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.
What a DIME by @BrownUFootball QB EJ Perry! 🎯— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2022
📺: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/r2EgO4gxc9
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.
Impossible to watch Cole Strange’s @GoMocsFB tape and not love how he strains & finishes. Got after people same way all week in Mobile. Heard from numerous NFL scouts he was one of their best interviews too. Every team is looking for ass-kickers and there aren’t enough of them. pic.twitter.com/KykkvVYjDu— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 14, 2022
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.
Markquese Bell (@MarkqueseB) showing off that Rattler speed with a 4.45u!#FAMU | #Rattlers | #LeaveNoDoubt pic.twitter.com/8rFvoiIt89— Florida A&M Football 🏈 (@FAMU_FB) March 6, 2022
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.
🚨SLEEPER ALERT🚨— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 17, 2021
Okay, Nick Zakelj. You got our attention. This is first snap of @FORDHAMFOOTBALL vs Nebraska and it looked the same the rest of the game. Checked out @Nick_Zakelj31 over summer and he’s made a nice jump. @seniorbowl isn’t sleeping. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/ctNdsZtujx
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.
Mercer OG/FB prospect Jason Poe (that’s not a typo — he’s a guard/FB prospect) is one of my favorite late-rounders in this class. We’ll be talking about this guy on Saturday of draft weekend! pic.twitter.com/1BRqTyudj2— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 11, 2022
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.
Missouri State DL Eric Johnson is a late-round sleeper I like for the #Bears, and not just because he’s from my hometown!— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) January 30, 2022
The Plainfield native has legit burst and great length. After dominating at the NFLPA Bowl, he’s going to the @seniorbowl this week. pic.twitter.com/i8UuFbXFyx
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.
His name is Troy Andersen! #BobcatBuilt pic.twitter.com/E6ySyeoplZ— Montana State Football (@MSUBobcats_FB) December 19, 2021
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.
Nicholls’ Dai’Jean Dixon making plays tonight 👀👀 #FCS— HERO Sports FCS (@HEROSports_FCS) January 30, 2022
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.
Another player that's been drawing great reviews all week is Norfolk State's (@NorfolkStateFB) De'Shaan Dixon (@thenames18). He brings a unique blend of size, power and speed on the edge as you can see below.— Stan Becton (@stan_becton) February 19, 2022
Keep your eyes on him in the @HBCULegacyBowl this afternoon pic.twitter.com/rEG8gTEXy3
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.
Hell yeah. North Dakota OT Matt Waletzko with a sick rep pic.twitter.com/INy1qj3y1i— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 2, 2022
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.
#NDSU RT Cordell Volson escorting this Montana State LB 20 yards off the ball and straight into the ground.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) February 28, 2022
See a lot of this from his tape this year. Had a standout performance at the Shrine Bowl and intrigued me as a future OG at the NFL level. pic.twitter.com/KShJI3YcuH
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.
2022 NFL Scouting Combine . . Great run by Hula Bowl Player Isaiah Weston WR from University of Northern Iowa. @nflnetwork @NFL @DraftDiamonds #isaiahweston #NFLCombine #MondayMotivaton @northerniowa #football pic.twitter.com/c8LQ2iqy7p— Hula Bowl (@Hula_Bowl) March 7, 2022
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.
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.
To gain something you must give something, and time is the most valuable thing you have to offer. pic.twitter.com/2BuQUiTSlH— zyon! (@zyon_mccollum) February 10, 2022
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.
Decobie Durant (@One4_era) shows why he is the @MEACSports Defensive Player of the Year and an NFL prospect #FearTheBite pic.twitter.com/O2ZQYAxxlq— Cricket Celebration Bowl (@CelebrationBowl) December 18, 2021
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.
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.
Look at Southern OL Ja’Tyre Carter (@CarterJaTyre) showing the versatility necessary to play at the next level. Yesterday at LG, been moving around all week. @DraftHBCU 🏈 pic.twitter.com/mBzEGw9k0F— Maliik Obee (@NFLMaliik) February 4, 2022
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.
Southern Utah LT Braxton Jones is an intriguing prospect. Listed at 6'7" 310 with prototypical length, he uses his hands really well, can generate impressive control on blocks, & consistently looks to finish. pic.twitter.com/FQ3MfRgVIe— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 6, 2021