If an FCS player grad transfers and plays his last year at an FBS school, the FCS will still recognize that player as a draft pick from its subdivision. So the FCS won’t claim offensive guard Zion Johnson, who played two seasons at Davidson before starting at Boston College from 2019-2021. Johnson is viewed as a top interior offensive lineman in the draft.
So after Penning, things get interesting for the FCS.
North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson has come on strong lately as a potential first-rounder. The 6-foot-4, 208-pounder blew people away at the NFL Combine when he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash (No. 6 among WRs), had a 38.5-inch vertical (No. 6), and broad jumped 11’4″ (No. 1 out of all positions).
Three NFL.com draft analysts now have Watson going in the first round.
“One of the stars of the pre-draft process, Watson goes from not seeing enough passes in Fargo to giving QB Patrick Mahomes another new option on the perimeter — joining JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — to try and replace Tyreek Hill,” Davis said.
ESPN’s Todd McShay also predicts Watson hearing his name called in the first round by Tennessee at No. 26.
Another name to keep an eye on is Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen. While his name isn’t popping up on as many first-round mock drafts as Watson, it would not be surprising if a team wants to grab him on Day 1 before he becomes a hot commodity on Day 2.
Andersen started the draft process back in January as a Day 3-to-undrafted free agent prospect, as most FCS players do. Scouts and scouting services typically give FCS standouts lower grades to start and then see what they do at all-star games against better competition before bumping them up.
Andersen’s stock rose during the Senior Bowl. It then skyrocketed during the combine, when the 6-foot-3.5 and 243-pounder had the No. 1 40-yard dash time among linebackers (4.42) and the No. 5 broad jump (10’8″) along with a 36-inch vertical. He wowed again at MSU’s pro day when he ran a 3.99-second short shuttle and 6.72-second 3-cone. The fastest linebacker times at the combines were 4.25 seconds in the short shuttle and 6.91 seconds in the 3-cone.
“He did everything at Montana State. To run a 4.41 and to have the ability he showed in coverage and be an every-down guy … You got to love everything about this kid,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said in a TV segment. “He’s going to tackle well. He’s going to get interceptions. He’s going to be disruptive to the quarterback with that length. He goes sideline to sideline with the 4.4 speed.”
“I think Troy Andersen is a Day 1 starter in the league,” McShay added.
Last year, the FCS had one player drafted in the first round (QB Trey Lance), one player in Round 2 (NDSU OL Dillon Radunz), and one player in Round 3 (UNI OL Spencer Brown). In 2022, the FCS has a shot at multiple first-round selections for the first time since 2008.
ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Jordan Reid Talks FCS Prospects
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