(STATS) - The concerns that surround an FCS prospect don't always remain, but they usually disappear only after he reaches the NFL.
There's no denying most people value a player coming from Alabama, Ohio State or USC more than one from the FCS level, but sometimes all it takes is an opportunity for smaller school prospects.
Leading into next week's NFL combine, STATS turned to a roundtable of NFL draft analysts who know the value of prospects coming from below the FCS - Josh Buchanan, a recruiter for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl; Eric Galko, the owner and lead draft analyst for Optimum Scouting; and Scott Wright, the owner and lead draft analyst for DraftCountdown.com.
Over five days this week, we're picking their brains about how the FCS stacks up in this year's NFL Draft. Here's part four.
What is the biggest misperception about FCS prospects? What is a harsh reality for them?
Josh Buchanan: Nobody else will probably tell you this, but the truth is that people think FCS players need media attention to get their name out and that they have to go on Twitter and do interviews with every media outlet. If the fans and media knew just how in-depth the research is that NFL teams do, they would be blown away. The 2018 NFL draft cycle has already begun with many NFL scouts putting a lot of focus in them. In fact, I know some scouts have started on it as early as late December to early January.
The truth is that NFL teams will find you if you dominate, and you don't need to jump out and say "Here I am" off the field by getting yourself hyped by media. NFL teams don't read the draft websites and the only similar sites they do read, they are looking for news.
I would say another one is that many think FCS prospects were major misses by the big programs or have something wrong with them and can't play early in the NFL. Many times they just blossomed late and several of them do well as rookies. People need to remember that it's not the helmet you wear, but the heart and work ethic and whether you get the most out of the talent the player was born with.
The harsh reality is that an FCS player must dominate to get drafted and stand out like a sore thumb. To be put in the very best position and not feel like you are having to prove people wrong, you have to start out with a good junior year, then good junior pro day - hopefully, you can run the 40 because that will show the biggest question right off the bat - have a strong start to your senior year, and then continue that play all year each and every week. There are always exceptions, but if you want the odds in your favor, you really need to do this, or if you don't have a great junior year, you then have to play lights out as a senior, starting with creating buzz early in your senior year.
Eric Galko: I believe the biggest misperception about FCS prospects is that their experience at the college level doesn't matter. Especially at the FCS level, players are being tested by differing scheme complexities and are asked to grow mentally more than they have in the past.
But the harsh reality is that, despite seeing the success stories each year, many small schoolers struggle to make it in the NFL and, as a result, teams worry about taking small schoolers too early in the draft regardless of talent. We'll see if 2017 bucks that trend.
Scott Wright: I think the level of competition issue can be overblown, even though I'm as guilty of bringing it up as anyone else. Just because a player hasn't done something doesn't necessarily mean he can't. I think that holds true for all prospects regardless of school, position, etc. Then again, there are sometimes players who despite having standout college careers, it just becomes obvious they don't have much of a future at the next level. That usually shows itself well before draft day, though, whether it's on tape, at an all-star game or in pre-draft testing.