Notable FCS Players in the 2022 NFL Draft

·7 min read

Editor’s Note: Now, all our premium tools for Fantasy, DFS and Betting are included in one subscription at one low price. Customers can subscribe to NBC Sports EDGE+ monthly ($9.99) or save 20% on an annual subscription ($95.88). And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!

As we get close to the NFL Draft, we're continually looking at prospects and analyzing where they could go. We're familiar with most of the players from power five conferences as we see highlights of them every weekend, even some group of five players we know, but there's a whole subgroup of players most are not aware of.

Every year there are a bunch of players from the Football Championship Subdivision that will come into the pre-draft process virtually unknown, then after scouting events, Combine and Pro Days, they burst onto the radar.

Here are a few FCS players whose names you should know going into the draft.

OT Trevor Penning Nothern Iowa
The Northern Iowa tackle is projected as an FCS player who could be drafted in the first round. This season, the massive 6-foot-7, 335-pounder was an absolute wall and finished with 33-big blocks.

He has incredible athleticism for someone of his size, and his 99.9 PFF grade as a run blocker show abilities to move laterally. He's a very gritty player and plays tough, which will help at the next level, but he does get a little aggressive sometimes and had 16 flags thrown on him this year.

The talent is there, and he's progressed every year as a starter. He very well earned a starting spot very quickly.

WR Christian Watson North Dakota State
Watson’s stock exploded after an incredible performance at the Senior Bowl and then again at the Combine with a 4.36 40-time, an 11-foot-6 broad jump at 208 pounds and a RAS of 9.96. He's another FCS prospect that could go on Day 1.

Playing in an RPO offense at North Dakota State allowed him to be a hybrid player lining up outside, in the slot, and in the backfield. He’s dynamic when he has the ball in his hand and can make something from nothing. In the open field, he's almost impossible to contain as jukes, cuts, and hurdles, and with his size, he is tough to take down as often he breaks off the first contact.

The easiest comparison for Watson is how the 49ers use Deebo Samuel and could have that same role at the next level. He is still a little raw in some areas, like route running and getting off the initial press, but his progression through every season makes you believe he can become a great player.

LB Troy Andersen Montana State
Anderson is hands-down the best non-FBS defensive player coming into this draft. The size and speed allow him to play on the line to rush or sit back in coverage and defend the run.

He got onto people's radars at the Senior Bowl, but the Combine is where he shined. At 6 foot 3, 243 pounds, he had an elite score in every category and finished with a perfect 10 RAS, the first time for a linebacker since 2018.

He earned an overall 86.3 PFF grade in 2021, was named to the Big Sky First team, a Buck Buchanan Award Finalist, and led the FCS in defensive stops (67). All of this as he learns to play defense -- he was previously a quarterback/running back.

There are still some growing pains to learn at the linebacker position. Some instinctual things aren't there until you've spent years at the position, but his overall football IQ shows promise for the future. The physical attributes are already there as he can go sideline to sideline, has solid footwork when covering tight ends and slot receivers, and hits low and wraps up on his tackles. He has that leadership quality you look for in the MLB position, and his progression throughout his career will be exciting to see.

OG Cole Strange Chattanooga
Strange has shown he can play anywhere on the offensive line. In 44 starts at Chattanooga, he played 41 at left guard, two at left tackle, and one at center. At the Senior Bowl, he spent most of the week at center, and the scouts came out impressed.

He continued that momentum going into the Combine with some best numbers for interior linemen, including a 5.03 40-yard dash and 10-foot broad, coming away with a 9.95 RAS.

He's a tough blocker who's going to fight you at every snap, has the lateral movement to block in space, and posses balance to where he pushes his assignment off the ball.

He brings all that physicality but also intelligence and instincts. He's shown he can adjust in pass protection and has excellent timing during run blocking. This will help him at the next level, especially if he wants to be a center.

Right now, he's a little undersized for an NFL offensive line, but when he bulks up, he'll be a force

RB Pierre Strong South Dakota State
The former Jackrabbit certainly knows how to run like one. Strong has the type of speed where absolutely no one is catching up to him if he finds the open field.

He had 56 runs of more than 20 yards in four years at SDSU, nine more than anyone else at any level, and finished the 2021 season averaging 7.1 yards per rush. To make sure you know that’s not a typo, seven-point-one.

His vision is incredible, and he has a feel of the defender's movement and knows how to maneuver through a zone scheme instinctively. He has the quick footwork and makes the type of cuts that often leave defenders trying to grasp him with their fingertips.

The drawbacks are he is pretty one-dimensional with below-average blocking and receiving game. He doesn't possess the size and durability to be a three-down back but would shine as a change-of-pace piece.

Those limitations will drop him to a possible Day 3 pick, but there's some promise if the raw talent can be molded. He has five career kickoff returns, including a 38-yard and a 60-yard run. He could become the next star returner.

DB Zyon McCollum Sam Houston State
McCollum put up some historic numbers at the Combine, finishing the top of his position with an 11-foot broad jump, a 6.48 three-cone, and 3.94 20-yard shuttle, becoming just the fifth corner to earn a max-99 athleticism score since 2003.

Coming in at 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds, he has the prototypical build you want in a cornerback and is excellent in coverage as he can match the footwork of his assignment. He has the remarkable ability to attack the catch point, and his football instincts are high as he finished with 13 interceptions in five seasons.

He’s a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick and will need some time to adjust to the next level and bulk up, but he should become a player you constantly see on Sundays.

QB EJ Perry Brown
Perry’s story is an interesting one, and it shows his resilience and dedication.

A backup at Boston College in 2017 and 2018, he moved over to Brown and excelled from the start. In 2019, he set an Ivy League single-season record for total offense with 3,678 yards (2,948 passing and 730 rushing).

Unfortunately, there would be no 2020 season due to the pandemic, but he returned in 2021 and improved his accuracy from 60.4% to 66.4%.

While playing in the Ivy League didn't garner much attention, the predraft process is where he's made his name. At the Shrine Bowl and went 13-of-18 with 241 yards and three touchdowns while being named the Offensive MVP. He continued at the Combine and finished with all elite testing numbers and a 9.43 RAS.

When you look at him, his frame reminds you of an early Ben Roethlisberger, but his decision-making and mechanics are not NFL-quality. With his mobility and size, he can transition the tight end and could step into a role like Taysom Hill has with the Saints.