Let FCS picks fill the mock NFL Draft
(STATS) - With the amount of prep done in advance of April's draft, it's hard to make any NFL team look like a fool.
(OK, there are the Browns.)
But what if we surprise the 32 teams with the news that they can only draft talent from the FCS?
It wouldn't be all that bad because there's talent to be had despite the small-school stigma that dissipates more each year. Here's how the first round would look on April 27 if this was only an FCS draft:
1. Cleveland Browns: Derek Rivers, OLB, Youngstown State. A year after trading away the chance to draft quarterback Carson Wentz, the Browns pass on Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who's widely considered the top FCS talent. This decision isn't as controversial because they land a much-coveted pass rusher in Rivers.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington. The 49ers don't necessarily have wide receiver as a pressing need, but new coach Kyle Shanahan won't let the FCS legend pass by.
3. Chicago Bears: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova. The Bears also aren't in need of a defensive lineman, but Tanoh Kpassagnon has the size (6-foot-7, 290 pounds) and raw skills to be groomed into a difference maker.
4. New York Jets (trade with Jacksonville Jaguars): Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar. The Jets love former FCS defensive backs, so they move up two spots by swapping their sixth overall pick and big defensive tackle Deon Simon, the former Northwestern State standout.
5. Tennessee Titans: Keionta Davis, DE, Chattanooga. The Titans go the local route, adding the Southern Conference's 2016 defensive player of the year, a Chattanooga native.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (trade with New York Jets): Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State. The Jags feel their trade paid off because they get what they were looking for in an athletic offensive lineman.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell. If the Bolts in L.A. doesn't sound right, neither does a Patriot League player going this high. But Davenport (6-7, 318) is the exception as a walking mountain.
8. Carolina Panthers: Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State. The big year for FCS defensive ends becomes a big draft for national runner-up Youngstown State, which sees a second defensive stud go in the top 10.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Chad Williams, WR, Grambling State. Some will call it a reach, but the Bengals feel the draft's first surprise pick will validate himself as a steal.
10. Buffalo Bills: Ezra Robinson, CB, Tennessee State. Make it two programs with two top-10 picks. Tennessee State does an underrated job of producing NFL talent.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (trade with New Orleans Saints): Lorenzo Jerome, FS, Saint Francis. The Bucs pay a price - second-year defensive back Ryan Smith from North Carolina Central - while flip-flopping their No. 19 pick with the rival Saints. They immediately instruct Jerome to go intercept Drew Brees.
12. Indianapolis Colts (trade with Cleveland Browns): Javancy Jones, OLB, Jackson State: It wouldn't be an NFL FCS Draft without a lot of trades. The Colts target the pass rusher Jones, switching three spots with the Browns and giving them former Grambling State wide receiver Chester Rogers in the deal.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Saubert, TE, Drake. Saubert is too good of a talent to have lasted this long in the draft and the Cardinals recognize it.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: De'Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina. The draft hosts feel they have Darren Sproles' eventual replacement with the speedy, pass-catching and productive Henderson.
15. Cleveland Browns (trade with Indianapolis Colts): Alek Torgersen, QB, Penn. When in Rome, er Philly, the Browns think local talent. It's just not Wentz.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Levin, OG, Chattanooga. Levin bolstered his draft stock at the NFL combine. Now he's asked to bolster the Ravens' O-line.
17. Washington Redskins: Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T. The Redskins need to improve at running back and pick one of the draft's wild cards - the small, but dynamic Cohen (5-6, 179).
18. Tennessee Titans: Jerry Ugokwe, OT, William & Mary. The 6-8, 305-pound Ugokwe has big size and, after not playing football until his junior year of high school, a big upside.
19. New Orleans Saints (trade with Tampa Bay Buccaneers): David Jones, FS, Richmond. The Saints had been glad to trade down to take a shot on Jones, who broke his left forearm twice in a 10-month span. So it's Jones and Smith as opposed to getting Jerome. Not too shabby.
20. Denver Broncos: Javarius Leamon, OT, South Carolina State. It's hard to miss the 6-7, 315-pound Leamon, but he might have been overlooked to be available at this point of the draft.
21. Detroit Lions: Dylan Cole, OLB, Missouri State. The Lions have plenty of needs on defense. Cole led the FCS in tackles (142) and tackles per game (12.9) as a senior and had a terrific pro day.
22. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Lee, OG, Illinois State. The rolling out of big FCS offensive linemen continues with the 6-6, 320-pound Lee.
23. New York Giants: Roderick Henderson, DT, Alabama State. Opinions differ on the 6-1, 350-pound Henderson, but the Giants need an answer at nose tackle.
24. Oakland Raiders: Derrick Griffin, TE, Texas Southern. The Raiders are never shy on boom-or-bust picks. There's few quite like Griffin, the early-entry prospect who had a better college basketball career than his short-lived football career.
25. New England Patriots (trade with Houston Texans). Karter Schult, DE, Northern Iowa. The Pats don't have a pick in the first two rounds, but feeling the 2016 STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award winner is their kind of player, they trade up with the Texans. They surrender the first of their two third-round picks and, more importantly, Tom Brady's recovered Super Bowl LI jersey.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Zack Johnson, OG, North Dakota State. NDSU had the most FCS players in the NFL last season. Here's another one.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Coleman, CB, Portland State. Coleman has speed and the ability to attack the ball in coverage. Sold!
28. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Firkser, FB, Harvard. The Cowboys decide to think outside the box offensively as Firkser can line up in different spots and either block or catch passes.
29. Green Bay Packers: Winston Craig, DT, Richmond. The Pack get good value in Craig, who can pass rush from the middle of the D-line.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Samson Ebukam, OLB, Eastern Washington. Ebukam, a defensive end in college, makes Eastern the fifth FCS program with multiple first-round selections.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Brady Gustafson, QB, Montana. The NFC champs go the developmental route with Gustafson, who was up and down as a collegian.
32. New Orleans Saints: Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah. The end of the first round belongs to the Big Sky as the conference boasts four of the final six picks. Thornton has emerged from the shadow of all the Southern Utah 2016 draft prospects.
Cleveland, you're back on the clock to start Round 2 ...