The Watch List: 2018 FCS Preview

Updated: May 20th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Players to Watch

Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State: Stick is my favorite of the three top FCS quarterback prospects that I have studied.  Stick, besides having a great name, has elite accuracy and good touch.  I noted very few missed passes while watching two of his games.  He is not a deep passer but does show at least average arm strength.  Stick needs to improve his pocket presence and better see and feel the pass rush.  When he does scramble, which he does often, he is adept at keeping plays alive and is willing to take a hit.  He is not very agile or quick and looks labored as a runner but he can rack up the yards (663 in 2017).  Stick does not play in a high volume passing offense like the two FCS passers I profile below which could help or hurt his professional prospects depending on who you ask.  He completed a respectable 62.1% of his passes and finished near the top of the QBs on my watch list in terms of yards per attempt (9.3) and rating (169.5).  Stick is 6’2″ and 220lbs which did not impact him against FCS defenses but it could turn into an issue at the NFL level if he continues with his reckless play style.  The comparisons to Carson Wentz are inevitable but I caution armchair analysts to remember that Wentz was a superior athlete.  Stick will get NFL Draft buzz and if I had to guess now, we’re looking at a Day 2 grade for him.

Gage Gubrud, QB, Eastern Washington: Gubrud is a redshirt senior starting his third year eat EWU.  He excelled in 2016 with two future NFL targets (Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne) but saw his stats come back to earth in 2017.  He was still productive though with 3,342 yards and 26 TDs.  Gubrud has a strong arm but lacks accuracy.  His strong arm means he often overthrows deep receivers.  In fact, I did not note a single deep completion in my two game film study.  He possesses good pocket presence and relishes the chance to improvise and scramble.  Gubrud already proved he can lead EWU to success (12-2 in 2016) so let’s see if they can get back in championship contention.

Devlin Hodges, QB, Samford: The Bulldogs have made it to the FCS Playoffs the last two years under starter Devlin Hodges.  Unfortunately they have yet to win a playoff game after back-to-back first round exits.  Hodges is a touch thrower with a strong arm and a wonky motion.  His sidearm motion does not look natural to me and almost looks like he’s trying to shot put the football.  The motion and his height (listed at 6’1″ but probably shorter) lead to batted balls at the line and numerous short passes landing in the dirt as he tries to get it over a defender.  Despite those misses, Hodges does complete a high percentage of passes (65.7%).  He threw for 3,983 yards in 2017 which is second to just McKenzie Milton on my 2019 watch list (albeit against FCS opponents).  Hodges did have a very notable game against Georgia in 2017: 26-35, 227 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs.  It was the kind of game that makes you think he could persevere and get a shot at the next level.  He’s not a dynamic running threat but he does have good pocket mobility and throws well on the run.  His height and motion will probably be disqualifying to NFL scouts but he’s interesting nonetheless as a fun college player.

Marcus Jones, RB, Gannon:  Gannon, you ask?  It’s actually a small Division II school in Erie, PA.  I’m not enough of a masochist to do a Division II preview so I figured I would add Jones here.  I came across him while researching some hidden NFL Draft prospects and was blown away by his 2017 stats and measureables.  Sure, the stats can be minimized because of the competition but they are still eye-popping: 2,176 rushing yards, 8.1 yards per carry, 24 receptions, 288 receiving yards and 31 total TDs.  His size can’t be explained-away because he comes in at a near perfect running back size of 5’11” and 225lbs (think Nick Chubb).  Film of Jones is predictably impossible to find but I was able to scrape together a few highlights.  In those highlights I see a thick-bottomed back with a good stiff arm and the athleticism to hurdle a defender on his way to a run-away touchdown.  I really hope I get to see more of this kid.

Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State: I’m looking forward to watching more of Anderson but at this point there’s not much out there to watch except for a few FCS Playoff highlights.  From the little I did see of him, he looks fast.  He’s at least 4.50 fast but is probably a touch faster.  He shows good balance and adds versatility as a kick returner.  After watching his highlights, I was surprised to see he only had 8 receptions this season; since they all seemed to come in big moments, I’ll bet we see more of him as a pass catcher in 2018.  Anderson only averaged 5.2 yards per carry which sounds like a lot to NFL fans but is below the 5.8 average of my watch list sample.  I include Anderson here because he plays for the reigning FCS champion and we’ll probably see a lot of him this year, especially if Easton Stick starts getting the spotlight.

Dominick Bragalone, RB, Lehigh: Bragalone is another RB prospect who you’ll be hard pressed to find film on.  I was able to find a number of highlight packages from the school that I could piece together to get a feel for his game.  He’s squat, like a bowling ball, and runs strong.  He is not fast, likely in the 4.60-4.65 range.  He easily brushes off arm tackles and keeps his feet well.  It appears that he’s at least above average when it comes to pass protection, if not better.  He racked up the carries in 2017 (247) and averaged 5.6 yards per for a total of 1,388 yards.  He had 22 total TDs too which is one of the highest totals in my sample.  My opinion is that Bragalone will be used more like a FB in the NFL or as a situational short yardage back but could handle the starting load for short spells (maybe like Peyton Hillis?).

Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis: Keelan Doss is a name to remember.  After my limited research, yet another FCS prospect with no game films out there, I think he could factor into fantasy drafts next season.  Doss has good size at 6’3″ and 206lbs but lacks elite speed (4.55 at best).  He uses that size well to dominate FCS corners.  Doss shows good to elite hand and play strength.  He is not afraid to go over the middle and is a bear in contested catch situations.  He often snags the ball with solid hands and does not let the ball get into his body.  Doss put together the best 2017 stat line of all my watch list receivers: 115 receptions, 1,499 yards and 7 TDs.  Of the fifty receivers on my list, he led them all in receptions and yards.  I need to watch more of Doss to evaluate his route running and willingness to block but my gut tells me he could be special.

Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona: Butler is the only player on this list who was a possibility for the 2018 NFL Draft.  He missed most of 2017 due to a shoulder injury that resulted in surgery.  If it weren’t for that injury he likely would have come out after the 2017 season.  Instead he returns for his fifth season and gives us another look.  Butler got the Matt Waldman treatment back in February before it was clear that Butler would return.  In summary, Waldman likes what he sees so who am I to disagree?  When I watch Butler I see somebody who uses his elite size (6’4″ and 220lbs) to go over and through smaller and weaker corners.  He exhibits strong hands and has a few spectacular one-handed grabs on film.  He is a motivated player who does not give up on the play.  One play in specific comes to mind, it’s one that Waldman highlighted as well.  Against Eastern Washington, Butler’s quarterback throws an interception on an end zone fade.  After hitting the turf, Butler gets up and runs down the defender, likely saving six points.  It’s the type of play that few players make so it stood out on the tape.  It’ll be a close race between Doss and Butler to see who can be the top FCS receiving prospect this year.

Donald Parham, TE, Stetson: Parham is Lanky with a capital L.  He’s listed at 6’9″ and 235lbs.  That makes him the tallest TE on my watch list but one of the lightest.  He looks raw and uncoordinated as an athlete but as the cliche goes, “you can’t teach size.”  In fact, Parham would be the tallest skill position player since at least 2000, when Pro-Football-Reference.com started tracking, if he managed a combine invite.  I was only able to find a few short highlights so I can’t actually evaluate him as a player but we should all bookmark him just in case he is able to fill out his frame and continue his above average production.  He missed games in both 2016 and 2017 but if you extrapolate his stats over a twelve game season he would finish with a 60-804-4 line.


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes
More Analysis by Bob Cowper