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Carson Wentz and Non-Division 1/FBS Top Ten Picks

North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz may be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft this year, although a number of mocks also have him falling outside of the top ten, too. It’s early in draft season, but I thought it would be fun to look at just how weird it would be to have someone from NDSU be selected in the top ten.

The table below shows all players drafted in the top ten since 1967 (the first year of the common draft) from non-Division 1 or FBS schools. The last? Steve McNair, who played at Alcorn State, back in 1995.

YearNamePickPosSchoolAV
1995Steve McNair3QBAlcorn State100
1991Eric Swann6DTWake Technical CC46
1979Phil Simms7QBMorehead State91
1976James Hunter10DBGrambling State42
1975Walter Payton4RBJackson State128
1975Robert Brazile6LBJackson State86
1975Gary Johnson8DTGrambling State72
1974Too Tall Jones1DETennessee State97
1974Waymond Bryant4LBTennessee State28
1973Wally Chambers8DTEastern Kentucky55
1972Lionel Antoine3TSouthern Illinois14
1972Jerome Barkum9TEJackson State63
1971Dan Pastorini3QBSanta Clara55
1971Richard Harris5DEGrambling State27
1971Joe Profit7RBLouisiana-Monroe5
1971Frank Lewis8WRGrambling State60
1971Isiah Robertson10LBSouthern (LA)110
1970Terry Bradshaw1QBLouisiana Tech106
1970Ken Burrough10WRTexas Southern67
1968Claude Humphrey3DETennessee State92
1968Haven Moses9WRSan Diego State61

One can also include Marty Domres, drafted by the Chargers with the 9th pick in 1969 out of Columbia, as the Ivy League probably should be included in this group for these purposes.

  • sacramento gold miners

    North Dakota State could beat many FBS programs, which is one of the differences between them and programs like Alcorn State. And there’s no doubt the major schools missed out on great talent in the 60s and 70s, with programs like Grambling State taking advantage. One of the reasons for the success of the AFL was their ability to recruit players from smaller colleges.

    • Well, that may be true, but I don’t think that’s relevant when talking about these sorts of players. If anything, that makes Wentz even more unique. Jay Cutler played for a Vanderbilt team that went 2-9 and 2-10 two years; this NDSU team is really good relative to its level of competition, while that Vandy team was really bad. But that made life tougher for Cutler, while it makes life easier for Wentz.

      The uniqueness for a player like Wentz is that he wasn’t playing in big college stadiums, against top level opponents and coaches. The schemes he faced were, arguably, less complex than the defenses at higher levels. Wentz also didn’t have access to a big weight program or all the parts of major college football. His team may have been really good, but he was still playing against guys who are about to be bankers and lawyers, not NFL players. I think that’s the “issue” when analyzing a player like Wentz, not whether his team was good or bad.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Agree about the difficulty of NFL prospects from smaller level schools having to adjust to the NFL, I was trying to bring up the uniqueness of NDSU as compared with an Alcorn State, or other programs where only one player is NFL caliber. The Bison have a number of NFL prospects, and they just beat a Jacksonville State team with a number of SEC transfers for their fifth straight national title. The upper crust of FCS is very close to the FBS level, Georgia Southern has made a smooth transition as well.

        If Wentz were a D2 guy, then we’d be talking about a huge transition, but I think one of the reasons he’s so highly regarded is the impressive level of NDSU. In recent years, FCS schools have been more competitive with FBS programs. The Patriots drafted a FCS QB very high recently, and he might turn out to be Brady’s successor.

      • Richie

        “The uniqueness for a player like Wentz is that he wasn’t playing in big college stadiums”

        It’s always funny when they talk about guys like Wentz. In my head, I’m picturing him playing in a big stadium. But then they show highlights of a rickety stadium with fewer fans than a typical high school game and playing during the daylight.

    • Richie

      You hinted at an interesting footnote. Some (most?) of the guys who were drafted from black colleges probably wouldn’t have been attending black colleges if they played in more recent times.

      For instance, I have no idea how good Walter Payton was in high school. But if he had been born 20 (or even 10) years later, would he have gone to Jackson State, or would he have gone to LSU?

      According to Wikipedia, Payton went to an all-black school that was desegregating while he was there, and merged with another high school. His head coach from the black school was relegated to assistant and Payton boycotted some practices. So it looks like, due to race relations, he did not get to sail into a D-1 school like he might have if he was born later.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Yes, those were some really backward times, it wasn’t until 1972 when the SEC had every school with at least one black player. Countless deserving players weren’t even recruited by the major programs because of their race, especially in the south.

        Also interesting to see only four busts in the 21 picks listed above. Two were picked by Chicago, but as you mentioned, the Bears more than made up for it with Payton’s selection.

  • mrh

    If you can play, you can play. There was some guy I saw play WR in the 80s at a (then) Div IAA school. He played in sort of a gadget offense that threw a lot so it was really hard to judge if he was good, or the competition was bad, or it was just the offense. He didn’t go in the Top 10 in the draft so he’s not on the list above . But I recall he turned out to be pretty good. Wish I could remember his name…

    • Richie

      “If you can play, you can play.”

      Definitely. But I think the difficulty is understanding if he CAN play. When you see a guy killing the competition at a small school, the question is if he is actually good, or if he is just playing against guys who are not good.

      • mrh

        Yeah, I know. But if you assumption is that he is playing against guys who are not good, isn’t it also the assumption that the guys he is playing WITH are not good? To put it another way, the opposite of Alabama’s line making Trent Richardson LOOK good.
        I really have no idea whether Wentz is good or not. And I realize that on average FCS players aren’t as good as FBS players. But to me the better question might be, since NCAA Div I/FBS fully integrated (1975? 1978?), how many lower division players SHOULD have been drafted in the Top 10.
        Obviously the GOAT is one.

        • MR AWESOME

          I think you are 80 or 90% right.

          However, in my opinion, the question also then becomes how big of an advantage is being better than average over inferior competition (yet also playing with inferior players) etcetera.

          So for example; Yes. The player might “only” face Sunbelt defensive front sevens in college. And Yes. The player might “only” have Sunbelt offensive blocking schemes helping them. (And so the argument you and others are making is that the hole size would be the same.)

          My question though is how much longer are those holes open just because neither the normal offensive helping or normal defensive hindering players are very fast etcetera.

    • MR AWESOME

      Obviously overrated since I think he ran a 4.6 time 40 dash at the combine.

  • Four Touchdowns

    With Phil Simms, Steve McNair and Terry Bradshaw there, it looks like he’d be in good company.

  • Tim Truemper

    Tennessee State is well represented/ Claude Humphrey and Too Tall Jones!

  • Stathistorian

    FYI–1967 Gene Upshaw, former Oakland Raiders LG and NFLPA Executive Director was the 17th overall selection in the 1967 Common Draft (the first between the NFL and AFL.)

    Also, in 1969, Columbia (as the other Ivy League schools) were classified as a Major College.