My favorite part about the dead summer of the NFL offseason is the chance to get ahead on my NFL Draft preparation for next spring.
This procedure is nothing new to me, as I’ve been using summers to prepare for next year’s draft ever since I started watching tape. That said, I’ve been putting a bigger emphasis on trying to identify small-school gems for next year’s class.
In today’s age of early declarations and transfer candidates, it can be tougher to find small-school prospects worthy of draft consideration before the season starts. However, it’s far from impossible, as these 10 prospects have proven to me. Plus, it’s always a blast to take deep dives to try and find the next diamond in the rough.
I’ll go in-depth with Division II and III prospects later on in my scouting process. For now, though, these are some of the top FCS prospects I’ve watched so far preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Theo Day, QB, Northern Iowa
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Day was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback in the FCS in 2022, and watching his tape from last year, it’s hard to disagree with them. He’s a big body at quarterback with a cannon of an arm, flashes of very good anticipation and nice athletic ability. His mechanics and full-field scanning abilities need improvement, but he has the tools that NFL teams drool over in a developmental prospect.
Isaiah Davis, RB, South Dakota State
Davis enters the 2023 college football season as the top FCS player on my board. He’s a well-built running back with a tough style of running and tremendous raw power, but he’s also a good straight-line athlete with good burst coming out of the backfield. If he can work a bit on his pass-catching ability and lateral quickness, the sky’s the limit for him.
MJ Wright, WR, Fordham
I drafted Fordham’s Fotis Kokosioulis in my latest Bears mock draft, but his father confirmed over Twitter that he did not return to school and is still a free agent. While we wait for Fotis to get a well-deserved opportunity, his teammate Wright is another intriguing player who deserves NFL looks. He caught 62 passes for 1,156 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, and he has pro-level speed and lateral quickness as a projectable ‘Z’ receiver at the next level.
Hayden Hatten, WR, Idaho
Hatten is an All-American who finished the 2022 season with 100-yard outings in 7 of his last 8 games. He’s a well-sized weapon at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and his combination of ball skills and route-running IQ have seen him dominate at the FCS level. He’s a potential riser up boards if he puts together another 1,000-yard season this coming campaign.
Marshel Martin, TE, Sacramento State
Is Martin a tight end, a wide receiver or a fullback? I see him as an H-back tight end right now, but he’s the ultimate tweener with a versatile skill set. He’s a bit undersized for a tight end and doesn’t bring much as a blocker, but he’s a dynamic athlete with fantastic quickness after the catch who has plenty of experience in a high-volume pass-catching role for Sacramento State’s offense over the year.
Zach Heins, TE, South Dakota State
South Dakota State saw tight end Tucker Kraft selected in the third round by the Packers this year, and they’ll likely see another tight end drafted in 2024 in Heins. Though not as athletic or fluid as his former teammate, Heins has the size advantage at a towering 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds. He thrives above the rim and offers some nice raw value as a run blocker and in the red zone.
Garret Greenfield, OT, South Dakota State
With three years of starting experience to his name and a fourth coming up, Greenfield has plenty of reps at both tackle spots. He’s a very good athlete with impressive lateral quickness and very good body control in pass protection. He showcases good hand activity at the point of attack, too. If he can add a little more power to his game, it wouldn’t shock me to see him as the first FCS prospect drafting this year.
Jalen Travis, OT, Princeton
Princeton had wide receiver Andrei Iosivas drafted this year, and there’s a good shot they have another player drafted in 2024 in Travis. He’s a 6-foot-7, 310-pound monster with very good grip strength, sneaky good foot speed and all the measurements needed to be a standout offensive lineman. Pad level is an issue for him, but if his flexibility improves, NFL teams might fall in love with him.
Mike Edwards, OL, Campbell
Edwards was someone I had my eyes on for this year’s draft, but he stuck around at Campbell for another year. The former four-star Wake Forest recruit has a massive frame at 6-foot-7 and 345 pounds. He’s a behemoth of a human being with a nasty demeanor that maximizes his play strength. Though I think he’s a better fit at guard due to subpar mobility, he’s someone you’ll be hearing more about as the draft cycle heats up.
David Walker, EDGE, Central Arkansas
The FCS leader in tackles for a loss returns to school this year, as Walker led the nation with 22 of them. He also placed second in his division with 12 sacks, and that production is thanks in part highly because of his motor. He’s an aggressive edge rusher with ideal pad level, nice quickness off the snap and a nice arsenal of hand techniques. Though I’ve watched a lot more FCS offensive players than defensive players to this point, Walker stands out to me right now as the best of the bunch.