The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books and five former DII football players were selected for the next step of their journey. We caught up with the crew at D2Football.com to take a comprehensive look at what to expect from each player on their new NFL team.
Joshua Williams | Fayetteville State
Selection: 4th Round (135 overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs
You need to throw 2021 stats out the window because as the hype around Williams began to grow, opposing teams gave him the Deion Sanders treatment and game-planned away from him. That said, the senior defensive back still got his, putting up solid numbers with 31 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups. Two of his biggest games of the year were against Wingate and Bowie State, two perennial tournament powers.
Williams is listed at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, and while he isn't the fastest guy on the field (don't be fooled, he's still fast with a 4.53 40 at the combine), he is a terrific cover corner that will cause issues for opposing receivers.
Kris Ferguson, the CIAA expert from D2Football.com, had a glowing review of what to expect. "Williams was a late bloomer who stood out in the preseason because of his height and athleticism," Ferguson said. "He wasn’t getting a lot of the hype of some of the DBs at other schools in the conference. He was only all-conference this past season.
"His trajectory reminds me of Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne, another big DB who stood out to scouts and ended up getting a Senior Bowl invite. Williams' statistics aren’t eye-popping because teams tried to avoid him whenever possible. He's a true leader, especially because FSU’s secondary was already stacked with teammates who are likely to get a mini-camp invite. They got much of the stats, but his impact cannot be understated."
Gregory Junior | Ouachita Baptist
Selection: 6th Round (197 overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Junior was a member of the 2022 D2Football Elite 100, the site's latest edition and will be released at the conclusion of each season. Standing at 6-feet, the defensive back was the first Tiger to be invited to the Senior Bowl and now, the first player from Ouachita Baptist to be drafted into the NFL.
This past season, Junior recorded 46 tackles to go with seven pass breakups. He seemed to rise to the occasion, recording a season-high eight tackles against Southeastern Oklahoma State and six against both nationally ranked Harding and Henderson State. Anyone that follows the GAC knows those were the three teams Ouachita Baptist was contending with all season.
"We had Greg as one of the top corners in DII," said D2Football's Matt Witwicki, who watched hours of live football and video to prep for the Elite 100. "While he doesn’t have the elite speed of some of the top corners in the draft, he’s more physical than most at the position and has a sturdy 6-feet and 200-pound frame. Needless to say, he was on our Elite 100."
Sam Roberts | Northwest Missouri State
Selection: 6th Round (200 overall) by the New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots sure love their DII football players. West Alabama's Malcolm Butler made a memorable play in the Super Bowl; Lenoir-Rhyne's Kyle Dugger is blossoming into a fantastic defender; Matthew Judon out of Grand Valley State earned Pro Bowl honors last year in his first season with the Pats; and now Roberts joins the ranks.
Any defender from a Rich Wright-coached defense is one to watch, but Roberts was extra spectacular. The 2021 Cliff Harris Award winner — given annually to the best defender in small college football — was the MIAA player of the year as well. He recorded 18.5 tackles for a loss to go along with 6.5 sacks in his final year. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, Roberts is athletic and explosive off the defensive line.
"Sam is a big, powerful defensive lineman with a high motor," said Devin Albertson, the MIAA expert at D2Football. "He used his length well at the DII football level. Sam consistently used his tremendous bullrush to cause havoc in the MIAA. The best part about him being drafted by the Patriots is that he is a huge Patriots fan. He will contend for a roster spot and could contribute right away especially with his ability to play special teams."
Dareke Young | Lenoir-Rhyne
Selection: 7th Round (233 overall) by the Seattle Seahawks
Perhaps no DII football draft prospect had more eyes on him entering the season than Young. With the success his former teammate Dugger has had in New England, Young's name was in draft circle conversations as early as the 2020 season. He played sparingly last spring and only five games last fall, but all you need to do is look at the Mars Hill game on Sept. 25 to see why he's so special. He reeled in 160 yards on eight receptions with three touchdowns. Earlier in his career, Young showed off his ability in the running game as well as a return man, indicating that he can begin contributing at the next level immediately.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Young is super quick and athletic, but also showed in Lenoir-Rhyne's run-heavy offense that he is an asset in the blocking game.
"Dareke Young will have a great chance to make the roster and be a contributor as a rookie because of his speed and athleticism, but it will be his versatility that will make him stand out.," said D2Football's Chuck Bitner who has spent a lot of time around the SAC in his years. "He has the size and strength to make contested catches, the speed and agility to make defenders miss in the open field, and the vision to break loose on kick returns. He can fit in as a wide out, contribute in the running game, and will be a huge asset for special teams. Seattle feels like a perfect fit for him. Pete Carroll will find ways to take advantage of his diverse skill set."
Christian Matthew | Valdosta State
Selection: 7th Round (244 overall) by the Arizona Cardinals
While Valdosta State gains a lot of attention from its dynamic offense, people tend to forget how few points the Blazers' defense allows on an annual basis. Matthew is a big reason the Blazers made a run to the championship game last year.
He is a big, bruising defensive back, listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He is fast enough to to make sure he won't be beat on many routes. A DI transfer, last year Matthew recorded 37 tackles with one interception and 15 pass breakups for the Blazers.
"Christian has great size and plays a physical brand of football," explained Justin Polizzi, the Gulf South Conference expert from D2Football. "He is explosive and a tough draw for any receiver. At Valdosta State, Christian did a great job slowing down opposing receivers and the opponents' offensive passing game. I think his game will translate well in the professional game. He was a great pick for the Cardinals at 244."
More DII football goin' pro
While this is not an all-inclusive list — as players can still be added — there was a slew of DII football players invited to minicamps and signing with teams after the draft. Here's a look at some of the names heading to rookie camps so far.
- Will Adams, Virginia State — Atlanta Falcons
- Cory Batie, Harding — New Orleans Saints
- D'Anthony Bell, West Florida — Cleveland Browns
- Jared Bernhardt, Ferris State — Atlanta Falcons
- Anthony Blue, Newberry — New York Giants
- Shemar Bridges, Fort Valley State — Baltimore Ravens
- Irvin Charles, Indiana (PA) — New York Jets
- Rodney Coates, West Florida — Seattle Seahawks
- Kaden Davis, Northwest Missouri State — Denver Broncos
- Julius Faulk, Delta State — Cleveland Browns
- Dallis Flowers, Pittsburg State — Indianapolis Colts
- Matthew Gotel, West Florida — Seattle Seahawks
- Sebastian Gutierrez, Minot State — Denver Broncos
- Dennis Johnson, Grand Valley State — New York Giants
- Kader Kohou, Texas A&M-Commerce — Miami Dolphins
- Luke Little, UMary — Chicago Bears
- Henry Litwin, Slipper Rock — Chicago Bears
- Tyreik McAllister, Charleston (WV) — Denver Broncos
- Zaire Mitchell, Notre Dame (OH) — Cleveland Browns
- Zein Obeid, Ferris State — Detroit Lions
- Lucky Oyovwi, Charleston (WV) — Indianapolis Colts
- Dylan Pasquali, Ferris State — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Marvin Terry, Delta State — New York Jets
- David Vereen, Newberry — Baltimore Ravens
- Sam Webb, Missouri Western — Las Vegas Raiders