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FCS Draft Recap: 20 Players on Their Way to the NFL

The 20 FCS players drafted this year marks the most since

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Furman at Chattanooga Photo by Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This year’s NFL Draft was good to FCS players and it was overdue after Covid made it difficult for guys to receive recognition with shortened/canceled seasons. The numbers show it. In 2020 and 2021 combined there were only 19 FCS players drafted. This year, though, the subdivision had 20 players have their name called.


Trevor Penning: OL (Northern Iowa) - New Orleans Saints (R1 P19)

Penning became Northern Iowa’s first ever Day 1 selection when New Orleans came calling on Thursday. He is known for his physical and aggressive play style where there is often times just a tad extra after the whistle. He is expected my many to work his way into a starting role soon for the Saints and will be a part of the unit tasked with keeping Jameis Winston upright.

Cole Strange: OL (Chattanooga) - New England Patriots (R1 P29)

The Patriots first round pick was a head-scratcher to some. Strange was pegged by several experts and analysts to be a second or third round selection but nonetheless New England took a chance. While there still may be some time before he's a starter, Strange certainly possesses NFL talent. He is now the highest drafted player out of Chattanooga since Terrell Owens in 1996.

Christian Watson: WR (North Dakota State) - Green Bay Packers (R2 P34)

Going in several mock drafts had Watson going to Green Bay but they had it happening in the first round, not the second. Regardless, the Packers now have a guy that they hope can eventually fill the hole left by the departure of Devonte Adams. He has speed and sticky hands which is good news for a team needing receiver help. Watson is another in a long line of North Dakota State alum to be drafted in recent years.

Troy Andersen: LB (Montana State) - Atlanta Falcons (R2 P58)

Andersen did nothing but impress during the months leading up to the draft and it paid off. He will bring a flurry of talents with him to Atlanta where the Falcons could realistically use him on both sides of the ball. He's a bruising runner and a hard-hitting linebacker who also has experience on special teams. Andersen, hailing from Montana State, is now the highest drafted Big Sky product since Cooper Kupp five years ago.

Pierre Strong Jr: RB (South Dakota State) - New England Patriots (R4 P127)

South Dakota State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

No running back in the FCS had more rushing yards than Strong in 2021 and now he has home in New England where the Patriots hope that soon he'll be able to compliment Mac Jones' passing attack. Strong is a nifty runner that can take it the distance if he's granted daylight. He is also one of two South Dakota State alum to be represented in this year's draft.

Cordell Volson: OL (North Dakota State) - Cincinnati Bengals (R4 P136)

The depending AFC champs continued to beef up their line on Saturday when they took Volson. He was one of several of NDSU's big boys up front that helped the Bison bully their way to another national championship last fall and now he'll work with a group protecting one of the best arms in the game today in Joe Burrow. His size and strength will be a welcome sight for the Bengals who allowed 55 sacks last year.

Decobie Durant: DB (South Carolina State) - Los Angeles Rams (R4 P142)

The Super Bowl champs kept adding to their scary defense in the draft and brought in Durant for the back end. He'll undoubtedly need some time in the wings behind guys like Jalen Ramsey but Durant can be an eventual starter. He was instrumental in South Carolina State's run to a Celebration Bowl win last season and is the first player from the program to be picked since Darius Leonard in 2018.

Matt Waletzko: OL (North Dakota) - Dallas Cowboys (R5 P155)

Waletzko was an anchor on the Hawks' front last fall and now he finds his way to the pros. The Cowboys are looking to patch up a line that lost La'el Collins earlier this offseason and Waletzko could help out greatly in that department. He's a big, physical tackle that knows how to gobble up defenders. He is the first North Dakota player drafted since 2006.

Zyon McCollum: DB (Sam Houston) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (R5 P157)

McCollum has been one of the FCS' best secondary players as of late out of Sam Houston and now he's on his way to Tampa Bay. The Bucs are looking to bolster a defense that has somewhat slipped since their Super Bowl run and, while McCollum may not be a day one starter, he can certainly serve as a viable backup, at least for a while. He has the speed and quickness to blanket most receivers that come his way.

Eric Johnson: DL (Missouri State) - Indianapolis Colts (R5 P159)

Johnson was once a cornerstone of Missouri State's defensive line and now he'll look to be the same for the Colts. Although he's not expected to start immediately, Johnson's physicality is an asset that could lead him into a starting role down the line. He is the first Missouri State player selected in the draft since David Arkin in 2011.

Montrell Washington: WR (Samford) - Denver Broncos (R5 P162)

Washington will be joining a very talented Denver offense that is already deep at several positions including wideout. He may have to sit back and learn for a while but if he does find his way onto the field he'll have one of the best in the business throwing to him with Russell Wilson. Washington, coming out of Samford, was the first Bulldogs player selected since James Bradberry in 2016.

Braxton Jones: OL (Southern Utah) - Chicago Bears (R5 P168)

Southern Utah's big lineman will be heading to Chicago to help a Bears front that has been in desperate need of some help. A productive camp could result in Jones even seeing the field some next fall. He was the second Big Sky player taken and the first from SUU since 2016 when the Lions selected Miles Killebrew.

Christian Benford: DB (Villanova) - Buffalo Bills (R6 P185)

Benford has spent the last several years patrolling the back end for Villanova and now he'll have the chance to do so in Buffalo. The Bills nabbed him late on Saturday and they'll hope he can develop into an eventual starter, perhaps within a season or two. Benford is the first Wildcats alum to be taken since 2017 was the CAA's first product off the board this year.

Nick Zakelj: OL (Fordham) - San Francisco 49ers (R6 187)

The year of the offensive linemen continued in the sixth round when the 49ers called Zakelj's name. The stout guard (who can also play tackle) was one of Fordham's key pieces over the last few seasons and now he'll look to earn his way onto a solid San Francisco squad. Zakelj, a participant in this year's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, will have his work cut out for him but he has the talent to make an NFL roster.

Andrew Ogletree: TE (Youngstown State) - Indianapolis Colts (R6 P192)

Ogletree was the first FCS tight end to go in the draft and the Youngstown State product will now be a Colt. Like most late-round selections, he's not anticipated to be a starter for some time but that doesn't mean he won't have a shot. Indianapolis will now have a new look offense with Matt Ryan at the controls and tight ends are at a premium anymore. If Ogletree can prove his value as a pass catcher and blocker then he may work his way into some playing time sooner than expected.

James Houston: LB (Jackson State) - Detroit Lions (R6 P217)

The Lions have been in serious need of defensive help as of late and they helped address those issues by selecting Houston. He was an integral part of Jackson State's success last fall and now he'll have the very real opportunity to find a spot on a thin Detroit linebacker corps. He was the first Tigers selection dating all the way back to 2008.

Ja’Tyre Carter: OL (Southern) - Chicago Bears (R7 P226)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Southern's big guard was the seventh FCS lineman selected in the draft and like the others before him, he'll go somewhere where he may be starting sooner rather than later. The Bears, as previously mentioned, are shaky up front to say the least and Carter will be a welcome addition.

Daniel Hardy: DL (Montana State) - Los Angeles Rams (R7 P235)

Hardy was a big reason why Montana State’s defense was ferocious as it was in 2021. Now he'll join a very, very good Rams defense where he can learn from some of the best in the game. Hardy most likely won't be a starter for a while but a good camp/preseason showing may be enough to land him on the final roster. He was MSU's second selection, the first time ever the school has seen two drafted under the seven-round format.

Rodney Thomas II: DB (Yale) - Indianapolis Colts (R7 P239)

The only Ivy Leaguer taken in this year's draft, Yale's speedy safety now has a new home in Indianapolis. Thomas, too, will likely have to wait in the wings before he sees the field but the Colts aren't particularly deep in the secondary. He has the ability to stay with receivers and track the ball well. Thomas will need a solid summer to stay on the roster but he certainly has what it takes.

Chris Oladokun: QB (South Dakota State) - Pittsburgh Steelers (R7 P241)

Oladokun was the only FCS quarterback taken in the draft and he was one of two signal callers picked by the Steelers. Will he overtake Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky for the starting job? Not likely. But Oladokun is a proven QB with South Dakota State, leading the team to the national championship and semifinals in back-to-back years. He'll probably be a backup but if his number is called, his dual-threat ability will serve him well.


Four other former FCS players who later transferred to FBS programs were also taken in the draft. They include WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe (Houston Baptist), Fresno State DB DaRon Bland (Sacramento State), Arkansas defensive lineman John Ridgeway (Illinois State) and Nebraska receiver Samori Toure (Montana).

Notable undrafted FCS players that have either received invites from or signed as undrafted free agents with NFL squads as of Sunday morning include quarterback Eric Barriere (Eastern Washington), quarterback EJ Perry (Brown), DB Markquese Bell (Florida A&M), defensive lineman Noah Elliss (Idaho), receiver Dai'Jean Dixon (Nicholls), receiver Isaiah Weston (Northern Iowa), quarterback Cole Kelley (Southeastern Louisiana) and receiver Rashid Shaheed (Weber State).