This past draft class was a historic one for the FCS level. A total of 20 players were drafted, including two first-round picks, Trevor Penning and Cole Strange. Every year, some of the best players in the draft come from the FCS level and that could be the case again for the 2023 draft. Here are some names to keep an eye on this fall.
TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
If Kraft chooses to declare for next year’s draft, he’ll be viewed as one of the top tight ends available. Kraft is the complete package and exactly what teams want. For a younger player, Kraft displayed the ability to block at a high level on film last season and was a big part of South Dakota State’s rushing attack. Kraft is a gifted athlete who is excellent after the catch. He rarely goes down on first contact and Kraft has the speed to break off big chunks of yardage with the ball in his hands. When South Dakota State manufactures Kraft touches, good things happen. The top tight end in last year’s class, Trey McBride, is a similar player to Kraft, but Kraft has more upside. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him be a top-50 pick and the first FCS player off the board.
TE McCallan Castles, UC-Davis
The first thing that stands out on Castles' film is his athleticism. He is fast and a very fluid mover. Castles does his job as a blocker, and he’ll continue to get better in that regard as he fills out his frame. When given the opportunity, he can win above the rim and make plays after the catch. His separation ability and natural hands will also be coveted at the next level. Castles has the talent to be a long-time starter in the NFL. It is hard to find his combination of athleticism, separation ability and solid blocking.
OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
The Bison have had offensive linemen drafted in back-to-back seasons and Mauch will make it three in a row. Mauch possesses phenomenal foot speed and movement skills as a former tight end. He has added to his frame every season without losing his elite athleticism. In pass protection, Mauch is quick out of his stance and can mirror pass rushers with ease. Mauch's ability in the run game is special. He does a great job of getting to the second level and attaching to defenders. Mauch has that mauler mentality and was constantly putting defenders in the dirt with ease. He has perfect balance between athlete and mauler. As he continues to add play strength, Mauch will become an even more dominant run defender. His measurables and background are similar to Buccaneers second-round pick from this past April, Luke Goedeke, and Mauch has put together better film. Mauch is the best returning FCS offensive lineman and should finish the season as a consensus first-team All-American.
DE BJ Thompson, Stephen F. Austin
The biggest thing holding back Thompson from being considered one of the better senior defensive ends is his weight. He has some of the best length in the class, with a really impressive wingspan. At under 230 pounds, though, his projection becomes a little murkier. His tape also left something to be desired, but it is hard to find players who are over 6-foot-5 with 35-inch arms. He is definitely a player to monitor and should be invited to one of the top three All-Star games and the Combine.
OL Mark Evans II, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Evans is currently playing left tackle, but his best position at the next level will be at center. Though undersized, Evans is an excellent athlete who is an easy mover. He plays with good pad level and is a fit in a wide zone scheme. Evans will be a project at the next level, but he is the kind of player that could hit on Day 3. He is smart, has a lot of experience and is an NFL athlete. Arkansas-Pine Bluff produced Terron Armstead and Evans could be their next NFL offensive lineman.
RB Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits just had their starting running back from last season, Pierre Strong, selected in the fourth round by the New England Patriots and he wasn’t even the best running back on the South Dakota State roster. Davis is the next great FCS running back and should be one of the best players in the nation next season. It is more unlikely that he declares than Kraft, but Davis has all the tools to be a starting running back in the NFL. Davis is fast, explosive and breaks tackles with ease. Davis will be a top-100 pick whenever he takes his talents to the next level.
Other Players to Keep an Eye On:
- Hunter Luepke, FB, North Dakota State
- Shaq Davis, WR, South Carolina State
- McClendon Curtis, G, Chattanooga
- Noah Gindorff, TE, North Dakota State
- Zach Heins, TE, South Dakota State