As part of an occasional series, Fanspeak will offer tips and best practices for its wildly popular and first-of-its-kind On The Clock draft simulator.
Today’s topic: The NFL is littered with small school gems, many of whom have gone on to stardom. But prospects who come from a non-FBS school make up a small percentage of NFL rosters.
A look through Las Vegas’ roster shows the Raiders have an affinity for Clemson, Florida State and Michigan, with three players on its roster from each of those schools.
Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that Las Vegas’ roster is also littered with players from the likes of Mars Hill and Beloit, Northeast Mississippi Community College and North Carolina A&T. There are as many players from California University of Pennsylvania (two) on Las Vegas’ roster as there are from schools like Alabama, Ohio State and LSU.
Overall, Las Vegas has 13 non-FBS players on its roster.
But the Raiders are the exception to the rule. Overall, 91 percent of all players drafted from 2010 to 2019 hail from an FBS school. And of the 231 non-FBS players who were drafted, 170 came from FCS schools, or about 74 percent.
Only 18 non-FBS players were drafted last year, the lowest total in the past 10 years.
As things currently stand, Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger is the highest-ranked non-FBS player in the 2020 NFL draft. He’s currently ranked as the No. 48 prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Steve big board. Fellow safety Jeremy Chinn of Southern Illinois is the second-highest ranked player at No. 58 overall.
Guard Ben Bartch of St. John’s (68) and tight end Adam Trautman of Dayton (74) are the only other non-FBS players to crack the top-100. (Note: Guard Robert Hunt of Louisiana-Lafayette (80) and linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither of Appalachian State (92) are not included as they both played in the Sunbelt Conference, a Division I FBS conference.)
“If I wasn’t going to get a D1 offer, I was going to go to a different school and make the most of it.”
ICYMI: @SJUJohnnies Ben Bartch is once again out to show that he belongs in football, trying to be the first MIAC player taken in the NFL Draft since 2003.
— Hobie Artigue (@HobieFOX9) April 11, 2020
And that’s it for the small-school gems who could hear their names called in rounds 2 or 3.
But they’re certainly not the only non-FBS players who will be drafted this year.
Another name to watch is South Carolina State OT Alex Taylor (153), who is one of the biggest players in the draft at 6-foot-8, 308 pounds. Rhode Island could have as many as three players drafted in wide receivers Isaiah Coulter (188) and Aaron Parker (255) and guard Kyle Murphy (212). Cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros of Duquesne (256) is a recent fast-riser.
But if your choices at any given round come down to a prospect from a big program versus a small school “gem,” history overwhelmingly says the pick will likely favor the FBS prospect.
Jake Rigdon (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.