Highlighted by Wentz, NFL sees uptick in FCS representation
(STATS) – North Dakota State alumnus Carson Wentz will make his much-anticipated pro debut Sunday in Philadelphia, and he'll have plenty of FCS company across the NFL as the league kicks off in earnest this weekend.
An analysis of Week 1 rosters shows 140 players hailing from FCS schools on active 53-man squads, an increase of seven from one year ago, including a league-high 11 on the New York Jets.
Each of the 32 NFL teams consisted of at least one FCS alum, and many will play key roles as the season pushes forward.
Besides Wentz, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft who was elevated to the starting job after the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota, a handful of other former FCS quarterbacks will line up under center Sunday. Perhaps the most intriguing start takes place in Arizona, where Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo will stand in for a suspended Tom Brady the first four games of the season as the Patriots open at the Cardinals. Garoppolo was the FCS player of the year in 2013.
In addition, Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard) and Joe Flacco (Delaware) will call the shots for the Jets and Ravens, respectively, while Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois) will be shelved with a broken bone in his back when Dallas hosts the Giants.
After the Jets' 11 players, five teams (Buffalo, Arizona, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Detroit) had seven representing the subdivision.
Of FCS schools, Montana led the way with seven players suiting up this week, including the 2015 STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year, Tyrone Holmes. Delaware and North Dakota State followed with six apiece, while Harvard, Northern Iowa, Samford and South Carolina State had five.
Twenty-four FCS players will be making their NFL debut, including 2015 STATS first-team All-Americans Deiondre' Hall (Bears, Northern Iowa), DeAndre Houston-Carson (Bears, William & Mary), Noah Spence (Buccaneers, Eastern Kentucky), Joe Haeg (Colts, North Dakota State), Cole Toner (Cardinals, Harvard) and Javon Hargrave (Steelers, South Carolina State).
In addition, another 39 FCS players were added to practice squads.