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2021 NFL Draft FCS Sleeper Prospects: Defense

FCS Defensive Sleepers
Craig Forrestal of NFL Draft Diamonds breaks down a list of FCS Sleepers on the Defensive side of the ball

By Craig Forrestal

Heading into the upcoming college football season here are some draft-eligible prospects from the FCS level to be familiar with.

DE: Malik Fisher/Villanova/6ft4/255

  • Fisher hails from New York City a place better known for producing high-end basketball prospects and Fisher had the basketball bug through high school earning 3 varsity letters in football and basketball. Fisher finished 2019 with 30 Tackles, 8.5 TFL, 7 Sacks and 3 FF. Fisher brings a strong playmaking ability off the edge. While he is a quality pass rusher with a solid combination of strength and speed he holds up plenty well in the run game.

DT: Roderick Perry/South Carolina State/6ft2/300

  • South Carolina State has had some serious talent walk through its program over the last handful of years and the DL is no different. Perry waited until 2019 to become a full-time starter and did not disappoint when he got the call. Perry turned in an All-MEAC season for the Bulldogs in 2020 and looks to build upon an impressive season. Perry finished 2019 with 34 Tackles, 14.5 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 1 FF and 1 FR.

DT: Kainoa Fuiava/Idaho State/6ft4/303

  • Fuiava is a BYU transfer and has been steady for the Idaho State defense posting at least 50 Tackles in his 2 seasons as a member of the Bengals program. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky in 2018 adding 5.5 TFL, 2 Sacks and 1 TD. Fuiava posted 4 Sacks and 4.5 TFL in 2019. Fuiava plays with a high motor, he rarely finds himself out of position and shows enough movement skills to be considered as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT.

DE: Anthony Knighton/Southern Illinois/6ft4/260

  • Knighton was a tremendous find for the SIU program. According to his Rivals recruiting profile, Knighton was a 2 Star recruit out of Fort Pierce, FL, but had some serious offers. His offers included Kentucky, Cincinnati, South Florida and a host of others. Knighton explored his options out of high school and after everything shook out he landed with the Salukis. He took a redshirt year in 2016 and has started every game since that redshirt year; 34 straight games. Knighton is one of the most decorated players in SIU history entering his final season and has compiled 34.5 TFL and 21 Sacks. Knighton has a nice early-season matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers to show how he matches up with Power 5 competition.

LB: Dytarious Johnson/Eastern Illinois/6ft1/270

  • Johnson has taken his bumps along the way to becoming one of the most dominant defenders in the Ohio Valley Conference and all of FCS football. During his senior year of high school, Johnson was committed to Michigan but ended up attending Alabama Prep before landing at Eastern Illinois; in what was a remarkable journey Since he set foot on campus, Johnson has been a problem for opposing teams. In 2017 he finished with 53 Tackles, the most by a non-starter. In 2018, he was second on the team with 78 Tackles and started 10 games. Johnson had a strong 2019 earning 2nd Team All-Ohio Valley Conference with 67 Tackles and 13.5 TFL.

LB: Bryson Armstrong/Kennesaw State/5ft11/212

  • While Armstrong will have to fight off doubters due to his size one thing that can’t be ignored is entering your senior season as a 3x All-Big South 1st Team selection. Armstrong has started since the day he set foot on campus and is primed to leave an exclamation point on an already outrageous career. Entering his senior season Armstrong has compiled 284 Tackles, 34.5 TFL, 17 Sacks, 5 INT, 16 PD, 5 FF, 5 FR and 2 Blocks for his career.

LB: Jack Cochrane/South Dakota/6ft3/230

  • Cochrane was high school teammates with Tristan Wirfs, 2019 Tampa Buccaneers 1st Round Pick, in Mount Vernon, IA. He was a big-time high school RB scoring 52 TDs for his career. The plan for Cochrane was to redshirt in 2017, but it was pulled before the Illinois State game and he became a regular part of the special teams and LB units for the remainder of the season. Cochrane registered 82 Tackles in 2018 which was second on the squad. He earned All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors in 2019 after posting 106 Tackles. Cochrane is viewed as an excellent leader and an intelligent player by his teammates and coaches.

CB: Zyon McCollum/Sam Houston State/6ft4/190

  • McCollum was committed to Utah at one point but de-committed and has become a mainstay for the Bearkats. McCollum started 10 games as a true freshman and played in all 14. As a sophomore, McCollum earned 1st Team All-Southland Conference honors and followed it up with 2nd Team honors in 2019 as a junior. McCollum enters his senior season with 39 PD, 9 INT, 4 FF, 2 TD and 109 Tackles. A very unique CB with an extremely long build but will come up and make tackles. His length makes it nearly impossible for QBs to put the ball in the right spot for the WRs.

CB: Mac McCain III/North Carolina A&T/6ft/175

  • McCain is one of the best CBs in all of college football regardless of competition level. He is a 3x All-MEAC selection entering his senior season, and he has proven to have big-play ability with two career 100-yard interception returns for touchdowns. Reports from the program indicate McCain runs an impressive 4.38 in the 40-yard dash while boasting a 34-inch vertical, a 94 ½-inch reach and a 9-foot, 11 ½-inch broad jump.

S: Evan Horn/New Hampshire/6ft/206

  • Horn has started for 2.5 of his 3 seasons as a DB at New Hampshire. Horn brings a dynamic ability to the field as he has 11 career INT and has returned 4 for TDs. Horn has seen his Sacks grow from 1 in 2017 to 2 in 2018 and in 2019 he had 4. Horn led the team in tackles with 70 in 2019 earning 2nd Team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors. A fun fact about Horn is he joined the basketball team in 2017-2018 as a walk-on appearing in 14 games with 2 starts. He made his first career start vs. Maine recording career highs in points (10) and rebounds (6).

S: JaQuez Akins/UT Martin/5ft9/185

  • Akins transferred to UT Martin after playing at East Mississippi CC. In his first season with the Skyhawks, Akins was named All-Ohio Valley Conference 1st Team, selected to Ohio Valley Conference All-Newcomer Team. Akins started all 12 games collecting 92 total tackles. He is an aggressive Safety that will hit you. If he doesn’t bring you down on initial contact he doesn’t give up on the play; oftentimes trying to strip the ball. Akins played both CB and Safety at EMCC.

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