NFL Draft: Top Five FCS Prospects in 2017

The Football Championship Subdivision, better known as the FCS, contains a number of impressive draft prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Traditionally, the overwhelming majority of prospects come from the Football Bowl Subdivision, better known as the FBS, where the Power-5 schools dominate the NFL Draft headlines and fill the mock draft charts.

The Philadelphia Eagles took a shot away from that tradition, using the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL on quarterback Carson Wentz. Most of the biggest questions surrounding Wentz had to do with his level of play at FCS school North Dakota State.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also took a chance on an FCS prospect, Noah Spence. Spence started his collegiate career at Ohio State but was dismissed from Big 10 conference for repeated failed drug tests.

Once a potential top-20 pick, Spence fell to the 39th pick in the early second round. Spence proved his 13.5 sack campaign at Eastern Kentucky wasn’t due to lowly competition. During his 2017 rookie campaign, Spence racked up 5.5 sacks while used in a part-time role.

One of the NFL’s best-known FCS products is Hall of Famer Howie Long, who finished his NFL career with 84 sacks, an official figure that does not include his rookie season before sacks were an official statistic.

The 2017 NFL Draft similarly features a product of Long’s alma mater, Villanova. Let’s look at the top five draft prospects from the FCS.

Mar 2, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee State offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5: Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State

Dunker is projected as a mid to late-round pick. He impressed NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl week and earned a first team All-American selection for his 2016 season. He also garnered attention for running a 4.98 40-yard dash at the NFL combine while wearing cheetah print cleats.

Dunker would be best served in a zone scheme where his athleticism will stand out while questions of base strength won’t be as exposed. There is no question he will benefit from a year in an NFL strength and conditioning program.

Dunker will face questions from NFL executives about off-the-field issues that prompted him to transfer from Florida to Tennessee State.

At 6-feet 4-inches and 318 pounds, he is well-suited for playing guard at the next level, even though he anchored the line at left tackle at the college level. The Tennessee State offensive line allowed the fewest sacks in the Ohio Valley Conference, just 14 sacks for the season.

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Mar 3, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Bucknell offensive lineman Julie’n Davenport squares off in the mirror drill against San Diego State offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4: Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell

Davenport has tremendous size at 6-feet 7-inches and 318 pounds. He has long arms and demonstrated leadership, having served as his team’s captain for two seasons and starting a total of 44 games at left tackle.

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Most of Davenport’s flaws are coachable. One of his biggest flaws at this stage has to do with his pad level and footwork. Because of Davenport’s height, he struggles with smaller, quicker pass rushers. He will need to work on his backpedal and his footwork overall.

Like Dunker, he is better suited in a zone-blocking scheme. He is athletic and has excellent physical traits, but he needs a coaching staff that will spend time with him on developing technique at the position. Additionally, Davenport will need to spend time in an NFL weight room as part of his development.

Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Youngstown defensive end Derek Rivers speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State

At 6-feet 4-inches and 248 pounds, Rivers should be appealing to both 4-3 and 3-4 scheme teams. The diverse range of teams who have brought Rivers in for workouts is further proof. He played both defensive end and linebacker during his college career. That said, Rivers would probably be best-served as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme.

He was consistently productive, earning all-conference selections the last three seasons. He netted 14 sacks during his sophomore and senior seasons.

Rivers tested extremely well at the NFL combines, running a 4.61 40-yard dash, lifted 30 reps in the bench press and had a 35-inch vertical jump.

Regardless of the scheme, Rivers will need to work on improving in the run game but may find playing time right away in a designated edge rusher role. He is known as a high-motor player which should earn him a roster spot, but he doesn’t have the power of a traditional defensive end.

Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Villanova Wildcats defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon goes through workout drills during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

Kpassagnon is an intriguing prospect because he could easily add weight to his frame and move inside as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but he has potential as a defensive end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

At this point, he will need a coaching staff willing to be patient and work with him to help him become a defensive end with pass rush abilities. However, he is capable of plugging in immediately as a run-plugging base end.

Kpassagnon is 6-feet 7-inches and 289 pounds and an outstanding athlete. He recorded a 128-inch broad jump at the NFL combine. Kpassagnon has good strength, length and straight-line speed. He ran a 4.83 40-yard dash, a good time for his size.

 NFL Draft

Mar 3, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington

Kupp has been selected as an All-American for three seasons. Kupp finished his career at Eastern Washington with his best season, recording 117 receptions, 1,700 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns.

For his career, he set all-time FCS records in receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464), and receiving touchdowns (73). Kupp is a natural pass catcher who is good at tracking balls.

There are some questions as to how and if he will be able to transition to the outside. Eastern Washington utilized him primarily as a slot receiver. At 6-feet 2-inches and 204 pounds, he has the size to be on the outside. His 4.62 40-yard dash would also indicate a role on the outside, rather than a burner in the slot.

Like any rookie receiver, Kupp will need a little work to master NFL routes. Still, he should be able to earn playing time immediately.

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