This week, we head back to the SWAC for the small-school prospect of the week. Arkansas-Pine Bluff travels to Tallahassee for a showdown with Isaiah Land and Florida A&M.
There’s not much on the line for UAPB except to play the role of spoiler as the home team Rattlers are likely to get a bid for the FCS playoffs. Team rankings aside, this game offers one of the best head-to-head matchups of next-level NFL draft prospects we will see all weekend.
Isaiah Land a Known Commodity and Potential Top-100 Pick?
Entering the season, Florida A&M edge rusher Isaiah Land was the internet darling of the draft world, with some projecting him as a potential top-100 prospect. He entered his senior season off a monster 2021 campaign in which he totaled 19 sacks, 25.5 tackles for loss, and six quarterback hurries.
Land was a constant nuisance for opposing quarterbacks and consistently blew up game plans with his ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage and crash into the backfield. He’s an athletic defender expected to time in the 4.6-second range during workouts prior to the draft.
Land translates that speed onto the football field as he’s fast off the edge, shows speed pursuing the action from the backside, and covers a lot of area on the field. He can make plays in space and easily moves his frame laterally — or in reverse — chasing the action.
Fundamentally sound, Land fires off the snap with a great first step, plays with proper pad level getting leverage on opponents, and he’s a terrific technician with his hands. He plays with balance, body control, and great intensity, hustling around the field to make the tackle.
What he lacks is next-level size. His program weight is 6’4″ and 225 pounds, but scouts tell me Land is almost an inch shorter and 10 to 15 pounds lighter.
What do you do with a small-school edge rusher who will ultimately measure a fraction over 6’3″ and may weigh less than 220 pounds? Where will Land end up in the draft? More importantly, where does he line up on the field on Sunday?
It’s the main reason I have a sixth-round grade on Land, which is a full round earlier than southeast scouts I’ve spoken with who project him as a late-seventh-round pick. The senior is off to a slow start this season, though it’s not entirely his fault. An administrative error caused by FAMU left Land’s eligibility at the start of the season uncertain.
Land retained a lawyer to ensure his availability but still missed one game. Through six games, Land has posted three sacks, six tackles for loss, and six hurries.
The game against UAPB offers a huge challenge for Land as he’ll be facing offensive tackle Mark Evans, a small-school prospect I highlighted just two weeks ago. I have Evans graded almost two rounds earlier than Land (as do NFL scouts).
Evans has an 80-pound advantage on the speed-rushing Land, who’ll have an opportunity to prove size doesn’t matter!
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