It wasn’t long ago that Duke Football and the NFL Draft had very little chance of being mentioned in the same breath. Times have changed and a turnaround lead by head coach David Cutcliffe and a remarkable group of young men over the last few seasons has made Durham a plausible destination for NFL talent. This week the 2015 installment of the NFL Draft will take place and a handful of former Blue Devil football stars await their professional fate. Whether its through the draft or in post draft and pre camp free agency we should see several more Blue Devils suiting up on Sundays next year.
If the experts are to be believed, two Blue Devils are locks to be selected in this year’s draft with a few more who could be taken in the later rounds or, at the very least, sign free agency contracts and/or receive invites to fall camp.
2015 will mark the third consecutive season the a Duke player has been selected in the NFL Draft. The 2013 draft saw quarterback Sean Renfree selected in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons and in 2014 cornerback Ross Cockrell was selected in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills. 2014 also saw the Denver Broncos sign running back Juwan Thompson and defensive end Kenny Anunike to free agency contracts, although Anunike spent the entire season on IR. While the three year streak of drafted alumni might not sound like much to most premier college football programs it is a huge sign of progress for a Duke program who has emerged from the dark ages as a real player in the college football landscape.
Laken Tomlinson is expected to be the first Blue Devil taken in the draft. Most experts believe he will be one of the first guards taken in this year’s draft, with one projecting him in the first round. Tomlinson has been praised for his high character and intelligence throughout the evaluation process. His numbers while in college speak for themselves. Duke ranked as one of the best teams in the nation in sack percentage during his tenure. The running game improved every season every year, as well. It is well documented that Tomlinson planned to pursue a future in the medical field, but it appears that career will have to wait a little while.
Jamison Crowder will go down as one of the greatest Blue Devils ever and one of the most prolific pass catchers in ACC history. Crowder’s dynamic abilities were on display from day one in Durham. His speed and agility made him an impact player both on offense and special teams. His drive and work ethic have turned him from an undersized wideout with minimal attention from Power 5 schools into an intriguing NFL prospect. Crowder will forever be undersized when it comes to height and strength, but his breakaway speed and route running ability have nearly solidified a spot on an NFL roster. Crowder is expected to be drafted by the fifth round. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level and could also see some opportunities as a punt returner.
Anthony Boone is not expected to have his name called this week as part of the NFL Draft, but should get a look as a free agent and have the opportunity to make an NFL roster or practice squad. While there are limits on his accuracy and his height, he has been praised for his ability to read defenses and his strength in the pocket. Boone has had one of the best QB teachers in the history of football during his time at Duke and looks to continue the line of Cutcliffe students to make the NFL.
Takoby Cofield could receive a look in the sixth or seventh round, but more likely projects to be a free agent acquisition. Cofield was an underrated part of the Blue Devil resurgence. The left tackle held down the opposite side of the line from Tomlinson and did an amazing job of protecting quarterbacks Renfree, Boone, and Connette over the last few seasons. Cofield is considered to be one of the top 20 or so tackles in this year’s draft and, as well all know, no team can have too many offensive linemen.
Running back Josh Snead and wide receiver Issac Blakeney are proven athletes and have good size for their position, it would not be a surprise at all to see them receive an offer in free agency.
The NFL Draft starts Thursday night with the first round taking place at 8 pm EST. Rounds 2 and 3 will be Friday beginning at 7 pm EST. The draft will wrap up with rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday starting at noon.