NFL Prospect Focus: FCS schools

As many of you know, just because a player doesn’t play at the top-level BCS schools, doesn’t mean he isn't an NFL prospect. Every year, there are FCS, Division II, and even Division III kids that get a call on draft day. Here are a few to look out for:

Kendall James – Corner – Maine

James is a fifth-year senior and a three-year starter for Maine. He is from Roselle, New Jersey, and he excels on the football field as well as the classroom.

James is listed at 6’0 – 175, and on tape, he looks a bit shorter and heavier. He has good arm length, but what stands out is his athleticism. He has very good body control, with loose hips and very quick feet, good traits for a corner. I don’t have a verified speed, but his play speed is very good, and he looks as if he can easily run in the 4.47 – 4.50 range.

James lines up in press man, man off, and zone coverage and is very good in all three. The biggest compliment you can give a corner is not throwing at him. In four games viewed, besides a few bubble screens, I saw only five downfield passes thrown his way. He only gave up two catches. No matter the coverage, James has his receiver covered. In press, he shows a good jam and can turn and run with any receiver he faces. He keeps good position and has the suddenness to mirror through multi-cut routes. In off, he keeps good position and shows top anticipation. The same holds true in zone, where he shows range and never lets a receiver get behind him. James anticipates and stops the bubble screen better than many corners I have seen. Many corners wait on the play, while James attacks it and, often, takes the play out of consideration. James also has the body control to transition and close quickly. He has good ball skills to go along with good hands, and in the games viewed, he had two interceptions.

James is also a better-than-adequate run support player. He comes up quickly to support and is a good tackler. He need to improve on shedding blocks. I have seen plays where he is too slow getting off a block.

James is a very interesting player. He jumps out at me on tape with his anticipation and quickness. Granted, he is playing against lower level receivers, but one of the tapes I viewed was against Northwestern. I’m sure he will be invited to an all-star game and we can see him match up against higher level receives. If he shows there and times well in the spring, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this kid get drafted fairly high. He is extremely talented.

Michael Cole - Defensive End – Maine

Cole is a fifth-year senior and lines up as the strong-side defensive end. He has been a three-and-a-half year starter and very productive for the Black Bears. In his career, he has been credited with 28 sacks and over 30 tackles for loss.

Cole is an undersized defensive end. He is listed at 6’2 – 250 and may be a tad shorter. He has average arm length for a defensive lineman. His has good play speed (4.78) and good straight-line quickness. He is not a natural bender and has some tightness in his hips. Still, he has quick hands and shows he can shed both at the line of scrimmage and while on the move. As a pass rusher, he has a quick first step and a good counter move to the inside. He seems to be better going to the inside than trying to win with outside speed. He has some pop and shows an adequate bull rush. In the run game, he has the strength to hold the point, can shed, and gets to the ball.

Cole is a top competitor and does a good job as a pursuit player. He takes good angles and shows hustle. While he usually plays down, he will drop into coverage some. I did not see enough to grade that aspect fairly.

While Cole is a very good FCS-level defensive end, he cannot play that position at the next level. He will need to convert, probably to outside linebacker, but inside linebacker is not out of the question. Workouts in the spring will determine if he is able to play on his feet, drop into coverage, and transition. If he works out well, he has a chance to get drafted late. Otherwise, he will be a free agent.

Marcus Williams – Corner – North Dakota State

Williams is a fifth-year senior and a four-year starter from Minneapolis. This year, he has usually lined up on the short side of the field. Williams has all the physical tools to excel at the position. He is listed at 5’11 – 192, is very athletic, and has excellent play speed. He shows very quick feet, loose hips, and very good body control to go along with excellent play speed (4.47).

Williams plays a lot of off-man and zone coverage. He will line up in press man, sometimes, but when he does, he seldom jams the receiver. He shows the turn and burst to mirror but will often get too loose and give up a reception. The same holds true in off and zone. He gives his opponent too much cushion to maneuver and ends up giving up too many catches. In the games viewed, I saw only average ball skills.

It is disappointing that he is not an aggressive player against the run or pass. When playing against the run, he does not attack and waits for plays to come to him. He is an average tackler and will miss some. He does not do a good job wrapping up. He also has some trouble taking on and shedding blocks. He lacks top upper body strength and lacks good hand use to shed.

Many clubs had a very high grade on Williams going into the season. What I saw on tape this season did not warrant that type of grade. While he has the speed and athleticism to play the game at the next level, I did not see the toughness and physical play required. Williams will get drafted because of his athletic traits, but he will have to become a much more physical player to make a squad. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

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