Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – FCS players are often looked at as
potential steals in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.
With the right scenario, that can happen in the first round, too.
The Baltimore Ravens still say, “Thank you, Joe Flacco.”
This year’s draft, to be held April 30 to May 2, is moving from New York to
Chicago, but that’s nothing if you want something completely different – such
as a draft filled with only FCS players.
If NFL teams would forget about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – OK, some
are doing that already – and mine the field only for the hidden gems of the
FCS, then the first round would get very interesting.
Here’s how it would go:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Samford, SS, Jaquiski Tartt. Safety is not a position
of need, but Bucs coach Lovie Smith loves hard-hitters on defense, so the top-
rated FCS prospect – called an “absolute missile” by NFL Network analyst
Charles Davis – is a no-brainer.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (trade from Tennessee Titans) – David Johnson, RB,
Northern Iowa. Fearing another team might trade up with Tennessee to get the
versatile Johnson, the Jaguars flip-flop from No. 3 and surrender former
Missouri State tight end Clay Harbor in the trade (there’s no shortage of FCS
tight ends because they also have Julius Thomas and Nic Jacobs).
3. Tennessee Titans (trade from Jacksonville Jaguars) – Davis Tull, OLB,
Chattanooga. Johnson would have looked good in a Titans uniform, but Tull, the
three-time Southern Conference defensive player of the year, is the popular
pick, having starred collegiately within the state of Tennessee and showing
terrific measurables in the draft buildup.
4. Oakland Raiders – Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary – The Raiders often throw
in a surprise on draft day, but there’s no need to here with McBride becoming
an excellent addition to a subpar wide receivers corps. He’s polished – what
the Raiders need – and fast – what the Raiders always want.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (trade from Washington Redskins) – Bryan Bennett, QB,
Southeastern Louisiana. All that talk about the Eagles trading up for a certain
Oregon quarterback, well, it’s happened. OK, so the trade wasn’t with the New
York Jets and it wasn’t for that you-know-who Duck, it was for Bennett, who
spent three years under Eagles coach Chip Kelly at Oregon before he flew south
to Southeastern. To make the move, the Eagles deal away their first-round pick
at No. 20 and their second-round picks this year and next year.
6. New York Jets – Lynden Trail, DE/OLB, Norfolk State. The surprises continue
as Gang Green go all in on Trail earlier than he was expected to be selected.
But the former Florida Gator provides a much-needed outside pass rusher who is
both big (6-foot-7, 269 pounds) and versatile.
7. Cleveland Browns (trade from Chicago Bears) – Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central
Arkansas. It must be the year of the draft-day trade. The Browns, sitting at
No. 12, move up to get the 6-foot-4 Lewis, a standout at the Senior Bowl, to
help make up for the loss of suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon.
8. Atlanta Falcons – MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois. This one is too easy
in the post-Tony Gonzalez age. The Falcons needed a pass-catching tight end,
and there is none better than the sure-handed Pruitt.
9. New York Giants – Dean Marlowe, FS, James Madison. Big Blue fill a big hole
at free safety with the heady Marlowe, who just happens to be from New York.
Also, too easy of a pick.
10. St. Louis Rams – Robert Myers, OG, Tennessee State. The Rams need to beef
up their offensive line and Myers, at 6-5, 326, is a good fix. He hails from
the one FCS program that plays its home games in an NFL stadium.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa. The fill-a-glaring-
need selections continue as the Vikings give Northern Iowa its second first-
rounder. Williams moves well for an interior defensive lineman.
12. Chicago Bears (trade from Cleveland Browns) – Deon Simon, NT, Northwestern
State. It’s clear why the Bears traded down from No. 7 because Simon is
available and the 6-4, 321-pound nose tackle will plug right into their new 3-4
13. New Orleans Saints – Kyle Emanuel, OLB, North Dakota State. There’s a good
crop of pass rushers coming from the FCS level. The 2014 Buck Buchanan Award
winner motored into backfields as a defensive end at NDSU, but he is converting
to outside linebacker as a pro.
14. Miami Dolphins – John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State. Make it two picks
in a row from the four-time reigning FCS champion Bison. The Dolphins sure like
what they see in Fargo as they reunite Crockett with his former offensive
tackle, Billy Turner.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (trade from San Francisco 49ers) – Nick Boyle, TE,
Delaware. The Bengals, looking to improve their receiving and physicality, feel
Boyle is just too good to be sitting on the board midway through the round, so
they trade up from No. 21 to get him. The Bengals give San Francisco former
Southern Illinois outside linebacker Jayson DiManche and their third-round
16. Houston Texans – Zack Wagenmann, DE, Montana. Former Griz players are
always found across the NFL and the pass-rushing Wagenmann is going down in
program history as one of its more disruptive defensive players. He’s even
quicker without the long hair.
17. San Diego Chargers – Malcolm Agnew, RB, Southern Illinois. FCS running
backs proved their worth in the NFL last year and the Missouri Valley
Conference is the place to look to this year. Agnew’s pass-catching ability
also plays into the Chargers’ offensive style.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Antoine Everett, OG/C, McNeese State. A left tackle at
McNeese, Everett provides steady play and versatility for a Chiefs team in need
of offensive linemen.
19. Cleveland Browns – Zack Hodges, DE, Harvard. The two-time Ivy League
defensive player of the year was listed as “almost famous” in ESPN draft
analysis last year. He’s ready to become a known quantity.
20. Washington Redskins (trade from Philadelphia Eagles) – Jacob Hagen, FS,
Liberty. The Redskins would have loved to have had Hagen’s FCS-high eight
interceptions in their struggling secondary last season.
21. San Francisco 49ers (trade from Cincinnati Bengals) – Tye Smith, CB,
Towson. Located a coast away, Towson football probably doesn’t register with
Bay-Area fans, but they’ll quickly like Smith’s cover skills.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tevin McDonald, FS, Eastern Washington. The Steelers
might have taken Smith if he was available, so the 49ers made a shrewd trade
with Cincinnati. In McDonald, the Steelers get the younger son of longtime NFL
safety Tim McDonald.
23. Detroit Lions – Derrick Lott, DT, Chattanooga. Talk about a pick for need,
the Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from their defensive line this
offseason. Lott, who started his career at Georgia, is a natural talent who
simply needs to put it all together.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Kyle Loomis, P, Portland State. The Cardinals’ big
season in 2014 masked that they needed improvement at punter. Enter the FCS
punting leader in both of the past two seasons, who is so good the Cards can
overlook his age (27).
25. Carolina Panthers – Tyler Varga, FB, Yale. An offensive tackle was
preferred, but the Panthers did well in adding Varga at this point of the
draft. The Canadian will power between the tackles.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Neal Sterling, WR, Monmouth. From the same school that
produced veteran NFL wideout Miles Austin, Sterling has prototypical size,
strength and long arms.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Rodney Gunter, DT, Delaware State. Jerry Jones reportedly
says “who?” when Gunter’s name is first brought up in the Cowboys’ war room
… and then refers to the versatile D-lineman as a “Blue Hen” after the
28. Denver Broncos – Chad Hamilton, OG, Coastal Carolina. More draft picks have
come from Coastal than all the other Big South schools combined.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Zach Zenner, RB, South Dakota State. It’s not often a
three-time 2,000-yard rusher goes this low. OK, never. The Colts believe they
have a steal here.
30. Green Bay Packers – De’Ante Saunders, CB, Tennessee State. “Pop,” a one-
time starter at Florida, surely shouldn’t have lasted this long. He will be
31. New Orleans Saints – Harold Spears, TE, New Hampshire. Maybe a reach, maybe
not. The Saints need a tight end and Spears oozes athleticism at the position.
He will be glad to move indoors after playing in New Hampshire weather.
32. New England Patriots – Nick Easton, C, Harvard. The Super Bowl champs keep
it local, and it doesn’t hurt that Easton was the top-ranked FCS player left on
Tennessee, you’re back on the clock for the first pick of Round 2 …