NFL prospects in the FCS championship game
(STATS) – The collective accomplishments of the two teams in the FCS championship game overshadow the individual parts on both rosters.
James Madison is back to defend its 2016 national title and has a 26-game winning streak, while North Dakota State is seeking to claim its sixth championship in the last seven years.
But there will be football for some of the players after college, and NFL scouts pay particular attention to the film of candidates in big games such as the Jan. 6 matchup in Frisco, Texas.
Josh Buchanan, consistently one of the nation’s top evaluators of small-school prospects, provided his top-five prospects from both active rosters to STATS. For the 2018 draft, he considers North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca the leading prospect.
“He’s a difference maker,” NDSU coach Chris Klieman said of DeLuca. “He’s a next-level player that is finally 100 percent healthy, which he was through the playoff run after getting the week off at the end of our regular season.
“But such a cerebral guy. Knows everything in and out about our defense. He’s 6-3 and a half, he’s 245, he can run really well, covers really well, understands fits and things.”
The eight former North Dakota State players on NFL rosters represent the second-most among FCS schools. James Madison has four former players at the next level.
Buchanan’s top-five prospects for each team:
1. Rashad Robinson, CB, Jr., 5-11, 182 (Jersey No. 22) – Had a breakout campaign, showing great ball skills, good speed and man-to-man cover skills. Could get drafted in 2019. Grade: Late rounds.
2. Aaron Stinnie, OT, Sr., 6-5, 309 (No. 70) – The best of their seniors. Has a body for offensive guard. Raw, decent athlete and could be a good developmental player for the practice squad. Grade: Priority free agent.
3. Jimmy Moreland, CB, Jr., 5-11, 172 (No. 6) – Lacks ideal size, but has very good ball skills, good speed and shuts down his side of the field. Like Robinson, he is playing hot in the playoffs. Grade: Priority free agent.
4. Brandon Hereford, ILB, Sr., 6-1, 234 (No. 49) – Active and productive player with enough speed to warrant a look, but undersized and not consistent all season. Grade: Free agent.
5. Terrence Alls, WR, Sr., 6-1, 193 (No. 7) – Missed first four games of the season due to suspension, but has shown speed and pretty good hands since then. Grade: Free agent.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE
1. Nick DeLuca, ILB, Sr., 6-3, 245 (No. 49) – Has had a lot of injuries, so there is concern over his medical test results, but he has size, speed and is productive. A mid-round talent without injuries. Grade: Late rounds.
2. Jabril Cox, OLB, Fr., 6-3, 227 (No. 42) – Just a freshman, but he is an athletic freak with size, speed and a sideline-to-sideline style. Could have a Dexter Coakley-caliber career in the FCS. Grade: Late rounds.
3. Tre Dempsey, CB (FS in college), Sr., 5-10, 184 (No. 3) – Undersized safety, but has good speed and ball skills. Should at least make a practice squad. Grade: Priority free agent.
4. Robbie Grimsley, SS, Jr., 6-0, 191 (No. 5) – A little undersized, but very smart, has good ball skills and is productive. Likely a priority free agent grade headed into the 2018 season. Grade: Priority free agent.
5. Austin Kuhnert, OG, Sr., 6-4, 304 (No. 75) – Has played center and guard, so his versatility is something teams may want to develop. Potential practice squad candidate. Grade: Free agent.