(STATS) - Tony Romo went from winning the 2002 Walter Payton Award as a senior at Eastern Illinois to being undrafted the next spring. Newly elected Hall of Famer Kurt Warner was undrafted out of Northern Iowa.
Sleeper prospects are all in the eye of the beholder, but quite often, players coming from the subdivision are undervalued as they head toward an NFL career.
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.
This is the fifth and final day of picking their brains about how the FCS stacks up in this year's NFL draft.
Which FCS prospects could be undervalued?
Josh Buchanan: A lot of them. The fact that (Saint Francis free safety) Lorenzo Jerome, Illinois State offensive lineman Cameron Lee, Chattanooga offensive lineman Corey Levin and William & Mary offensive lineman Jerry Ugokwe had to wait until the second wave to get a combine invite showed me that some NFL teams did not vote them and those are four of the players I believe should have gotten an early invite. I know that's being picky, but I had draftable grades on them all since early October at the latest.
Some players not going to the combine who I would put on this list are Dartmouth linebacker Folarin Orimolade and San Diego cornerback Jamal Agnew. Both were not invited and yet they can play. I understand why Orimolade did not get one because he is a little pigeon-toed and was a little overweight at the NFLPA Bowl, but he can rush the passer and is fun to watch. Agnew is one I don't understand because he is a very good athlete with good skills. He did not have gaudy production because people threw away from him, but he looked very good in L.A. and is someone I would have liked to see at the NFL combine.
Eric Galko: We'll see a lot of FCS players rise during the process, but two especially come to mind that, in speaking with NFL scouts, should be discussed more. Alabama State's Jylan Ware is a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle with awesome upside in a weak offensive tackle (draft). After a dominating performance at the HBCU Spirit of America Bowl in January in which all 27 scouts saw his upside, I'm confident he'll be a draft pick. Also, Villanova's Bradley Seaton, a favorite among the northeast-area scouts I've spoken with, is another offensive tackle who may be a surprise draft pick.
Scott Wright: I'll go with former Texas Southern tight end Derrick Griffin, who entered the 2017 NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore. Griffin was a prized recruit coming out of high school, but after a roundabout path, wound up at Texas Southern due to academic issues. He only played in 12 games at Texas Southern before being dismissed for breaking team rules, but he impressed in that limited action, finishing with 43 receptions for 824 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Griffin also excelled on the hardwood in college, averaging a double-double and being named (2015-16) SWAC Player of the Year. There are obviously red flags that abound with Griffin, so the bust potential is extremely high. However, the risk will be relatively low as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent considering he offers early round talent and upside. Plus he may get overlooked in what is one of the strongest crops of tight ends in years.