The Watch List: 2019 NFL Draft Previews, FCS Prospects

Updated: January 18th 2019

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Winter and Spring as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Today’s previews will feature four FCS players who may be flying under your radar.  All four were featured in my 2018 FCS preview so if you’d like to read more about them, please check out that piece as well.  Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State

  • Listed at: 6020/221 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Delaware 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 164 of 264, 62.1% completion percentage, 2,466 yards, 28 TDs, 8 INTs; 112 rushing attempts, 663 yards, 12 TDs
    • 2018: 175 of 281, 62.3% completion percentage, 2,752 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 117 rushing attempts, 677 yards, 17 TDs

Stick has gained some publicity lately, possibly because of superficial comparisons to former Bison standout Carson Wentz.  The opinions of draft analysts I follow are all over the map on Stick so I knew it was inevitable that he would require some study.  As far as measureables and statistics go, Stick is just able to check each box.  He doesn’t posses top tier arm strength, size or speed but he’s good enough all-around for NFL consideration.

My biggest takeaway from my initial introduction to Stick was his accuracy and ball placement.  That was similarly illustrated in the new film I watched against Delaware (a middling Colonial foe).  Stick shows an ability to place the ball with accuracy and anticipation.  This touchdown toss is instructive when you watch it from the broadcast angle and then on replay.  On the reverse angle, you can see that the running back was Stick’s second read.  More impressive, you can see that he releases the ball to the inside of the defender while his target is to the outside and not looking for the ball.  It caught my eye as a good example of throwing a receiver open.

A later throw in the Delaware bout showed that Stick can throw it with accuracy deeper down the field as well.  On this play he has great protection and has forever to throw as he surveys the field.  He finds a receiver 35 yards down the opposite sideline and drops the ball in with a great trajectory over the defender and before the on-rushing safety.

In my opinion, Stick’s rushing totals belie his rushing ability.  He has decent speed and runs with determination but he’s certainly not fast or agile.  The successful rushes against Delaware were fine but I doubt that will be a part of his game at the next level.  One thing that will help him at that next level is the fact that he took snaps from under center in college.  He looks awkward under center, like he’s crouching too low, but having a head start on timing the last step of his drop will be helpful.  As far as his pocket presence is concerned, I felt that Stick was too eager to leave the pocket, specifically to his right.  NFL defenders will be much less likely to lose contain and will be able to chase him down from behind before he gets the corner.  When he did throw while on the run, he showed me average or better accuracy.  As shown above, Stick does have enough arm to make cross-field throws but he will grade behind others in that aspect.  Interestingly for somebody with his strengths, I think he lacked touch on screens and short passes.

When I previewed Stick in my FCS preview this season, I predicted a Day Two grade for him.  I’ll stick to that prediction (pun intended) because quarterbacks are always overdrafted.  In addition to what I’ve discussed, teams will love that Stick was a three-year starter and a two-time champion. Draft Prediction: Rounds 2-3

 

Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis

  • Listed at: 6030/209 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Eastern Washington 2018, Highlights 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 115 receptions, 1,499 yards, 13.0 yards per catch, 7 TDs
    • 2018: 118 receptions, 1,334 yards, 11.3 yards per catch, 9 TDs

Doss followed up a stellar 2017 season with an equally productive 2018 campaign.  He finished in the top five in the FCS in both receptions per game and receiving yards, earning him second team FCS All-American honors by the Associated Press.  When I first previewed Doss, there was no film available besides highlight reels.  Thankfully, his tape against eventual finalist Eastern Washington is now up.  Once I realized this I wanted to dive right in.

Let’s start with the negatives for a change.  I did not see much separation, straight line speed or run after catch from Doss.  Part of that may be on the quarterback throwing with poor placement or anticipation but it appeared, at least partially, on Doss.  (It’s also a small sample size.)  He was inconsistent with using his hands to snag the ball away from his body and his timing was off on some jumps.  This was visible on the play below where Doss needs to make a last second adjustment to make the catch after an awkward leap.  I give him credit for ultimately making the catch but he made it harder on himself than somebody of his size needs to.

I felt like I was nitpicking Doss’s jumping but literally the first play of the 2018 highlight reel I chose showed the same poorly timed leap.  The angle isn’t great, but you can again see that Doss must adjust to the ball while he’s already in the air.  He makes the catch but he should more easily win these targets.

Now onto the positives.  Doss has a big frame that honestly looks bigger than the listed 6030/209.  While that size does not appear to translate to victories in the air, Doss shows that he can use his body to shield defenders from the ball.  In the Eastern Washington game he came across the middle of the field a number of times, including this play that resulted in a first down.  He snatches the ball in the air and brings it into his body with two hands, bracing for the impact of the defender and the ground.

You’ll notice that Doss was lined up in the slot on the above play.  I saw a number of different deployments from him, including coming in motion and taking a jet sweep handoff.  Since I question Doss’s ability to win in the air as an X receiver, being able to succeed from the slot may presage his NFL usage.  If he does play between the numbers, his awareness to find the soft spot of the zone, as he shows below, will be key.

I struggled with who should get the higher draft grade: Doss or Emmanuel Butler (below).  I saw more negatives in Doss’s tape but I had to remind myself that Butler’s tape was two years old and pre-injuries.  Because of that I’ll give Doss the slight advantage heading into the pre-draft process.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 5-6

 

Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona

  • Listed at: 6040/220 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Eastern Washington 2016, Highlights 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2016: 11 games, 69 receptions, 1,003 yards, 14.5 yards per catch, 9 TDs (missed most of 2017 with a shoulder injury)
    • 2018: 9 games, 35 receptions, 676 yards, 19.3 yards per catch, 7 TDs

Unfortunately, Butler’s promise has been partially derailed by injury.  In 2017 he missed most of the season (2 games, 6 receptions) with a shoulder injury that required surgery.  In 2018, he missed time as well after taking a big hit to his midsection.  Since he’s missed time recently and had a disappointing 2018 season, there’s not much hype (or film) for Butler.  Nevertheless, I think fans should keep an eye on Butler because I think he’ll pop-up come training camp.

The lone game available to study was from 2016, before his shoulder injury.  Butler consistently shows his ability to win in the air.  He showcases one of my favorite receiver attributes, being able to go “over and through” a defender as I call it.  By that I mean that Butler is able to outjump the defender and he uses his wingspan to catch the ball in front of the defender; it’s as if he were able to shove his hands through the defender’s midsection.  Here’s a good example of what I mean:

You can also see how strong his hands are on this play.  He has less than ideal hand placement but he’s able to hold onto the ball despite the defender’s arm getting in between.  You can also see that Butler comes down out of bounds which I noticed more than once, so he may not have the body control and spatial awareness of other elite above-the-rim receivers.

My favorite highlight of Butler’s actually came on an interception (and is one I pointed out back in the preseason).  The ball is intercepted with Butler fighting for the ball.  The DB gets up and returns the interception.  Butler hurries to his feet, fights off a block and runs down the streaking defender, saving a likely touchdown.  One of the best hustle plays I’ve ever seen.

I wanted to check-in with some post-injury 2018 film but struggled to find relevant highlights.  The reels I found weren’t dated so I’m not sure which games are featured.  What I saw though validated some of my prior observations, namely that Butler is an acrobatic receiver who can make fantastic catches.  Without further film study it’s hard to gauge Butler’s route running and blocking ability.  From the little I’ve seen, I think he may be below average in both respects.

Butler is a potential steal for a team late in the NFL Draft because of his high ceiling and discounted price due to the injuries.  Sadly, he probably won’t factor into your RSO rookie drafts but you should remember his name just in case he gets an opportunity.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 6-7

Donald Parham, TE, Stetson

  • Listed at: 6080/240 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Highlights 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 10 games, 58 receptions, 817 yards, 14.1 yards per catch, 1 TDs
    • 2018: 9 games, 85 receptions, 1,319 yards, 15.5 yards per catch, 13 TDs

My dude.  I came across Parham in May 2018 while doing some deep sleeper research.  I first profiled him in my 2018 FCS preview and then followed up with an interview, because I just had to learn more.  I thought Parham’s line from 2017, 58/817/1 was impressive, and was blown away when I saw his 2018 numbers.  I really did not expect his production to jump as high as it did (85/1,319/13) but Parham ended up being an first team FCS All-American.  Unfortunately there’s no new film on Parham (thankfully he’ll be at the Senior Bowl) so I’ll have to settle for sharing two highlights I previously shared with my readers.  In the first, you’ll see just how valuable his extra inches are.  In the second, you’ll see what Parham told me was his most memorable football moment, a diving catch against Sacred Heart.

The positive signs for Parham are 1) his production has increased year over year, 2) he’s bulked up nearly 40lbs since his freshmen season and 3) he received that vital Senior Bowl invite.  I fully anticipate that Parham’s stock will increase after the Senior Bowl.  Even if his performance isn’t great, people will be intrigued by somebody with his measureables.  Adam Shaheen went from relative anonymity to second round draft pick in short order in 2017 and I’m expecting a similar rise for Parham.  Like Shaheen, Parham will need time to develop but he’s worth the investment.  I’m calling my shot here: Parham will be drafted on Day Two and he’ll inevitably end up on one of my dynasty teams.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 2-3

 

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.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When writing a full report for a player, I typically pick two games of film to watch.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had 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, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.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, Athlon Sports
  • 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, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: oddsshark.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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