FCS Players Selected in the First Round of the NFL Draft

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North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, right, holds a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the third pick in the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland.
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Sam Herder @SamHerderFCS Apr 24, 2022, 4:48 AM

Since the Division 1 college football split in 1978, Division 1-AA (now known as the FCS) has had several NFL Draft picks every year. The average number of selections in the draft (Rounds 1-7) from 1994 to 2021 is 19.

In the 2022 NFL Draft, odds are that average will be hit as Dane Brugler’s mock draft has 21 FCS players getting picked, and Jordan Reid’s mock draft has 23 FCS prospects having their names called.

The FCS could hit a rarity this year, though, with multiple first-round selections.

Twenty-one D1-AA/FCS players have been drafted in the first round dating back to 1979. But the subdivision has had two first-rounders in the same year just three times: 1988, 2000, and 2008.

This year, Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning has been a consensus first-rounder since the start of the draft process. 

 

And then a second FCS name has splashed onto the scene mid-process as a potential Day 1 pick. 

North Dakota State Christian Watson’s stock has skyrocketed since the 6-foot-4 wide receiver tested as one of the best athletes at the NFL Combine.

Several mock drafts have Penning and Watson getting drafted in the first round, including BetMGM’s Colton Pool

The BetMGM online sportsbook, which has NFL Draft odds and college football odds, lists Penning with the fifth-best odds at +4000 for the first offensive lineman to be drafted. Meanwhile, Watson has the seventh-best odds at +5000 to be the first receiver selected.

The two would join elite company as first-round draft picks from Division 1-AA/FCS:

FCS First-Round Draft Picks

1979
Morehead State QB Phil Simms
7th overall, New York Giants

1980
Alcorn State DB Roynell Young
23rd overall, Philadelphia

1983
McNeese DB Leonard Smith
17th overall, St. Louis

1984
Southern Illinois DB Terry Taylor
22nd overall, Seattle

1985
Mississippi Valley State WR Jerry Rice
16th overall, San Francisco

1988
Northwestern State RB John Stephens
17th overall, New England

1988
Eastern Kentucky DE Aaron Jones
18th overall, Pittsburgh

1989
Northern Arizona WR Shawn Collins
27th overall, Atlanta

1990
Liberty TE Eric Green
21st overall, Pittsburgh

1992
South Carolina State DL Robert Porcher
26th overall, Detroit

1993
Jackson State OG Lester Holmes
19th overall, Philadelphia

1994
Alcorn State DE John Thierry
11th overall, Chicago

1995
Alcorn State QB Steve McNair
3rd overall, Houston

1996
North Carolina A&T OT Jamain Stephens
29th overall, Pittsburgh

2000
Jackson State WR Sylvester Morris
21st overall, Kansas City

2000
Jackson State DB Rashard Anderson
23rd overall, Carolina

2008
Tennessee State DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
16th overall, Arizona

2008
Delaware QB Joe Flacco
18th overall, Baltimore

2016
North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz
2nd overall, Philadelphia

2019
Alabama State OT Tytus Howard
23rd overall, Houston

2021
North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
3rd overall, San Francisco

NFL Draft Betting Odds

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About the Author

Sam Herder

Read More @SamHerderFCS

Sam Herder is a football writer for BetMGM and the Senior FCS Analyst for BetMGM affiliate HERO Sports. A North Dakota State journalism grad, he spent several years in the print media industry before writing for online outlets. Sam has covered sports at all levels — high school, college, and professional — since 2011.

Sam Herder is a football writer for BetMGM and the Senior FCS Analyst for BetMGM affiliate HERO Sports. A North Dakota State journalism grad, he spent several years in the print media industry before writing for online outlets. Sam has covered sports at all levels — high school, college, and professional — since 2011.