2013 NFL Draft: Non-FBS Players Who Will Have an Impact in the NFL
The NFL Draft is one of the biggest spectacles in American sports and every year the event is dominated by big named players from legendary college programs.
While players from programs like USC and Alabama garner most of the fanfare on draft day, talented athletes emerge from small schools each draft that make huge contributions in the NFL. 2013 is no different, as this year's draft is full of accomplished, non-FBS players.
Let’s take a look at six non-FBS players who have the ability to not just make NFL teams, but to contribute to these teams in a big way.
OT Terron Armstead: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (FCS)
Armstead is one of the most hyped players coming out of the NFL Combine. The 6’5", 306-pound offensive tackle ran a blazing 4.71 40-yard dash—a record for offensive linemen—and busted out an incredible vertical jump of 34.5 inches.
Before showing up at the combine in Indianapolis, Armstead was the starting left tackle for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lions of the FCS. Armstead started all 12 games in 2012 and anchored a line that helped the lions amass 2408 rushing yards. He also helped lead his team to a win in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game.
Despite a good senior season, scouts have been far more impressed with Armstead’s offseason performance.
Armstead put in a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and blew away NFL representatives at the Combine. If he can prove that he is not just a combine hero, Armstead should be worthy of his projected second round draft position.
DT Brandon Williams: Missouri Southern St. (DIV II)
Williams may be the most decorated player from any collegiate level in the 2013 draft. The 6’1", 335-pound defensive tackle dominated at the Division II level on his way to being named to three All-America teams.
Accolades aside, Williams put up the numbers worthy of a high draft pick. Over four seasons, Williams totaled 191 tackles (52.5 for loss) and 27 sacks, along with five forced fumbles in his senior season alone.
Even when he was not directly involved in bringing down the ball carrier, Williams was a menace, tipping 12 passes in his career.
Williams performed well at the Combine, pushing out 38 bench reps and running a 5.37 40-yard dash, but his on-field mix of strength and agility is what excites NFL scouts the most.
Williams projects as a third or fourth round pick and should figure into a team's DT rotation his rookie season.
SS J.J. Wilcox: Georgia Southern (FCS)
Wilcox is not just one of the best non-FBS players in the 2013 Draft; he is one of the best overall safeties regardless of collegiate division.
As we rapidly approach Draft Day, Wilcox is ranked among the top five safeties by three of the major scouting websites. NFL.com ranks him as the fourth best free safety on the board, while cbssports.com and nfldraftscout.com have Wilcox ranked as the third and fifth best strong safety, respectively.
On the field, Wilcox was the leader of an Eagles defense that helped guide their team to within three points of an appearance in the 2012 National Championship Game. He was named First-Team All-Southern Conference and totaled 88 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Wilcox only played safety for one season after playing on the offensive side of the ball his first three seasons, but proved that he was a natural at the position.
At 6’0", 213 pounds and posting a 40-yard dash time in the low 4.5s, Wilcox has the size and speed to play safety in the NFL.
With teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals in need of safety help, Wilcox could find himself adding important depth to an NFL team next season.
WR Jasper Collins: Mount Union (DIV III)
Out of all the players on this list, Collins is going to face the most uphill battle as he attempts to make a name for himself in the NFL. At 5’10, 180 pounds, Collins only has the size to play slot receiver in the NFL and he did not gain much exposure at Mount Union College, which competes in Division III.
Despite his obvious detractors, Collins displays many factors that point to him having NFL potential. He is an extremely good route runner who displays a quick burst and crisp cuts. He is also very agile in and out of his breaks and possesses a solid pair of hands.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Writer, compares Collins to Devon Wylie of the Kansas City Chiefs.
At the Division III level, Collins was absolutely dominant over his competition. In 52 career games, Collins had 232 receptions for 3,527 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also returned three kicks for touchdowns as the team's punt returner. Collins was the only player from Division III to be invited to the 2012 East-West Shrine Bowl.
While lack of competition is the biggest knock against Collins, a year of development in the NFL should have him ready to contribute as a legitimate slot receiving threat. Oh, and Mount Union has produced NFL talent before, just look at Pierre Garçon.
OT Luke Marquardt: Azusa Pacific (NAIA)
Here is an interesting trivia question: Who was the last player drafted from the NAIA, what year was this, and what school did he play for?
Not sure? I wasn't either before 30 minutes of research. The answer is Patrick Crayton from Northwestern Oklahoma State, drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Also, if you are wondering what the NAIA is, the acronym stands for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the division is completely unassociated from the NCAA.
As the stat above shows, it is a rare occurrence when a player from the NAIA division is deemed as talented enough to warrant a draft pick. 2013 may be the year that this happens again.
Luke Marquardt is a gigantic offensive tackle prospect out of Azusa Pacific University in Southern California.
At 6'9", 320 pounds, he possesses prototypical size for an NFL offensive tackle. Marquardt also holds a basketball background, he was actually recruited to the small university to play on the basketball team, which is evident in his quick and precise footwork.
While he does need to learn how to finish plays on a more consistent basis and deal with quicker defenders, Marquardt has tons of upside as a developmental player.
Marquardt is currently projected as a sixth-seventh round draft pick and if he lives up to his potential, he will make a NFL general manager very happy in the near future.
CB Robert Alford: Southeastern Louisiana (FCS)
Alford is likely the best non-FBS player in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The cornerback out of Southeastern Louisiana possesses all of the tools of an NFL cornerback. Alford displays good hip motion, quick feet, and a very smooth backpedal. He also excelled in both man and zone coverages in college, a skill that would have any NFL scout very excited.
Alford came onto the scene after an impressive junior season, where he earned a Second-Team All-Southland Conference spot, recording five interceptions and seven pass break-ups. As a senior, Alford had four interceptions and was named First-Team All-Southland Conference.
Alford was also one of the the top performers at the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, pushed 17 reps in the bench press, and posted an amazing 40 inch vertical jump, blowing scouts out of the water.
Alford is now projected as a second or third round pick and could be the first non-FBS player off the board.
Alford has all of the talent and ability to succeed as an NFL cornerback, but only time will tell if this is actually the case.