East Lansing— In the 2000 NFL draft, Michigan State sent seven players to the next level.
They have had more in the past, but since the draft went to seven rounds, the haul in 2000 has yet to be matched.
That could change this year with as many as 10 Spartans having a shot at being selected.
There seems to be little doubt that defensive tackle Jerel Worthy will be the first Spartan to go, likely late in the first round Thursday night. he would be the first Michigan State player to be taken in the first round since Charles Rogers was taken second overall by the Lions in 2003.
Worthy, who is ranked the fifth-best defensive tackle by NFL.com, has had to overcome the opinion that he didn’t bring 100 percent effort every week. but in the final days before the draft, he seems to have solidified his spot in the opening round, and appears to have a good chance of being selected by the Denver Broncos.
“I know there’s 3-4 — teams that employ 3-4 fronts — that are considering him late in the first round,” Pro Football Weekly draft expert Nolan Nawrocki said. “I fully expect he’ll get interest there and will likely be a late first-round pick.”
It shouldn’t take long after Worthy to hear the next Spartan announced. most analysts have quarterback Kirk Cousins as a solid second-round pick Friday.
Former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden has heaped praise on Cousins.
“He just reminds me of guys that play on Sunday for a living,” Gruden said. “That’s the kind of kid he is, that’s the serious background that he’s had, that’s the future that he wants. He’s a self starter. He’s one of those kids that just won’t take no for an answer. He’s gonna be successful.”
The first two picks of the draft are expected to be quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. after that, it’s a battle and Cousins is right in the mix.
“I think after locking RG3 you’re talking about Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) and then Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State), and Weeden is going to be a 29-year-old rookie, he turns 29 in October,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Really, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins have kind of been vying for those spots behind that top group.
“There are some who think Cousins is going to go in the second round. Philadelphia Eagles reportedly had somewhat of an interest, we’ll see. they have two picks in the second round. Denver, there’s talk about them in the second round maybe looking at quarterback, we’ll see on that. but I think a Kirk Cousins, the fact he’s solid in just about all areas, size-wise, arm strength-wise, adequate enough mobility. And that’s not a strength but adequate enough in terms of his awareness in the pocket to get out of trouble and bide some time.
“But he’s a great kid, great leader, loves the game, passionate worker, studies hard. I think he could go in the second or third round very easily, no worse than the third and possibly the second.”
The run on Michigan State players in the second day of the draft could continue with wide receiver Keshawn Martin. he didn’t have the numbers teammate B.J. Cunningham did at Michigan State, but his versatility has him moving up many boards.
Mike Maycock of NFL.com has Martin ranked the 15th receiver, while Cunningham is 18th.
“Keshawn Martin, you can move him around a lot, as they did at Michigan State,” Kiper said. “Get the ball in his hands. He’s great after the catch in the open field, reverses, the wide receiver screens, all that type of thing they do, return game — all those things Keshawn Martin can help you with. so I think he’s one of those guys in the third, fourth round, will be interesting.
“Cunningham had some drops. I think his consistency improved later in his career. He’s the kind of guy, big target. … He’s got a chance as a Day 3 pick to make a team.”
Safety Trenton Robinson also has impressed during his workouts. Many have him going by the fourth round, and Maycock has him as the sixth-best safety in the draft.
“He’s one of those guys who is a playmaker and he tested out extremely well,” Kiper said. “He’s a guy that you look at as a football player. you don’t look at him and say anything else when you see Trenton Robinson play.”
From that point, the value of MSU’s players vary greatly. some, like Kiper, think tight end Brian Linthicum will get taken late, while NFL.com’s mock draft has teammate Garrett Celek getting selected instead.
Also, running back Edwin Baker is likely to go late on the final day. NFL.com has him rated no. 13. Rounding out Michigan State’s hopefuls are wide receiver Keith Nichol and fullback Todd Anderson. Each has a slim chance of getting selected but should, at the very least, end up in a team’s camp as an undrafted free agent.