College Football

Offensive linemen stand out in FCS draft class

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Delaware safety Nasir Adderley is expected to be the first FCS player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft and North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick is the most well-known.

Where NFL teams are putting a lot of attention is the offensive line. There's a strong crop of FCS prospects working in the trenches.

About a half-dozen of the O-linemen are expected to be drafted and a bunch more will be signed to free agent contracts shortly after the three-day event ends on April 27.

Headlining the list of big men in a number of projections is 6-foot-5, 322-pound tackle Tytus Howard of Alabama State. A high school tackle who entered college as a tight end, Howard is lauded for his athleticism and ability to seal the edge of the line. He's generally viewed with a third-round grade.

NFL.com describes Howard as an, "Ascending tackle prospect who will require additional work with technique and in the weight room to fully realize his potential. Howard is a gifted athlete with rare quickness and fluidity as both a run and pass blocker and his play issues are correctable with more work. While he will be dinged for level of competition, his upside was on full display with his play against Auburn. He needs development, but he's much more than a developmental prospect and could find a starter's spot within his first two years."

Elon's Oli Udoh (6-5½, 323) has similar size and an identical 85 1/8-inch wingspan as Howard and can squat over 600 pounds. Morgan State's Josh Miles (6-5, 314), Villanova's Ethan Greenidge (6-4½, 327), who had labrum surgery in January, and Tennessee State junior-eligible Chidi Okeke (6-6, 315) also are draft candidates, while Idaho State's Brian Fineanganofo (6-5½, 302) and Villanova's Brandon Hitner (6-6, 311) are highly regarded as well.

The prospects at offensive guard are strong with Weber State's Iosua Opeta (6-4, 301), Southeast Missouri's Drew Forbes (6-4, 306) and Jacksonville State's B.J. Autry (6-3, 351) - all STATS first-team All-Americans as seniors. Southern Utah's Marquez Tucker (6-3, 297) also have risen rankings in the buildup to the draft.

Among centers are two talents out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, North Dakota State Tanner Volson, North Dakota State (6-4, 291), also a first-team All-American, and Youngstown State's Vitas Hrynkiewicz (6-2½, 309).

"This offensive line group is very deep," said noted small-school draft analyst Josh Buchanan. "Just from FCS, I feel like five are definite draft picks with Forbes, Udoh, Opeta, Howard and Miles all getting drafted for sure. Then you have the Villanova tackle duo and Okeke from Tennessee State who are possible seventh round or good PFA (priority free agent) signings. Of the draftable linemen, all but Miles has run under a 5.10 40(-yard dash)."

Updated April 15, 2019

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