FCS draft prospects gaining attention
Philadelphia, PA – When you're watching the NFL on Sundays, you might have noticed more and more FCS schools are producing not just players, but Pro Bowlers.
Four former FCS players made the trip to Hawaii last season. It seems as if scouts on the major television networks are spending more time focusing on small school prospects as they look to find the next Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or Kurt Warner.
So who are some of the big names to watch come NFL Draft season? Well, watch the following 12 names over the remainder of the FCS season. Each has an excellent chance to play on Sundays next fall:
Brian Quick, Appalachian State, WR - Quick arguably is the most well-known and talked about of the prospects on this list, and for good reason. He is listed at a generous 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and has done nothing but dominate since he first arrived at the Southern Conference power. He is one of the most prolific receivers in school history on a team that has been a run-first offense and gone through quarterback changes. His career numbers: 173 catches, 3,056 yards and 28 touchdowns. This season has been his best statistically as he's topped 100 receiving yards in five of App State's eight games, including 119 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Southern last week. And the best part? He is still somewhat raw when it comes to his playing ability.
Ryan Steed, Furman, CB - Steed came into the 2011 season as one of the best cornerbacks in the country and he has done nothing to hurt his status. He has totaled 12 interceptions - three of which were returned for touchdowns - 153 tackles, 24 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and three blocked kicks during his career. He is routinely matched up against his opponent's No. 1 receiver (including the aforementioned Quick) and has done an excellent job of shutting them down week in and week out. He is a big reason the Paladins have the seventh-best pass defense in the FCS.
Chris Summers, Liberty, WR: 6-3, 212 pounds, 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash, 2,388 receiving yards, 25 touchdowns - yeah, that's not too bad of a resume. NFL teams love big bodied receivers who play like Summers has in the past, so there's no reason to think a team wouldn't draft him this year. Look no further than Liberty's game against Lehigh in September, when Summers had 15 catches, 205 yards and two touchdowns. There's not much else you can ask of a wide receiver that Summers cannot do. While Quick is the FCS' No. 1 receiver prospect, Summers is not far behind.
Asa Jackson, Cal Poly, CB - Coming from the school known to many as the one that produced current New York Giants receiver Ramses Barden, Jackson has developed nicely and actually looks more NFL ready than Barden did. He stands 5-11, 188 pounds, with a 4.4 40-time and a 36.5-inch vertical jump, which when combined with his quick feet and return ability (he averages 14 yards per punt return), has some scouts giddy over the possibility of adding him to their squad. He also has some impressive career stats to back up his physical traits - eight interceptions, 185 tackles, 30 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and three touchdowns.
Trumaine Johnson, Montana, CB: Johnson has all the tools to make it and succeed at the next level, including size (6-2, 204), excellent speed (4.5 40 time) and production (13 career interceptions). He is so dangerous with the ball that the Grizzlies have found different ways to use him on offense. In 2010, he was tied for the team lead in picks (five) and pass deflections (12), despite missing four games due to injury. The biggest thing holding him back may be his recent arrest in Missoula for obstructing a peace officer and disorderly conduct. How he does at the NFL Combine both on the field and off it in answering questions for general managers will go a long way in deciding if and where this talented defender gets drafted.
Renard Williams, Eastern Washington, DT - Williams has quietly put up a very solid career for the Eagles, though it has been overshadowed by many outside of Eastern Washington thanks to a certain red field. Williams was a key cog in the 2010 FCS champions' defense. Coming into this season, he had 116 tackles, 18 sacks (10th in school history), 40 tackles for loss (seventh in school history) and five forced fumbles (one behind the school record). At 6-2, 300, it's hard to see teams continually passing over this beast if they have the chance to grab him.
Tom Compton, South Dakota, OT - Compton is considered by many to be one of, if not the best offensive lineman in the country. Standing 6-6 and weighing in at a hefty 314 pounds, he has helped lead a balanced offensive attack that averages 350-plus yards and 23.4 points per game. He has been named to numerous all-conference and All-American teams and has yet to miss a game in his four years as a starter at South Dakota. He's big, strong and consistent. There's not much else you can ask for from an offensive lineman.
Gino Gradkowski, Delaware, OG - The former West Virginia Mountaineer, and younger brother of NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, currently anchors one of the best offensive lines in the FCS and captains the Fighting Blue Hens. He has earned numerous All-American awards in his time and accumulated 26 starts in his three years. He has done an excellent job opening holes for Andrew Pierce and the run game while doing his best to keep his quarterbacks standing up straight. At 6-4, 295, it will be a surprise if he is not on an NFL roster come the start of training camp next year.
David Pickard, Southern Illinois, OT - This preseason All-American has been a consistent cog for the Salukis' O-line throughout his career. He is widely considered one of the best linemen in the country and has the size (6-5, 306 and footwork to play at the next level. He has helped the Salukis average more than 360 yards of offense and was named to the Second Team ESPN All-Academic team in 2010.
Jonathan Grimes, William & Mary, RB - Grimes is one of, if not the best all- around backs in the nation - a solid veteran who is a threat out of the backfield and on special teams. Think Matt Forte who can return kicks. Grimes has tallied nearly 7,000 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns in his four-year career. With a 4.59 time in the 40 to go along with his 5-10, 201-pound frame, Grimes would make an excellent late-round selection for any team looking for help at running back. For video highlights, just look up his 230 all-purpose yards performance against Old Dominion this season.
D.J. McNorton, North Dakota State, RB - Just look at his performance in North Dakota State's win over Northern Iowa last Saturday - 103 hard-earned total yards and two touchdowns, leading the way as the Bison became the nation's new No. 1 team. McNorton burst onto the scene last year with his 1,559-yard, 15- touchdown performance, including a 250-yard, three-touchdown game against South Dakota. The 5-10, 206-pound back has averaged nearly 7.2 yards per touch throughout his career. He has late-round steal written all over him.
David Duran, Coastal Carolina, TE - This transfer from Michigan State has turned into one of the most productive tight ends in Big South history. He is just one catch away from tying the Big South record of 59 receptions and has 820 yards and three touchdowns to his credit. At 6-5, 250 pounds, he has the NFL body that scouts look for and has been productive to boot. With two more catches, he'll become the first tight end in conference history with 60 catches.