Although they often do not receive the same hype as prospects from FBS schools and usually get drafted in the later rounds, players from FCS schools provide teams with hidden gems in the draft every year, and often these guys can prove to be just as critical for a team’s success as Day One or Day Two prospects.
Players from FCS schools are prominent on many NFL teams. For example, last year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco went to Delaware, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went to Eastern Illinois and Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen attended Idaho St.
Here are three prospects from FCS schools to keep an eye during next month's NFL draft.
Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah
Sorensen is the top quarterback prospect from an FCS school in 2013. He is a tall pocket-passer with a strong arm.
His weakness could be his lack of mobility. He was clocked at 4.97 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. But for what he lacks in speed and mobility, he makes up for with arm strength and precision passing.
Sorensen was the Big Sky Player of the Year in 2012. He threw for 3,139 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and he also had a 62.2 completion percentage. In fact, Sorensen threw for over 3,000 yards in all three of his seasons at Southern Utah and never had more than 11 interceptions in any one of them.
Many experts are projecting Sorensen to go in the late rounds, and he will be viewed as project for most teams. He will not come in and take the league by storm in his rookie year like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, but if he gets in the right system where his skills can be further developed, he could be a starting quarterback in the NFL down the road.
Which player will have the best NFL career?
Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
Mellette is one of the top wide receiver prospects from an FCS school in the 2013 draft class. During his senior year with the Phoenix, he caught 97 passes for 1,408 yards and 18 touchdowns.
At 6'4", 212 lbs., Mellete has the size to be an NFL receiver.
His season was highlighted by a huge game against Appalachian State, where he caught 13 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
The question for any FCS player, though, is how will they perform against better competition. Elon played against two FBS opponents when Mellette had significant playing time. Last season, he struggled against North Carolina and only caught two passes.
However, in the first game of his junior year, Elon faced Vanderbilt and Mellette had 180 yards receiving against SEC competition.
In the modern NFL, there is a major focus on the passing game and there will always be a demand for wide receivers. Like Sorensen, Mellette is expected to go in one of the later rounds, but if he can get drafted in the right system, he could contribute to a NFL team right away.
Washaun Ealey, RB, Jacksonville State
Ealey began his collegiate career at Georgia, but had to leave after breaking team rules. He transferred to Jacksonville State before the 2011 season, and he was one of the best FCS running backs in 2012.
At 5'11", 215 lbs., Ealey has the size to be an NFL running back. He had 1,082 yards rushing last season and, during his time at Georgia, he proved that he can play against elite competition.
The major question with Ealey is character. His dismissal from Georgia raised major red flags, but if he can stay out of trouble, Ealey could have the most successful NFL career of any FCS player from the draft class of 2013.