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Stan Becton | | April 27, 2022

Here are 25 FCS players to know entering the 2022 NFL draft

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The 2022 NFL draft is approaching and several FCS players could hear their names from April 28-30 — a possible change from the record-lows of FCS players drafted over the last two years.

FCS players have a history of success in the NFL; just last year we saw Trey Lance selected with the third-overall pick. Cooper Kupp then won Super Bowl MVP. Here's a look at the next crop of FCS players that could reach the next level.

Players are listed alphabetically in order of school, then last name

QB Aqeel Glass | Alabama A&M

Aqeel Glass is looking to become the first HBCU quarterback chosen in the NFL draft since the late Tarvaris Jackson's second-round selection in 2006. Glass lit up the SWAC the last two seasons, earning all-conference and player of the year honors. He has a chance at breaking the HBCU quarterback drought.

WR/TE Dee Anderson | Alabama A&M

Dee Anderson is a big-bodied wide receiver prospect, standing at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. After transferring to Alabama A&M from Oklahoma State and LSU, Anderson was often a big-play threat; he scored 12 touchdowns in 2021. With his size, Anderson is an intriguing prospect with the potential to move to tight end too.

PORTAL: These FCS teams have been most active in the transfer portal this offseason

QB EJ Perry | Brown

Ivy League standout EJ Perry burst onto the national radar after winning the Offensive MVP at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Perry completed 13 of 18 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Brown is a mobile quarterback — he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine — and was named the 2021 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

IOL Cole Strange | Chattanooga

Cole Strange is an experienced offensive lineman, playing six years at Chattanooga. Four different outlets named Strange a first-team All-American in 2021. In the offseason, Strange played in the Senior Bowl and attended the NFL Combine. Strange has the ability to play guard and center.

S Markquese Bell | Florida A&M

Markquese Bell has a chance to be the first HBCU player drafted in the 2022 NFL draft. The Florida A&M product helped lead one of the best defenses in the FCS in 2021 and has a 4.41 40-yard dash time to back up his play on the field. Bell is a physical, rangy safety that checks all the boxes teams are looking for.

OL Nick Zakelj | Fordham

Nick Zakelj played offensive tackle at Fordham, but likely projects as a guard at the next level. The lineman has multiple-time all-conference selections, with the agility to translate to an NFL zone running scheme. One of his best games came against Big Ten opponent, Nebraska.

DT Noah Elliss | Idaho

Noah Elliss is a huge man in the middle of the defense, standing at 6-foot-4 and 359 pounds. After transferring from Mississippi State, he found a home at Idaho. Elliss constantly commands double-team blocks and was often found in the backfield during East-West Shrine Bowl practices. Elliss is an intriguing prospect off his size alone.

Edge/LB James Houston | Jackson State

James Houston was one of the top defenders in the FCS in 2021, leading Jackson State to a SWAC title and Celebration Bowl appearance. A terror off the edge for the Tigers, Houston is a tweener — in a good way — at the next level. Houston still has the speed to come off the edge, but used the postseason bowl circuit to display his ability as a stand-up linebacker. 

ALL-HBCU: The top players, by position, in the 2021 HBCU football season

C/OG/FB Jason Poe | Mercer

Mercer's Jason Poe is receiving a lot of buzz as either an interior offensive lineman or a fullback. He's been described as the best pulling guard in the draft thanks to his athleticism. Poe's journey to a possible draft pick began at the junior college level, attending Hutchinson Community College before transferring to Division II program Lenoir-Rhyne, then Mercer.

DT Eric Johnson | Missouri State

Eric Johnson boosted his stock in the postseason bowl circuit. He had great performances all week at the NFLPA Collegiate and Senior Bowls. He followed that up by running a 4.85 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.

LB Troy Andersen | Montana State

As the 2021 Buck Buchanan Award runner-up, Troy Andersen has a strong reputation as a football player. He's a pure athlete at the linebacker position, with starting and all-conference experience at both quarterback and running back in his college career.

WR Dai'Jean Dixon | Nicholls

Dai'Jean Dixon enters the draft from Nicholls as a 6-foot-4 200-pound wide receiver prospect. Dixon has over 200 career catches, over 3,800 career yards and 35 career touchdown catches. He plays faster than his 40-yard dash time (4.62) and stole the show at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, leading all wideouts with six catches for 131 yards and one touchdown.

DE De'Shaan Dixon | Norfolk State

De'Shaan Dixon is the best pure defensive end coming from the FCS level in the 2022 NFL draft. He led the MEAC in sacks in 2021. Dixon fits perfectly at the next level as a 4-3 defensive end and flashed his dominance at the inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl.

OT Matt Waletzko | North Dakota

Matt Waletzko is an All-American offensive tackle from North Dakota, standing at 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds. He ran a 5.03 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, showing great athleticism for an offensive lineman. 

OL Cordell Volson | North Dakota State

Cordell Volson looks to be next in a long line of North Dakota State offensive linemen drafted in recent years. Volson played in a school-record 65 games for the Bison, earning multiple All-American honors. Oh, and Volson won four championships.

CHAMPS: North Dakota State wins the 2021 FCS Championship

WR Christian Watson | North Dakota State

Christain Watson could be the first FCS player selected in the 2022 NFL draft, going as early as the first round. Watson brings a blend of size — 6-foot-5 and 208 pounds — and speed — 4.36 40-yard dash — to the wide receiver position. While Watson may not have the numbers that other potential first-round wideouts have, it's not for a lack of skill; with limited opportunities in a run-heavy offense, Watson dominated whenever the ball was in his hands via a catch, handoff or kick return.

OT Trevor Penning | Northern Iowa

If Watson isn't the first FCS player selected in the 2022 NFL draft, it'll be Trevor Penning. Penning is a mauling offensive tackle that plays through the whistle. While he isn't a perfect prospect, Penning has shown enough that he's been projected as high as a top-10 pick in some mock drafts.

WR Isaiah Weston | Northern Iowa

Isaiah Weston has NFL size and athleticism; he finished among wide receivers in the bench press, vertical and broad jump, with the 11th-fastest 40-yard dash time. On the field, Weston led the FCS in yards per catch, a stat that should catch the attention of NFL teams.

WR Jequez Ezzard | Sam Houston

An argument can be made that Sam Houston doesn't win the 2020-21 FCS championship without Jequez Ezzard. Ezzard's elite run-after-the-catch ability was on full display throughout the championship run. He again showed that ability at the NFLPA Collegiate and Senior Bowls. Ezzard brings shiftiness to the receiver position, with an ability to contribute from day one in the return game.

See the game-winning TD drive that sealed Sam Houston's first FCS championship

CB Zyon McCollum | Sam Houston

For years now, NFL teams have been fascinated with acquiring "big cornerbacks". Zyon McCollum fits the description. But the 6-foot-4 200-pound prospect is not just large on the outside, he's also fast, running a 4.33 40-yard dash. Throw in a 39.5-inch vertical and McCollum is one of the best athletes — at any level — in the entire NFL draft. McCollum won the 2020-21 FCS championship with Sam Houston.

QB Cole Kelley | Southeastern Louisiana

Cole Kelley won the 2020-21 Walter Payton Award as the best offensive player in the FCS and finished second for the award in 2021. Kelley has the hardware to go with his eye-popping stats, supporting those with an MVP performance in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Kelley stands at 6-foot-7 with a big arm and dual-threat ability.

CB Decobie Durant | South Carolina State

Decobie Durant is the type of player any NFL team should want; he's a player that shows up when the lights are brightest. Against a top-five FBS-ranked Clemson team, Durant grabbed two interceptions. Then Durant closed the season with big play after big play in the Celebration Bowl, earning Defensive MVP honors. Durant was a shutdown corner in the MEAC.

2021 Celebration Bowl: How South Carolina State upset Jackson State in blowout fashion

RB Pierre Strong | South Dakota State

Pierre Strong dominated FCS competition at South Dakota State, rushing for multiple 1000-yard seasons. He's a strong runner between the tackles — pun intended — but also brings 4.37 40-yard dash speed that allows him to outrun the defense.

Pierre Strong Jr. rushes for 185, throws TD in South Dakota State's first round win

OT/OG Ja'Tyre Carter | Southern

Ja'Tyre Carter played offensive tackle at Southern, but could play guard in the pros. Carter stood out at the Senior Bowl and showed rare athleticism at the NFL combine.

OT Braxton Jones | Southern Utah

Braxton Jones earned multiple First-Team All-American honors this fall and has been one of the best offensive tackles in the FCS since 2019. He ran a 4.97 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

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