The NFL Draft is this Thursday and again this year there are some Blue Devils waiting to see if they will get there shot in the NFL.
One Blue Devil is a lock to find an NFL home, while several others will find out if their opportunity will come via the draft or as a free agent.
Jeremy Cash is the one Duke player guaranteed to hear his name called in the NFL Draft. The star safety had a stellar career in Durham and turned down an opportunity to enter the NFL early after last season. His senior season was his best yet. He won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and made the most of his last season, showcasing his superb tackling skills, often playing like an additional linebacker.
Cash has the ability to make an instant impact on whichever team selects him this week. CBS Sports ranks Cash as the fourth best safety prospect and predicts him to go in the third round. NFL.com predicts cash to go in the fourth round, while other mocks have shown him going as early as the second round.
Cash will do best on a team with a scheme that allows him to play primarily in the box and focus on stopping the run and underneath routes.
There are a few Blue Devils who could see their name called by the end of the draft but at the very least can expect to receive a call as a free agent and have the chance to make a team in camp.
It’s not often kickers and punters entertain the idea of being drafted, but Duke seniors Ross Martin and Will Monday both had impressive careers in Durham and are looking to continue playing football in the NFL.
CBS Sports ranks Martin as the third best kicker in the draft. A four year starter, Martin finished his career near the top in ACC history in total points and field goals made. Martin could be a late round selection, but will almost certainly be picked up as a free agent if he isn’t. The same can be said for Will Monday. CBS Sports has Monday as the fifth best punter in the draft. It is unlikely that his name will be called this weekend at the draft, but he should get an opportunity to show what he has in camp.
First Team All-ACC center, Matt Skura also has a realistic chance of making an NFL roster. Ranked as the 7th best center in the draft class, Skura is also a potential late round selection. Not only does Skura have the individual accolades that draws attention from NFL front office folks, but Duke’s offensive line ranked as one of the best in the country during his tenure. Skura was a three year starter on an offensive line that seldom gave up a sack or tackle for a loss.
A few other Blue Devils will also be waiting to see if a potential pro career awaits them. Max McCaffrey had an excellent pro day, showcasing speed that not many had seen from him before. His catching ability and pedigree is already well known, so McCaffrey should receive a call in free agency.
Braxton Deaver was granted a sixth year of eligibility after an injury in the 2014 offseason. Deaver never really regained his form last year, but if he is indeed healthy now, certainly has the athletic ability to have a professional career as a tight end. Running back Shaq Powell could also see some interest from NFL teams. Powell never had jaw dropping stats because of the Blue Devils running back by committee approach, but has shown the power and strength to hang with elite defenders.
Last year saw two Blue Devils selected in the NFL Draft, in Laken Tomlinson and Jamison Crowder. Duke could match that against this year, but at the very least should see a few more names pop up on spring and summer rosters across the league. The growing number of former Duke players in the NFL shows no signs of slowing down.