10 FCS players whose NFL Draft stock is rising
(STATS) – Winning MVP honors at college football’s biggest All-Star games raised the NFL Draft stocks of Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta and Northern Iowa wide receiver Daurice Fountain.
Lauletta, the Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP, will likely be selected in the middle rounds of the April 26-28 draft. Fountain, who starred at the East-West Shrine Game, should not be far behind.
The long buildup of training, All-Star games, combines, pro days and team visits form an emotional roller coaster for prospects, but following are 10 other FCS prospects who head toward the NFL with good vibes – the kind whom small school draft analyst Josh Buchanan says scouts in the war room will pound the table for on Day 3 of the draft:
Jaelon Acklin, Western Illinois. WR, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds – A breakout senior season put the former high school hurdling champion on the radar. A lack of All-Star game invites has fueled his draft buildup, and he responded with two strong pro days, posting 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. He’s still probably a priority free agent, but he’s made himself known.
Chase Edmonds, Fordham, RB, 5-8, 203 – An injury-plagued senior season slowed Edmonds’ otherwise dominant career. Though he lacks blazing speed, his cutback ability makes him quicker on the field, and that skill was evident at the NFL Combine and his pro day. A change-of-pace back on the next level, he could come off the board in the sixth or seventh round.
Mike Ford, Southeast Missouri, CB, 6-0, 194 – SEMO isn’t a hot bed for NFL talent, but Ford has long hovered on the periphery of the draft conversation, and two strong pro days, where he showed off his quickness, have pushed him higher. He’s always been able to blanket receivers, and he totaled five interceptions in 2015 and 14 pass breakups last season. Ford should be signed quickly if he goes undrafted.
John Franklin, Stephen F. Austin, DE, 6-3½, 284 – Franklin has made the most of every opportunity. He led the winning West team with seven tackles in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, posted strong numbers across the board at the NFL Combine and was the scouts’ focus at SFA’s pro day. Add in a pro frame and the Southland Conference standout has moved into the draft.
P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State, DT, 6-0, 308 – As if his four-year production wasn’t enough – 42 sacks and an FCS-record 86½ tackles for loss – the All-American Hall blew up his pro day with athleticism, including 4.73-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a 38-inch vertical leap, and power, as he cranked out 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He’s now viewed with a fifth-round grade.
Bilal Nichols, Delaware, DT, 6-4, 306 – Viewed as a strong run stopper, Nichols was so solid at the East-West Shrine Game that he earned a late invitation to play one week later at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He then impressed at the NFL Combine, showing surprising quickness to add to his relentless style of play. Delaware’s ability to develop pros solidifies Nichols’ spot on the third day of the draft.
Foyesade Oluokun, Yale, OLB/SS, 6-2, 229 – Oluokun’s agent compared him to one of his other clients, former Missouri State linebacker Dylan Cole, who had a strong rookie season with the Houston Texans after excelling at his pro day last year. Oluokun doesn’t quite have the same college dominance, but the member of the 2017 Ivy League championship squad has a fluid style and a frame that can be molded into a hybrid linebacker/safety.
Peter Pujals, Holy Cross, QB, 6-1, 211 – Holy Cross’ first-ever pro day spotlighted Pujals’ mobility and strong arm, which were always evident while he collected 13,487 career yards of total offense. He’s learning to play from under center after operating out of the shot gun in college, but is viewed as a developmental prospect.
Tremon Smith, Central Arkansas, CB, 5-11, 193 – Smith has tested well, even going to Division II Ouachita Baptist’s pro day to get extra exposure. What the athletic Smith lacks in size, he overcomes with blazing speed (4.3 in the 40), a bump-and-run style and excellent ball skills. He also can contribute as a returner. He could get drafted in a late round and is at least a priority free agent.
Justin Watson, Penn, WR, 6-2½, 215 – In a deep year of wide receiver prospects, here is one who refuses to be ignored. Like Nichols, Watson earned a Senior Bowl invite following his week at the Shrine Game, and he later rocked Penn’s pro day, showing speed and power. He’s a physical receiver with good ball skills and appears ideal for the slot. He’s moved into the third day of the draft.