In the FCS Huddle: 2015 FCS draft class review

Philadelphia, PA ( – “Dancing With the Stars” has had its
share of football legs in the competition, but 2014 Buck Buchanan Award winner
Kyle Emanuel might be tuning in for a different reason this season.

“If I get drafted, all I really want is a shoutout from @juliannehough,” the
North Dakota State All-American tweeted out to the popular entertainer, former
DWTS champion and current judge, on Twitter on Friday.

Sure enough, within hours of the San Diego Chargers selecting Emanuel in the
fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, Hough couldn’t help but show she
knows her leading FCS men.

“@k_emanuel53 We will definitely be following now! 🙂 way to go! @Chargers,”
Hough tweeted back to Emanuel, before adding another tweet: “@k_emanuel53

Emanuel hopes to have some smooth moves on the next level. The first Buchanan
Award winner to be taken in the draft since the Pittsburgh Steelers selected
James Madison’s Arthur Moats in 2010 brings an instinctive, relentless style of
pass rushing to the Chargers. A defensive end at NDSU, the 6-foot-3, 255-
pounder is expected to convert to outside linebacker with the Bolts.

An anchor in NDSU’s record fourth straight FCS national titles, Emanuel
collected 41 sacks in his career, including 19.5 as a senior.

It’s been a slow process, but NDSU is gaining more traction in NFL circles.
Last year, there were six Bison alums on teams, including 2014 draftee Billy
Turner of the Miami Dolphins.

None of the others, though, had a Hollywood starlet taking notice of him on
draft day.


There were 17 FCS players selected in the draft, down slightly from the 19 in
each of the last two drafts.

It wasn’t surprising when the most FCS selections (seven) came in the fifth
round because NFL teams were looking for small-school sleepers on the third and
final day of the draft. But it was bizarre when no FCS players went in the
sixth round.

The breakdown by round was: first round, none; second round, one; third round,
one; fourth round, two; fifth round, seven; sixth round, none; and seventh
round, six.


Day 1 – Thursday (Round 1)


Day 2 – Friday (Rounds 2-3)

San Francisco (2nd round, 46th overall selection) – Jaquiski Tartt, SS,
Samford, 6-2, 221. The 49ers needed defensive players after a rough offseason,
and Tartt brings athleticism and a hard-hitting style, described as an
“absolute missile” by NFL Network analyst Charles Davis.

Arizona Cardinals (third, 86) – David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa, 6-1, 224.
Pass catching ability will earn Johnson snaps on third down, but the holder of
15 UNI records wants to be relied on in the run game as well.

Day 3 – Saturday (Rounds 4-7)

Arizona Cardinals (fourth, 116) – Rodney Gunter, DT/DE, Delaware State, 6-5,
305. MEAC standout will be able to move across the D-line because of his
athleticism and size.

Baltimore Ravens (fourth, 135) – Tray Walker, CB, Texas Southern, 6-2, 190.
Expected to go lower in the draft, Walker was helped by the longest arm length
and wingspan among cornerbacks in the draft.

Minnesota Vikings (fifth, 143) – MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois, 6-2,
251. Blessed with reliable hands, Pruitt finished as the Missouri Valley
Conference’s career record holder among tight ends in receptions (211),
receiving yards (2,601) and receiving touchdowns (25).

New Orleans Saints (fifth, 148) – Davis Tull, OLB, Chattanooga, 6-2, 246.
Relentless motor backed by a 42.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot broad jump
– both among the best at the NFL Combine.

San Diego Chargers (fifth, 153) – Kyle Emanuel, OLB, North Dakota State, 6-3,
255. Runaway winner of the 2014 Buck Buchanan Award completed his career with
more FCS national titles (four) than defeats (58-3 record).

Seattle Seahawks (fifth, 170) – Tye Smith, CB, Towson, 6-0, 195. An intelligent
decision maker who uses his good length and tackle skills to make plays, Smith
put on good weight as a senior without losing speed.

Baltimore Ravens (fifth, 171) – Nick Boyle, TE, Delaware, 6-4, 268. The Ravens
love former Delaware Blue Hens, the latest a big-bodied tight end who blocks
well in open space but is developing as a pass catcher.

Kansas City Chiefs (fifth, 173) – James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Illinois State, 6-4,
245. Turned nine of his 29 receptions as a senior into touchdowns, including a
pair in the FCS national championship game.

Baltimore Ravens (fifth, 176) – Robert Myers, OG, Tennessee State, 6-5, 326.
Considered to have a high ceiling and a product of an Ohio Valley Conference
program always full of talent on the offensive line.

Oakland Raiders (seventh, 218) – Anthony Morris, OG, Tennessee State, 6-6, 290.
After the empty sixth round for the FCS, the Raiders made it back-to-back
selections of TSU O-linemen with a surprising pick. The unheralded Morris is
expected to switch from tackle.

Jacksonville Jaguars (seventh, 220) – Neal Sterling, WR, Monmouth, 6-4, 235.
Has the size, strength and long arms of an NFL receiver and knows how to put
his body to use with a physical style.

New York Jets (seventh, 223) – Deon Simon, NT, Northwestern State, 6-4, 321.
Though he must improve on his consistency, the surprisingly agile Simon has the
strength to handle the physical work of double teams in the run game.

Atlanta Falcons (seventh, 225) – Jake Rodgers, OT, Eastern Washington, 6-6,
320. Before transferring to EWU, Rodgers made all 12 starts over four offensive
line positions at Washington State in 2012, including one at left guard against
his future Big Sky school.

Buffalo Bills (seventh, 234) – Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas, 6-4, 214.
Alley-oop … background in basketball is evident as Lewis is a reliable go-to
receiver with excellent hands and an ability to make the tough catches in

Tennessee Titans (seventh, 245) – Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary, 6-0, 210.
CAA standout had plenty of buzz leading up to the draft, but fell much lower
than expected. He fared well against FBS competition in his career.


Riser – Walker, Shaughnessy and Morris

Fallers – McBride and undrafted defensive ends Zack Wagenmann (broken leg) of
Montana and Lynden Trail of Norfolk State


The Missouri Valley Football Conference led the way for the FCS with four
selections. The breakdown by conference:

Missouri Valley – four

CAA – three

Ohio Valley, Southern and Southland – two each

Big Sky, Big South, MEAC and SWAC – one each

Ivy, Northeast, Patriot and Pioneer – none


The better undrafted prospects will be signed by a team quicker than you can
say, “FCS.”

Some of the better undrafted players were Wagenmann, Trail and fellow defensive
end Ryan Delaire of Towson; running backs John Crockett of North Dakota State,
Tyler Varga of Yale, Zack Zenner of South Dakota State and Malcolm Agnew of
Southern Illinois; Harvard outside linebacker Zack Hodges; defensive tackles
Derrick Lott of Chattanooga and Xavier Williams of Northern Iowa; safeties
Jacob Hagen of Liberty, Tevin McDonald of Eastern Washington and Dean Marlowe
of James Madison; centers Antoine Everett of McNeese State and Nick Easton of
Harvard; wide receiver R.J. Harris of New Hampshire; quarterback Bryan Bennett
or Southeastern Louisiana; and punter Kyle Loomis of Portland State.

Going undrafted can be an advantage for some players because they can pick a
team that offers a favorable situation for them.


Defensive ends are often among the top draft candidates from the FCS level.
Central Arkansas’ Jonathan Woodard and Jacksonville State’s LaMichael Fanning
are among the highly rated prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft, currently drawing
No. 19 and 20 rankings, respectively, from

North Dakota State offensive tackle Joe Haeg and quarterback Carson Wentz are
both ranked ninth at their respective position.

One of the more surprising rankings is Princeton’s DiAndre Atwater as the No.
12 running back.

It’s a class that also will include Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Harlan
Miller, Gardner-Webb defensive O.J. Mau, William & Mary inside linebacker Luke
Rhodes and Villanova quarterback John Robertson, the 2014 Walter Payton Award