NFL Draft

The Top FCS Draft Prospects Available In The 2015 NFL Draft

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You don’t need to follow college football or the NFL Draft closely to have heard of Jameis Winston. The presumed No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft and former Heisman Trophy winner is the highest profile prospect counting down the days until April 30th in Chicago. It is likely that every player walking across that stage that day will be from a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program.

In fact, it might not be until the third day of the NFL Draft when the fourth round begins that we start to see players from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), known as Division I-AA, hear their names called.

The pilgrimage by non-FBS prospects is a unique journey to the NFL. Their constant fight to gain respectability by both FBS players and more importantly NFL scouts is an on-going battle. The list of players below is void of any player from a FBS program. It is a collection of the top talent from every non-FBS schools, and they usually are known as ‘small-school prospects’ that can make an impact at the next level.

Below are some of the top (FCS) NFL Draft Prospects with the ability to get drafted and more importantly make a final 53-man roster in 2015.

 

Derrick Lott, DT, Chattanooga: Lott was one of the most impressive guys at the East-West Shrine game. He demonstrated violent hands along with an endless motor that revved to the max during every snap at practice. Originally beginning his college career at Georgia, Lott transferred to Chattanooga. He has left little doubt on the minds of NFL Scouts belongs at the next level.

 

Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa: Another active defensive lineman versed well in the one-technique in college. Regardless of big or small school prospects, Williams is a space eater (6-foot-2 and 322 pounds) and is versatile enough to be used in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

 

Austin Sumner, QB, South Dakota State: He was named Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year (2011) and has built on that success to be one of the top small-school prospects at quarterback. Immediately looking at Sumner you notice his size (6-foot-4 and 235-pounds) and his ability to sling the football with ease. Prior to his senior season, he held nearly every statistical record for the Jackrabbits. He missed eight games in 2014, but returned to form throwing for six touchdowns against Western Illinois.

 

Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas: Lewis was invited to both the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine so even though he didn’t play at big name school it is evident NFL Scouts know he has big time talent. Lewis is only the second player in the schools history to receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He is fast for his size (6-foot-4 and 215-pounds) and attacks the ball along with his naturally soft hands.

 

Doniel Gambrell, OT, Notre Dame College: The small-school prospect was invited to play in the College Gridiron Showcase where he proved capable of handling himself against a higher level of competition. With adequate size and athleticism, he has proved worthy of being drafted in April. Gambrell is a prospect that will likely be drafted on the third day of the draft.

 

Lynden Trail, DE, Norfolk State: Known as the FCS Jadeveon Clowney, Trail is a freakishly athletic defensive end able to stand up and rush off the edge as well as with his hand in the dirt. Envision a raw version of an oversized Von Miller with Julius Peppers type athletic ability, and you end up with Trail. Amongst all the FCS prospects listed, Trail could be the first to hear his name called during the NFL Draft.

 

Ryan Delaire, DE, Towson: It would not be hard to argue that Delaire is the best non-FBS defensive end prospect in the nation. He has recorded 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons after transferring from Massachusetts. Invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Delaire could develop into a good enough player to rival the bigger name prospects that will get drafted ahead of him.

 

Edmond Robinson, OLB, Newberry: Among non-FBS prospects the OLB position is relatively stacked with FCS prospects. The impressive list includes Robinson, Davis Tull (Chattanooga),and Zach Hodges (Harvard). Robinson is the prospect to watch. He is long and extremely athletic (6-foot-3 and 245 pounds), and flashes an ability that few can duplicate. Robinson is a prospect with a tremendously high ceiling due to his character, size and ability.

 

Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary: McBride exhibits a couple of special qualities that attract NFL scouts. First is his attention to detail running his routes and second his ability to track the football. He’s not the biggest nor the fastest receiver available, but the overall product is comparable to some of the best prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft class at receiver.

 

Forrestal Hickman, OT, Missouri S&T: Hickman has a couple things going for him at this stage in the draft evaluation process. For starters he is 6-foot-6 and 322 pounds and possesses above average athletic ability for a guy his size. He established himself as a force on the Miners’ offensive line and did not disappoint at the College Gridiron Showcase. He is a late round prospect, and along with some good coaching can develop into a guy who earns a second contract after his rookie deal expires.

 

Neal Sterling, WR, Monmouth: The best part about traveling across the country during the run of all-star games in January is witnessing the emergence of a player like Sterling. Sterling is 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, which makes for a massive target at receiver. He made his mark at the College Gridiron Showcase in a game that included several other big name players from big name schools, but it was Sterling who out shined them all. He has already had a workout with the Denver Broncos and more up-coming workouts with the several other NFL teams.

 

Davis Tull, OLB, Chattanooga: Tull is the second Mocs’ defensive star on the list joining teammate Derrick Lott. Tull is the all-time leader in SoCon history with 37 sacks. He passes the eyeball test (6-foot-2 and 246 pounds) and brings a galloping pace off the edge that makes it difficult for offenses to defend.

 

Imoan Claiborne, CB, Northwestern State: The Senior Bowl invitee converted to cornerback his senior season from safety and brings a very physical presence to the position. He plays bigger than his size and will remind a lot of people of former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was very tough against the run and gifted as a cover cornerback.

 

Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford: Tartt is projected to have a second to third round grade in this upcoming NFL Draft. A lot of players’ mention former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor as a guy they would like to emulate on the football field and Tartt is one player that comes closet to the fierce force we remember in No. 26. Tartt may very well be the top FCS prospect drafted.

 

J.P. Douglas, QB, Davidson: Douglas was a NFL Super Regional invitee. He possesses some amazing ability at the quarterback position. Most players’ as athletic as Douglas are an athlete first and quarterback second which is not the case for Douglas. He is a quarterback that’s gifted with speed and fundamentals of the position. Douglas (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) has the traditional skills quarterbacks possess like good footwork, smarts and arm strength.

 

Caushaud Lyons, DE, Tusculum: Lyons played in the Medal of Honor All-Star Game which afforded him the opportunity to display his skill set to the NFL Scouts on hand. Lyons possesses a wealth of athletic attributes to possibly hear his name called before the final seven rounds are complete in the NFL Draft.

 

J.D. Roussel, CB, Sacred Heart: Roussel is a good sized cornerback (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) with the ability to close the gap and recover quickly on receivers. Very much a student of the position he has good technique for a player from a small school like Sacred Heart. If he can learn to be more physical he’ll have a real shot at the next level.

 

Rasheed Bailey, WR, Delaware Valley: Looking for that next big name to sneak up on fantasy football owners? Bailey (6-foot-2 and 205 pounds), who finished his senior season with 80 catches for 1,707 yards and an amazing 19 touchdowns, is one player to pay close attention to as this process unfolds. Gifted with soft hands and a solid work ethic, Bailey may not even be drafted, but look for him to make his mark in someone’s training camp.

 

Will Tye, TE, Stony Brook: A former Florida State Seminoles tight end, Tye transferred to Stony Brook after two seasons in Tallahassee. He earned second team All-CAA football honors his senior season after catching 34 passes for 495 yards and five touchdowns. Those look like modest numbers overall, but he did account for 27% of the teams passing yards finishing second in all categories. Tye also was the team’s leading punt returner with 106 yards on 21 punts. Again, not exactly eye popping numbers, but the fact that he was versatile enough to do it is the impressive thing to put into perspective.

 

Jack Rummells, OT, Northern Iowa: Northern Iowa running back David Johnson is considered a top-ten prospect at his position in the upcoming NFL Draft. The guy who helped Johnson churn out his impressive (1,553 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns) numbers was Rummells. He is an agile offensive tackle with quick feet.

 

Al-Hajj Shabazz, CB, West Chester:  Shabazz is going to make one scouting department look very intelligent after they sign him. The Golden Rams’ defensive staff used Shabazz as a true shutdown cornerback. He lined up against the opponents top receiver and learned the true meaning of the so called “island” defensive backs live on. He is a high energy tempo setter like Richard Sherman and wears his emotions on his sleeve. The combination of both size and speed for the position will make Shabazz a hot commodity moving forward.

 

Tray Walker, CB, Texas Southern: One of the most anonymous prospects available in this up coming NFL Draft is none other than Tray Walker. His combination of size and physicality are comparable to most vying to be drafted in April. Smart money is on Walker being one of the true big time surprises after the draft dust settles. Comparable to Richard Sherman to the way he plays, it is possible he’ll share the same round (fifth) being drafted. His size (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) makes him a lock to be a late round draft pick.

 

Calif Taylor, DT, Southern Connecticut: There are a couple of small-school prospects ranked ahead of Taylor, but he is a true sleeper amongst the prospects at the position. He has uncommonly good natural lower-body strength and shows quickness for his size (6-foot-2 and 315 pounds) and will show flashes of ability at times. He can find the ball and reacts extremely well off blocks.

 

David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa: The most productive running back in the school’s history, Johnson is a load to bring down with the football. He possesses bell-cow mentality that allows any team that drafts him know he can handle the workload.  

 

Tavarus Dantzler, OLB, Bethune-Cookman: Dantzler oozes athleticism as he has displayed flashes of being a special player even with his small-school upbringing. He is a tempo setting defensive player in the mold of Green Bay Packers’ star Clay Matthews.

 

Ross Scheuerman, RB, Lafayette: Considered by most teams as a running back, Scheuerman is also viewed as a receiver. Invited to both the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, he was simply too productive and durable in college to be overlooked. His final game at Lafayette he rushed for 304-yards on 45 carries scoring three touchdowns.

 

Edward Mosley, DE/OLB, Alabama State: Mosley received All-SWAC second team honors after finishing as one of the top pass rushers in the conference with eight sacks and 13.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Mosley was used in a variety of ways at Alabama State as he was used as everything from a 3-technique down lineman to a rush linebacker that included all the variations of the defensive end position (5-tech, 7, wide-9).

 

Julian Howsare, OLB, Clarion: The PSAC is quietly becoming a hot bed of underrated NFL talent. Howsare has an exceptional first step allowing him to be disruptive in the backfield. His pass rush ability, along with his size and speed make him a very interesting prospect. He possesses the know-how to use his hand in the dirt or come off the edge as a 4-3 outside linebacker.

 

Isiah Corbett, ILB, Southeastern Louisiana: Covering three all-star games in January, one of the most unstoppable players I viewed was Corbett. At the College Gridiron Showcase he demonstrated a stupefying ability to fight off defenders and locate the football. He shows up in all areas of the game. The proof is in his 72 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions for 110 return yards his senior season.

 

Hosea Crooms, NT, Lincoln: Looking for the next B.J. Raji? Crooms is a mountain of a man and provides the interior will an unmovable object clogging up the offensive line and filling space. At 6-foot-2 and 368 pounds, Crooms demands a double-team allowing the linebackers to flow freely to the football. His size and athleticism is too much to ignore for NFL teams looking for a realistic solution for their interior defensively.

 

Ali Marpet, OG, Hobart: A three-year All-Conference and two-time Division-III All-American performer, Marpet dominated competition and should be one of the top small-school offensive lineman in 2015. NFL teams know they can get Marpet a lot cheaper than what he is worth considering his non-FBS background. If Marpet happened to play for Ohio State instead of Hobart, it would have been possible he is drafted in the third round. He is that good, but with the small-school label NFL teams know they can get him later in the draft.

 

 

Nash Nance, QB, Hampden-Sydney: Nance originally began his collegiate career at Tennessee. After a couple seasons in Knoxville, he decided he wanted to play and made the transfer to Hampden-Sydney. He played in a pass heavy offense that required him to excel with not only his (strong) arm, but his feet as well. Nance has the ability to impress once rookie training camps begin and start to establish himself as a developmental guy in the future.

 

Tom Obarski, K, Concordia-St. Paul: An invitee to the 2015 Senior Bowl, Obarski can dial it up from long distance and connect due to his impressive leg strength. Since his freshman year he has been sending rockets through the uprights from NFL distances. He hits the football with power and control. He has made six field goals from 50-plus yards (including a 59-yard career long).

 

Gabe Middelbrook, LB, Charleston Southern: Labeled as an undersized, all-out effort guy, Middlebrook has been proving his doubters wrong since the season has concluded. He was invited to the Medal of Honor Game and also the NFL Super Regional Combine (March 21-22). His constant revving high-motor and ability to locate the football over and over makes him a prospect to good to deny putting on the list.


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.