Up until last year, the Nebraska Cornhuskers had multiple players drafted every single year of the common draft era (actually the Huskers’ streak went even further back than that). They were the only school to boast that accomplishment.
With 358 players drafted into the NFL and so many more making the leap through undrafted free agency, the Huskers once again have a good shot at having a few players drafted. Let’s take a look:
Lee transferred to Nebraska after two mediocre seasons at Tulane. He has all the physical skills and talent in the world but has major problems with awareness and turnovers.
In his lone season with the Huskers, Lee threw 23 touchdowns to a whopping 16 interceptions. Against Penn State, Wisconsin and an NFL-filled Ohio State defense, Lee threw 65-for-111 for 964 yards and six touchdowns to only one interception.
Then there’s this: Lee stands at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, while also having the largest hands at the combine. The thing with quarterback prospects, if they have a big arm and good size, odds are someone will take a flier on them in the later rounds.
If he lands in the right spot, he could develop nicely and potentially become a quality backup or spot starter. Odds are, however, he ends up on a couple teams for a few years and is then out of the league.
Projected Round: 6-7
Most likely to be the highest drafted player from Nebraska and arguably the best Husker in the draft, Josh Kalu switched from corner to safety for his senior season in Lincoln.
While former defensive coordinator and quote machine Bob Diaco was mostly a dumpster, moving Kalu was the right thing. He is a freak athlete and it showed at the combine, where he had one of the best performances by a defensive back.
While he still needs some technical refinement, he has a killer work ethic to go along with his athleticism. He should be drafted by a team that wants to experiment with his physical traits and see if he can develop into a sub-package player. In the meantime, he can be a stud on special teams.
Projected Round: 5-6
Underwhelming is a word that could be used to describe Nick Gates’ tenure on the Nebraska pipeline. A four-star, top-300 prospect out of high school, Gates played in 35 games over his three years.
While he was arguably the most consistent offensive tackle, he never developed into anything special. Whether this was due to a lacking strength and conditioning program to help him or simply a lousy work ethic, Gates decided to bolt before his senior year.
He has good quickness, but his length and lack of technique may force a kick inside to guard. He should hear his name called on Day 3 to a team looking for a swing backup.
Projected Round: 6-7
The Priority Free Agents
While he has the namesake (his brothers both kicked for extended periods in the NFL), Drew Brown’s leg leaves a lot to be desired for the next level. He’s got good accuracy, but he’ll most likely be a camp leg, unless he added some power to his arsenal.
When I say priority, I really mean it for Chris Jones. Before his meniscus injury, Jones was on track to be a Day 2 prospect. Unfortunately, he rushed back from the injury and it showed a little.
While he was still a good defender, his athleticism (which was already his weakness) left some to be desired. However, he has only gotten healthier and regained his athleticism since then. I think he will be on a roster well into the preseason and make a practice squad at the very least.
Injuries robbed him of all but five games his sophomore year. His junior and senior year were both pedestrian, with only glimpses of what he was his first season.
I think he will get a shot to be a return man in the league, but if he can’t show something else, it won’t last long. But watch out for DPE.
Next Week: My spring football roster breakdown FINALLY resumes with a look at the once-vaunted Nebraska pipeline.