The NFL Draft Combine is here folks. As we speak, FCS products are flying into Indianapolis to get the chance to prove themselves while competing against players from Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State, among others. Last year there were 20 NFL Draft picks who hailed from FCS programs, and nearly 100 total players got a shot as free agents in camp. This week, a new crop of 20 FCS products from the 2017 draft class will travel to Indy to prove their stock is better than NFL scouts may think.
HERO Sports takes a look at five FCS products we think can make the biggest headway this weekend. Anybody who follows the draft has an awareness of Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp or Youngstown State's Derek Rivers … or last year, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. But what new names are popping up this year?
Here's five FCS invitees we think could see their draft stock shoot way up this week at the NFL Draft Combine.
KENDRICK BOURNE, WR — EASTERN WASHINGTON
2016 STATS: 79 receptions, 1,201 yards, 7 TDs
CAREER STATS: 211 receptions, 3,130 yards, 27 touchdowns
THE SKINNY: This 6-foot-2, 190-pound talent has had a tremendous career at the FCS level, and even while sharing the pass-catching burden with Cooper Kupp and Shaq Hill, he still was able to produce a 1,000-yard season. In games against Pac-12 competition the past three years he combined to catch 20 passes for nearly 250 yards. He is known for his physical and firey style of play.
DE'ANGELO HENDERSON, RB — COASTAL CAROLINA
2016 STATS: 1,195 yards rushing, 16 TDs
CAREER STATS: 4,735 yards rushing, 58 TDs; 97 receptions, 921 yards, 6 TDs
THE SKINNY: He's quick, he's shifty — he's everything a coaching staff loves about a running back. His elusiveness and college production is a strength, now can it translate into a draft slot for this 5-foot-8, 210-pound rushing dynamo? Henderson was a high school phenom, leading the state of South Carolina in rushing his senior year before having to prove himself all over again at the FCS level. He's aching to crack a roster in an extremely deep running back class. If he can impress in special teams too, he'll be that versatile player many FCS products have to be to gain a toehold at the next level.
HENDERSON TELLS HERO SPORTS: "This is all really a dream come true, and I've been working for this for a long time. I feel like I'm finally getting the appreciation that I've earned and worked for. I'm honored to be a part (of the Combine). Many others deserve a spot and don't get it, that's why I will not take this for granted."
CAMERON LEE, OG – ILLINOIS STATE
2016 STATS: Started all 12 games at guard and tackle.
CAREER STATS: Started the final 25 games of his career, and was a key backup in 13 games on the FCS National runner-up team in 2014.
THE SKINNY: Illinois State head coach Brock Spack told HERO Sports that he's certain when the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Lee walks by the NFL brass this week, it's going to leave an impression. Another one of those patented walk-on stories in the FCS, Lee has flourished in his Redbirds career and brings the athleticism of a basketball star to the offensive line. He can play several positions along the front, which makes him even more draftable.
LEE TELLS HERO SPORTS: "The big thing with me is my athleticism and obviously I'm a big guy with a big frame. I have good feet and I play with intensity and a unique style I guess."
AVERY MOSS, DE – YOUNGSTOWN STATE
2016 STATS: 10.5 sacks, 17.5 TFLs, 4 forced fumbles, 59 tackles
CAREER STATS: 17.5 sacks, 30 TFLs, 124 tackles
THE SKINNY: Moss began his career at Nebraska and as a senior this fall with the Penguins, the 6-foot-3, 265-pound D-end flourished. A talented basketball player who starred in high school, he has shown that kind of mobility when he pass rushes, and has a knack for being able to burst out of a block and make a play. He's played Big Ten football and had success there in 2014 (he had 8 tackles and 3 TFLs for Nebraska vs. UCLA in one game) and he continued that success at the FCS level and was a big part of the Penguins' run to the national title game.
MOSS TELLS HERO SPORTS: "One thing Derek (Rivers) has shown me is focusing on technique and preparation is the key. At Nebraska we would do our workouts and practice, but with Derek, he's one of the most hard working guys. And I didn't want him outworking me so now we work off of each other. That extra stuff? That's what has made me the player I am today."
JERRY UGOKWE, OT – WILLIAM & MARY
2016 STATS: Started all 11 games at right tackles.
CAREER STATS: Four year starter with 42 career starts. Three-year starter at right tackle.
THE SKINNY: Ugokwe had never even played football until he was a junior in high school, so when he came to the FCS level with William & Mary, he started off as a walk-on. That didn't last very long as the 6-foot-8, 310-pound prospect earned a starting position on the O-line his redshirt freshman season and trotted out to start against West Virginia in his first college game. This four-year starter has battled good competition in the CAA, as well as Power Five teams all four years — holding his ground. He has just the kind of frame and athleticism to make scouts take a second look.
UGOKWE TELLS HERO SPORTS: "I definitely feel that if you're going to go from the FCS level to the NFL, you have to be a blue-collar guy who is ready to work every day. That's kind of what you have to do to get noticed … Being a heavy critic of yourself, you're just always trying to prove yourself with hard work. It's a must to get to the next level."