(STATS) - The two players in Saturday's NCAA Division I FCS Championship Game who perhaps have helped themselves the most in the playoffs for a potential NFL career are Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers and James Madison running back Khalid Abdullah.
Scouts have seen both players perform in some of the most important games of their four-year careers.
Rivers is Youngstown State's all-time leader in sacks (39) and ranks fourth all-time in the FCS. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, he has excellent size and length for an edge pass rusher, but he also has been noted for playing with a high aptitude throughout his career.
During four wins in the playoffs, Rivers has three sacks for negative-23 yards and two other tackles for loss as well as four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
In moving closer to draft boards, Abdullah is coming off one of the most impressive performances of his career - 180 rushing yards on 23 carries, a career-high 231 all-purpose yards and a touchdown reception - in James Madison's win over five-time defending national champion North Dakota State in the semifinals. He also rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns against Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals.
The 5-10, 220-pound Abdullah has excellent vision and a quick burst through the line of scrimmage, with good cutback moves at the second level. He's reached 100-plus yards in 10 games and gained 1,708 yards overall, averaging 6.3 yards per carry with 23 total touchdowns.
Other players whom scouts will key a close eye on in the championship game are James Madison cornerback Taylor Reynolds and Youngstown State defensive end Avery Moss, a second-year transfer from Nebraska.
NFLDraftScout.com, a leading evaluator of the draft, began the new year with updated rankings, placing Rivers in the top 10 of FCS draft candidates:
60. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington, WR, 6-2, 215, 2nd Round
134. Dylan Cole, Missouri State, OLB, 6-0, 236, 4th
148. Keionta Davis, Chattanooga, DE, 6-3, 270, 4th-5th
154. Brendan Langley, Lamar, CB, 6-0, 193, 4th-5th
176. Julie'n Davenort, Bucknell, OT, 6-6, 315, 5th
177. Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis, FS, 5-11, 195, 5th-6th
182. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova, DE, 6-6, 285, 5th-6th
200. De'Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina, RB, 5-8, 205, 6th
207. Derek Rivers, Youngstown State, DE, 6-4, 255, 6th
211. Eric Saubert, Drake, TE, 6-4, 242, 6th
218. Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State, OG, 6-4, 305, 6th
231. Xavier Coleman, Portland State, CB, 5-11, 190, 6th-7th
247. Alek Torgersen, Penn, QB, 6-2, 230, 7th
250. Anthony Firkser, Harvard, FB, 6-2, 220, 7th
258. David Jones, Richmond, FS, 6-2, 220, 7th-Free Agent
262. Emmanuel Holder, Towson, FB, 5-11, 265, 7th-FA
274. Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington, 6-2, 240, 7th-FA
285. Brady Gustafson, Montana, QB, 6-6, 235, 7th-FA
331. Casey DeAndrade, New Hampshire, FS, 5-11-216, 7th-FA