A month out from the 2022 NFL Draft, the FCS looks like it will be well-represented.
Twenty former FCS players (including grad transfers) are ranked on the Pro Football Focus Top 300 Big Board (as of March 28):
PFF’s Top FCS Prospects
Includes former FCS players that played their last season at an FBS school.
No. 23 — OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
PFF Scouting Report: “Penning is yet another uber-physical run-blocker at the position. The 6-foot-7, 321-pounder moves people with ease. His 99.9 run-blocking grade — albeit against mainly FCS competition — is the highest we’ve ever charted.”
Feature story: Penning Goes From 2 D1 Offers To A Potential 1st Rounder
No. 56 — LB Troy Andersen, Montana State
PFF Scouting Report: “Andersen is a converted running back and quarterback who, in his lone full season at linebacker, racked up an absurd [147 total tackles]. There’s no telling what he could be with more reps at the position.”
No. 74 — WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
PFF Scouting Report: “The Combine king is more than just a high-level testing athlete that we saw in Indy. He’s a super flexible 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver who can adjust to balls easily outside his frame. The drop issues and ball tracking are a tad concerning, however, as Watson has 16 drops on 120 career catchable.”
No. 85 — OG Cole Strange, Chattanooga
PFF Scouting Report: “It doesn’t take long to pick out Strange along the offensive line when watching Chattanooga’s tape. He has elite explosiveness for an interior lineman. His 78.8 overall grade against Kentucky this past year leaves a lot to be excited about what he could be.”
No. 97 — QB Bailey Zappe, Houston Baptist/Western Kentucky
PFF Scouting Report: “Zappe broke the record for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season during his only year of FBS play. The NFL will be quite a steep transition, though, as Zappe was under pressure on just 12% of his dropbacks last season.”
No. 106 — CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston
McCollum is a 6-foot-2 and 199-pound cornerback who tested extremely well at the NFL Combine. He was a three-time All-American and earned All-Conference (Southland and WAC) honors four times at SHSU.
No. 118 — OT Matt Waletzko, North Dakota
Waletzko is a monster at 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds. He came on strong to scouts’ radar after a standout spring season, and Waletzko’s play in the fall earned him several All-American honors.
No. 131 — DL Noah Elliss, Idaho
Elliss wasn’t on early draft boards during the fall, but he has worked his way onto them in a hurry during the draft process. His older brother, Kaden, did the same as the former Vandal parlayed a strong pro day into a seventh-round draft pick by the Saints in 2019. Noah is a massive problem on the defensive line at 6-foot-4 and 367 pounds.
No. 141 — RB Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
It isn’t easy for FCS running backs to get drafted. But Strong, a four-time All-American, has the overall skill set that has put him on draft radars dating back to his junior season. He was a standout at the combine, increasing his draft stock.
No. 155 — S Markquese Bell, Florida A&M
Bell is a 6-foot-2 and 212-pound safety. In 2021, Bell was named to the All-SWAC First Team and was a First Team All-American after totaling 95 tackles.
No. 156 — OT Cordell Volson, North Dakota State
Volson looks to be the fourth NDSU offensive linemen drafted in the last eight years. The 6-foot-7 and 313-pounder was a three-time All-American for the Bison.
No. 159 — OT Braxton Jones, Southern Utah
Jones is another FCS offensive lineman high on draft boards. The three-time All-American stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 310 pounds.
No. 209 — OG Jason Poe, Mercer
This year’s biggest FCS riser after a standout pro day appears to be Poe. At 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, he ran a 4.89-second 40 (1.72-second 10-yard split), had a 31.5-inch vertical, and did 34 reps on the bench. He earned 2021 All-SoCon First Team honors after transferring from D2 Lenoir-Rhyne, where he was an All-American.
No. 215 — DT John Ridgeway, Illinois State/Arkansas
A beast on the d-line at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Ridgeway played his last season at Arkansas, starting in 11 games.
No. 239 — CB Decobie Durant, South Carolina State
A talented corner at 5-foot-11, Durant picked off three passes and totaled 12 pass breakups in 2021.
No. 242 — WR Dai’Jean Dixon, Nicholls
Dixon was a five-year starter at Nicholls, earning All-American honors in three seasons and All-Southland Conference honors four times. In 2021, he recorded 71 catches for 1,002 yards and eight TDs.
No. 245 — OT Nick Zakelj, Fordham
Zakelj is 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds. He started four years at Fordham and was a 2021 All-American.
No. 247 — QB EJ Perry, Brown
A Boston College transfer, Perry had two fantastic seasons at Brown in 2019 and 2021, including setting an Ivy League record in total offense (3,678 yards) in 2019.
No. 281 — OT Ja’Tyre Carter, Southern
Carter is 6-foot-3 and 311 pounds. He started in 37 games as a dominant force for Southern’s run game.
No. 288 — K Andrew Mevis, Fordham/Iowa State
Mevis transferred to Iowa State in 2021, where he was named an All-Big 12 honorable mention.