There were 24 non-FBS players selected at this year’s NFL Draft, with the vast majority of them coming from the FCS. This draft saw the most players from outside of the FBS selected since 2013 when there were 27 non-FBS players taken. That proves there is still plenty of talent outside of what you see on the television most Saturdays.
Let’s take a look at the FCS players taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.
36 (Overall). Indianapolis Colts: LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
The Colts raised some eyebrows by taking Leonard early in the second round. He was projected to be a third or fourth-round pick, but Indianapolis didn’t want to miss out on him. If you look at his highlight tape, it’s hard not to see why.
Leonard is a playmaker in every sense of the word. He was able to rack up at least 10 tackles for loss in each of his four seasons at South Carolina State, and he was instrumental in making this one of the better defenses in the FCS. Indianapolis got a potential star here.
49. Philadelphia Eagles (trade up): TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
Philadelphia’s announcement of this selection provided us one of the more humorous episodes of Day 2, but the Eagles got themselves potentially the best tight end in the draft in Goedert. Goedert has the size that teams are looking for in a tight end prospect and his production was off the charts. The Missouri Valley Conference is the toughest in the FCS and putting up those types of numbers is nothing to sneeze at. Pairing Goedert with Zach Ertz gives the Eagles a fantastic 1-2 option at tight end.
57. Oakland Raiders (trade down): DL P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State
Sam Houston State didn’t have a great defense, but Hall certainly made his presence felt. He was a two-time FCS All-American and posted incredible numbers during his time as a Bearkat. Hall finished his collegiate career with 86.5 tackles for loss and 42 sacks, unparalleled stats for a defensive tackle. He isn’t a prototypical defensive tackle, but it’s hard to argue with his production. The Southland lacks some of the talent of other conferences, but his film against North Dakota State was impressive.
65. Oakland Raiders (trade up): OL Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
The Raiders grabbed another FCS talent with their next selection, taking arguably the two best linemen at that level last year. Parker has the potential to be a franchise left tackle. His size and frame are exactly what NFL scouts are looking for, and he was very good in both pass production and with run blocking.
108. New York Giants: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Big Blue got a steal in the fourth round by taking Lauletta. He was seen by most as a second- or third-round selection because of his versatility, but he slipped through the cracks at the end of Day 2. Lauletta doesn’t have a big arm. However, he is very accurate and can pick up new systems pretty quickly. He could challenge Davis Webb for the backup job as a rookie.
121. Buffalo Bills: CB Taron Johnson, Weber State
Johnson could be another steal if he learns to play without grabbing so much. He is a very physical cornerback who excels in press coverage and has shown that he can play zone too. Sometimes he doesn’t trust his catch-up speed though and he will get handsy if he feels like he’s beat. That would definitely be an issue as NFL officials are far more likely to throw flags than their FCS counterparts. If he can get past this, Johnson could have a long career in the NFL.
134. Arizona Cardinals: RB Chase Edmonds, Fordham
Fordham leaned heavily on Edmonds during his time on campus, and he showed that he was one of the best backs at this level. He finished his career as the Patriot League’s all-time leading rusher and he was on pace to break the FCS all-time rushing record before getting injured. Edmonds is about to face a big step-up in terms of competition though. Patriot League teams are not known for their defense, and he was able to do a lot of things he won’t be able to at the next level.
135. Los Angeles Rams: DL John Franklin-Myers, Stephen F. Austin
Franklin-Myers has always been a big fish in a small pond. His high school team never won a game while he was on campus, and Stephen F. Austin didn’t have much success while he was there either. Still, he proved that he can dominate in the trenches and he saw his stock shoot up after running a 4.75 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine. He will be on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and the Rams will likely use his rookie year more for development than anything else.
144. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Justin Watson, Pennsylvania
The Buccaneers must love Ivy League players. Tampa Bay signed Ryan Fitzpatrick last offseason and also have had Cameron Brate catching passes for the last four years. Watson was a stand-out at Penn, racking up over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. He has the the size and speed that NFL teams look for in a possession receiver and could become a good option on third-down for Tampa Bay.
145. Chicago Bears: DT Bilal Nichols, Delaware
Coming out of high school, Nichols was seen as a defensive end prospect. Once he started to put on some weight, it was clear that his calling was as a defensive tackle. Nichols was a star over his last two seasons at Delaware. He was an all-CAA selection in both 2016 and 2017, and he became one of the leaders of possibly the best defense in the FCS last year. Nichols must improve his form, but his motor should lead to him seeing the field as a rookie.
151. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Davontae Harris, Illinois State
Harris would have played at the FBS level if not for a serious injury suffered as a high school senior. A cleat to the midsection led to him suffering tears in both his large and small intestine, and he was sidelined for the rest of the year. He spent the next four years proving that teams should have stuck with recruiting him, lighting it up in the MVFC. Harris is likely to move over to safety even though he played cornerback at Illinois State.
154. Buffalo Bills: DB Siran Neal, Jacksonville State
There weren’t many defensive backs better than Neal. He was great in coverage and wasn’t afraid to come up and play the run either at Jacksonville State. Neal was often tasked with playing on an island his senior year, and he was able to lock down the other opponent’s best receiver handily. He played four different positions during his time on campus and was one of the most versatile defensive players in this draft class.
159. Indianapolis Colts (via Oakland Raiders): WR Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa
Fountain did not play in an offense that used him often, but when called upon he was more than up to the task. He was a first-team All-MVFC selection as a senior, and he was a great option for Eli Dunne. There aren’t many receiver prospects with the natural gifts that he possesses, but he will need a lot of fine-tuning in order to succeed in the NFL.
192. Los Angeles Rams (via Dallas Cowboys): G Jamil Demby, Maine
Maine has never been a school known for its offensive prowess. However, Demby proved that he was able to more than handle himself against some of the best defensive linemen at the FCS level. Demby played offensive tackle at Maine, but he is going to be moved inside by the Rams. He performed well at that position in the Senior Bowl, helping him get drafted.
196. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Tremon Smith, Central Arkansas
It seems like Tremon Smith might be the perfect fit for the Chiefs. Prior to the draft Smith said that Eric Berry was his favorite player growing up, and getting the chance to play with Berry must be a dream come true. Smith took a ton of chances at Central Arkansas, and he will have to be less of a gambler in the NFL. He will need time to develop, yet he could eventually start alongside his childhood idol.
200. Atlanta Falcons: LB Foye Oluokun, Yale
Oluokun went relatively unnoticed until he worked out in front of NFL teams. It was his raw numbers in drills that led to him getting selected, and now he must prove that he is more than a work-out wonder. Oluokun didn’t pick up a sack until his senior year, but he was a two-time All-Ivy League selection. He is unlikely to make an impact as a rookie and will need a lot of time to develop.
212. Baltimore Ravens: OT Greg Sanat, Wagner
Sanat is another player who will need a lot of time to develop. He is incredibly raw as a football player, spending his first two years on campus with the basketball team. Once he switched over to football, the coaches didn’t need to see much to put him in at right tackle though. He has the height that NFL teams look for, but he is going to have to put on a lot of weight before training camp.
243. New England Patriots (via Kansas City Chiefs): CB Keion Crossen, Western Carolina
People were so surprised by the Patriots selecting Keion Crossen, that the NFL didn’t even publish a prospect profile of him prior to the draft. Crossen does not have the size that teams covet, yet the Patriots selected him because of his speed and athletic ability. He is one of the fastest athletes in the country and Bill Belichick must have figured he was worth a shot in the final few picks of the draft.