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In the FCS Huddle: 25 FCS names to know for the NFL draft

<p>What stands out about this year's NFL Draft prospects coming from the FCS level is the strength at the top of their class.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - What stands out about this year's NFL Draft prospects coming from the FCS level is the strength at the top of their class.

Former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said he believes a team will select Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the first round, which hasn't happened with an FCS player since 2008.

Even if that doesn't happen, there may be more FCS selections in the first three rounds of the three-day draft - round 1 will be held on May 8, rounds 2 and 3 on May 9, and rounds 4 through 7 on May 10 - than in any year since '08.

Garoppolo, the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner, surely won't last past the second round. Towson junior running back Terrance West, who joined Garoppolo at the Dec. 16 announcement for the Payton Award and led his team to an FCS championship game appearance, also could be selected in the second round.

Offensive linemen Dakota Dozier of Furman and Billy Turner of three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State and Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid also are viewed as second-day draft possibilities.

About 15-20 FCS players are drafted in an average year. Last year, there were 19 FCS selections.

Here are 25 FCS names to know for this year's draft:

OFFENSE

Karim Barton, C/OG, Morgan State

A three-year starter at right tackle, Barton earned All-MEAC first-team honors as a senior. He was named the conference's offensive lineman of the week three times ... Combines a thick body (6-foot-2, 310 pounds) with strong footwork and hand placement and intelligent decision making ... His versatile skills figure to allow him to transition to center or left guard in the NFL ... Made the most of his invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl with a solid week in January ... Barton grew up in Jamaica before moving to California following his mother's death when he was 13. Soccer, cricket and track were his main sports in Jamaica.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State

Former University of Georgia freshman sensation entered the draft after his junior season at Alabama State ... He was regarded by some as the top high school running back in the nation in 2010 and rushed for 850 yards and five touchdowns in his only season (2011) at Georgia before being dismissed from the program following his arrest on weapons charges, which were later dropped ... Has good vision, shifty moves and a nose for the end zone, but he ran slower than expected at the NFL Combine (4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash) ... Can catch the ball out of the backfield or pass block effectively ... Was a 2013 Walter Payton Award finalist with 1,121 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, but he had nagging injuries and Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow seemed to question Crowell's toughness.

Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman

First-team FCS All-American was Furman's starter at left tackle for four straight seasons, making 44 career starts. Earned the Southern Conference's Jacobs Blocking Award as a senior ... Was switched to guard at the East-West Shrine Game in January and the 6-foot-4, 313-pound prospect made it look as though he'd been playing there for years ... Balanced and strong in his lower body to keep his legs churning through run blocks and good at picking up blitzers in pass situations, Dozier still has to refine his overall technique (hand placement, footwork) for the next level ... Considered a possible second-day selection.

Kadeem Edwards, OG, Tennessee State

Edwards (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) amassed 40 career starts at Tennessee State, mostly at left guard - his anticipated position at the NFL level ... He is considered a late-round prospect but a work in progress ... Built low to the ground with long arms measuring 34 1/2 inches ... Moves well laterally to pull on run plays and screens, but needs to be more physical at the point of attack ... Was TSU's first Senior Bowl invite since cornerback Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie in 2008 and impressed scouts with his potential ... Edwards was named to the Ohio Valley Conference first team as both a junior and senior.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

2013 Walter Payton Award winner has become the face of the FCS draft class ... While following in the footsteps of former EIU quarterback Tony Romo, Garoppolo has risen on draft boards after strong weeks at the East-West Shrine Game, where he was named the offensive most valuable player, and the Senior Bowl ... Generally considered a second-round draft choice ... Ohio Valley Conference offensive player of the year passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior ... Measured at 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, Garoppolo is an intelligent decision maker who has an extremely quick release and a clean, compact delivery ... Doesn't have the arm strength of other QBs in the draft class or mobility to take off up the field ... Played mostly in shot-gun formation out of a spread offense at EIU and might have to adjust again to playing under center.

A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State

Departed early from Tennessee State as a junior-eligible prospect ... Rated a four-star tight end in high school who originally played at the University of Florida, but character issues have plagued him ... Made The Sports Network FCS All-America first team as a sophomore (51 receptions for 733 yards and six touchdowns) before production slipped in his junior season (34 receptions for 441 yards and five touchdowns) ... Has soft hands and can run well after making a reception, but he must improve as a blocker ... Accustomed to moving around in different formations, a plus for today's passing game ... Collected standout grades among tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois

The go-to wide receiver for 2013 Walter Payton Award winner Jimmy Garoppolo holds the two highest reception totals in FCS single-season history - 136 in 2012 and 123 this past season ... A 5-foot-10 1/2, 200-pound slot receiver, Lora finished his career with 332 catches (second-most in FCS history) for 4,006 yards (11th-highest total) and an Ohio Valley Conference-record 35 touchdown receptions ... The two-time first-team All-American and Payton Award finalist overcame back and hip injuries in 2011 to post his two incredible seasons ... Instinctive and uses surprising physicality to free himself and reel in tough passes ... Known for his spirited play.

Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell

Four-year starter set the Ivy League's all-time passing record with 11,284 yards, over 2,000 more than the next-highest total. He ended his career with 47 Cornell and 18 league records ... Good size at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds with big hands ... Pocket passer has good arm strength and Ivy League intelligence (he's viewed as a future coach) ... Lacks mobility and will throw off-balance unnecessarily ... Was plagued by interceptions (42) in his career ... Named the 2011 Ivy League offensive player of the year, throwing for 3,412 yards and 25 touchdowns in only 10 games ... Considered a mid- to late-round selection, Mathews has been compared to NFL quarterback John Skelton, who played in the FCS at Fordham.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern

Versatile team player was an option quarterback, running back, cornerback and kick returner at Georgia Southern, but will play running back at the next level ... Tested highly at the NFL Scouting Combine, including 32 reps with the 225-pound bench press - an incredible number for a running back. The Wall Street Journal's analysis of all player numbers concluded McKinnon performed the best at the Combine ... Strong, well-built frame with fluid running style, but not experienced in a traditional pro offense as Georgia Southern ran the triple option during his career ... As a junior in 2012, McKinnon rushed for 1,817 yards, including 316 in an FCS playoff game.

D.J. Morrell, OG, Old Dominion

Possesses good size (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) for a right guard ... Started for two seasons on ODU's high-scoring offense after transferring in from a junior college ... Uses his long arms effectively on pass protection, but is still developing footwork for run blocking ... Showed his ability in ODU's games against FBS competition ... Played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, often matched against Pittsburgh standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald ... Considered a late-round candidate, although ODU's young program has yet to have a player selected in the draft.

Walter Powell, WR/RS, Murray State

Slot receiver with an elusive style who also is an accomplished return specialist ... Finished his Murray State career as its all-time leader in receiving yards (2,650), touchdowns (29) and 100-yard games (10), while ranking second in receptions (208) ... Scored three touchdowns on 35 career punt returns ... Was a finalist for the 2013 Walter Payton Award, although he sat out the final two games of his senior season because of a foot injury ... Played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January ... Was arrested for assault last October, but the case was dropped ... His brother, Brandon Williams, was a third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB/FB, Coastal Carolina

Big, hard-running running back (6-foot, 229 pounds) could transition to fullback in the NFL ... Shattered numerous Coastal Carolina records as a senior, rushing for 1,729 yards and 27 touchdowns with 29 total touchdowns and nine 100-yard games ... Was named the 2013 Big South Conference offensive player of the year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award ... Former junior college player is rarely dropped for a loss and follows his blockers with a patient style ... Has the frame to be an effective pass blocker in the backfield ... Was a late addition to the Senior Bowl.

Billy Turner, OT/OG, North Dakota State

Accomplished tackle at NDSU started 56 of his 57 career games (44 left tackle, 12 right tackle) while helping the Bison win the last three FCS national titles ... The two-time first-team All-American has good length (6-foot-5) with big hands (10 inches), although he tends to hold them too low ... Finishes plays and has developing tools which project to the next level, where he could transition inside to guard ... Did not allow a sack as the Bison went 15-0 in his senior season, but struggled against pass rushers during Senior Bowl week ... His father Maurice played five seasons as an NFL running back during the 1980s.

Terrance West, RB, Towson

Big-bodied, physical running back entered the draft as a junior and is considered a second- or third-round prospect ... Led Towson to the 2013 FCS national championship game while setting single-season records for the division in rushing yards (2,509), rushing touchdowns (41) and total touchdowns (42) ... Set FCS playoff reach with 354 rushing yards against No. 2-ranked Eastern Illinois ... Scored 86 touchdowns in three seasons - only three below the four-year FCS record ... Captured the inaugural Jerry Rice Award following the 2011 season ... Workhorse reads his blocks and powers through tackles. Will slash and cut, but is not especially fast, clocking 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine ... Measures 5-foot-9, 223 pounds.

DEFENSE

Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty

Emerging press cornerback with good size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and physicality ... Made five starts in 2009 as a true freshman safety at the University of Illinois, but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft charges in July 2010 in Champaign, Ill., was dismissed from the Illini team and later transferred to Liberty for his final three seasons ... He forced three fumbles in each of his first two seasons at Liberty and intercepted three passes with a team-high 62 tackles as a senior, earning All-Big South first- team honors ... Finished his Liberty career with seven interceptions ... Able to turn and run alongside receivers, Aikens drew praise for a good Senior Bowl week ... Skills and size project to contributions on special teams in the NFL.

Rakim Cox, DL, Villanova

Highly productive four-year starter at Villanova who is an excellent pass rusher with a high motor and good instincts ... Has an athletic 6-foot-3, 260- pound frame for a 3-4 defensive scheme, but might have to bulk up to be a 4-3 end at the next level ... Collected 33 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in 48 career games while also blocking four kicks, including three as a senior ... An All-CAA first-team selection in both his junior and senior seasons, Cox played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January and had five tackles and one pass breakup.

Brad Daly, OLB, Montana State

The 2013 Buck Buchanan Award winner as the FCS defensive player of the year is not big enough (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) to be a defensive end, as he was at Montana State, so he is making the conversion to outside linebacker ... Led the FCS during the regular season with 14 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss and added 68 tackles, seven QB hurries, two forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and one interception ... Relies on his smaller size to get to the quarterback or chase ball carriers to the sideline ... Did not play in 2010 after leaving Montana State to work in the oil industry, but returned to the Big Sky Conference school a year later ... Played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January.

Kendall James, CB, Maine

Agile, but undersized cornerback (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) totaled 36 tackles, two interceptions and nine pass breakups as a senior for the CAA Football championship squad, which ranked first in the conference against the pass ... Has been clocked as low as 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has loose hips and good body control to turn and run with wide receivers ... Participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and performed a 39-inch vertical leap at the NFL Scouting Combine. His official 40 time at the Combine was 4.44 ... Two-time All-CAA first-team selection could be considered a nickel corner at the NFL level.

Zachariah Kerr, DT, Delaware

Terrific run-stopper who played two seasons as a reserve defensive tackle at the University of Maryland before academic issues led to a transfer to Delaware ... Collected 57 tackles (28 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles while earning second-team FCS All- American honors as a senior. Had eight tackles in Blues Hens' win over FCS national runner-up Towson ... Quick for his 6-foot-1, 325-pound size, Kerr explodes off the snap to gain advantages, but is prone to getting too high for maximum leverage ... Charismatic personality is a plus for motivating teammates, but has been known to take off plays ... Appears suited for nose tackle on the NFL level ... Participated in the East-West Shrine Game.

Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton

Capable of moving around on the defensive line but expects to settle in on the interior with his quickness and rush skills ... Runner-up as a senior for the Ivy League's defensive player of the year award, Reid often faced double or triple teams by opposing offenses ... Collected 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 10 games in 2011, and finished his career with 41 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks ... Blocked seven kicks in his career ... Could easily have entered the 2013 draft class, but was granted another year of eligibility at Princeton because he sat out much of his sophomore year in 2010 with a pectoral injury ... Had a nagging ankle injury during senior season ... 2013 Buck Buchanan Award finalist had sacks on back-to-back plays in the Senior Bowl.

Tyler Starr, OLB/DE, South Dakota

Two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist is an outside linebacker/defensive end with good size (6-foot-4 1/2, 250 pounds), athleticism and a high motor, but questionable power ... He played only three seasons after redshirting in 2009 and sitting out 2010 season because of academics ... Posted a breakout year in 2011 with 14 sacks and 19 tackles for loss when South Dakota was still a member of the Great West Conference ... Was named the 2013 Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the year, leading the conference in sacks (nine), tackles for loss (15) and forced fumbles (four) ... All 27 of his career sacks were solos ... Participated in the East-West Shrine Game ... Predicted he would break the 3-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine, but failed to do so despite a strong 6.64-second timing.

Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana

Arrived at Montana as a potential safety, but grew into a versatile outside linebacker with a chiseled 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame ... Epitomized the toughness of the Grizzlies program, but is an agile player who changes directions well and closes in on ball carriers. Solid against the run, he collected 335 career tackles ... Had the fastest 20-yard shuttle run (3.96 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine since A.J. Hawk in 2006 ... Also helped himself with an impressive week at the Senior Bowl ... Could make a quick impact in the NFL on special teams coverage ... Two-time All-Big Sky first- team selection is expected to land in middle rounds of the draft.

Todd Washington, CB, Southeastern Louisiana

Lanky cornerback following in the footsteps of former Southeastern cornerback Robert Alford, who was the first FCS player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft (Atlanta Falcons, second round, 60th overall) ... Made five starts at Memphis in 2010 before transferring to Southeastern for his final three seasons ... Was slowed by turf toe as a senior, playing in only eight of Lions' 14 games ... Had four career interceptions, including two with Memphis ... Not as physical as Alford, but is solid in press coverage. Needs to improve overall strength ... Can serve as a jammer on special teams ... Received Southland Conference honorable mention accolades as a junior and senior.

Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern

A good-sized cornerback (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) who is solid in many aspects of coverage and run support ... Was a 3 1/2-year starter at Georgia Southern, playing free safety as well as cornerback as the Eagles reached the FCS national semifinals in each of his first three seasons ... Aggressive style with a good football I.Q., but doesn't not have exceptional speed for a defensive back ... Finished career with 147 tackles, seven interceptions and 20 pass breakups ... Played in the Senior Bowl ... Expected to be a third-day draft selection.

Marcus Williams, CB, North Dakota State

Playmaking cornerback set the NDSU record with 21 career interceptions and an FCS mark by returning seven picks for touchdowns. Had at least one pass defended in 41 of 58 career games (54 starts) ... Dangerous on kickoff returns, including two for touchdowns ... The 2012 Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year earned first-team All-America honors in 2011, '12 and '13 as Bison won three straight FCS national championships ... Has rangy size (5-foot-10, 198 pounds) with good footwork and loose hips. Breaks well to the ball and can play in space, but must improve as a tackler ... Played in the East-West Shrine Game.

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