If you are Husky fan of the youthful variety, some of these names may not resonate with you:
- Jason Chorak
- Jerome Pathon
- Tony Parrish
- Olin Kreutz
- Cam Cleeland
- Fred Coleman
- Rashaan Sheehee
- Benji Olson
- Jerry Jensen
- Jeremy Brigham
These are the names of the 10 Washington Huskies that were drafted throughout seven rounds of the 1998 NFL Draft. Since that day 17 years ago, the Huskies have not had more than five players selected in any NFL Draft. In fact, if you just look at the last 10 years, UW has not had more than two players selected in any one Draft. Two of those years - 2008 and 2009 - produced zero NFL Draftees out of Montlake.
Round 1: Thursday, 8pm ET, ESPN / NFL Network
Round 2-3: Friday 7pm ET, ESPN2 / NFL Network
Round 4-7: Saturday 12pm ET, ESPN / NFL Network
If there is any sign that relays just how far the program fell in the 2000's, it is this one. More so than the parade of coaches. More so than the long, slow decline in overall attendance. More so than the onset of student apathy. Even more so than the Oregon losing streak.
The lack of success that the program has had in getting its players drafted has been the defining characteristic highlighting the depths to which the program has sunk.
Fast forward to today. For the past seven years, the program has benefited from re-invigoration of talent obtained through the recruiting of Steve Sarkisian and, more recently, the development capabilities of Chris Petersen. When the NFL Draft kicks off tonight at 5pm PT, as many as seven Washington Huskies will harbor legitimate hopes of being drafted by an NFL club who is prepared to pay those players to represent their professional franchise.
I realize that by Alabama, USC or Ohio State standards, this is no big deal. But for a Washington program that has been scuffling and trying to recapture faded glory for the past 15 years, it is a big deal. It is a huge deal.
Unlike past seasons where the Huskies might produce a top of the draft talent like a Desmond Trufant or a Jake Locker and then little else, the Huskies have legitimate talent to boast at every level of the draft in 2015.
At the very top of the Draft, the Huskies offer two players who are arguably the top players in their positional categories. Danny Shelton is unquestionably the premiere interior D-Lineman in this year's class and he figures to go in the top 20. His physical dimensions, his keen intellect and his ability to crush a pocket with this strength and explosiveness are all rare traits to find in an interior lineman. He'll be a target for any team that runs a 3-4 and is looking for somebody who can play that traditional 2-gap role starting next season.
Similarly, CB Marcus Peters is a legit first-day candidate and is considered by many to be the top CB in the draft. While he doesn't have the elite athleticism that some others have, Peters boasts some very unique physical skills. His seven foot wingspan attached to his 6'1" frame scream "lockdown corner" and his three years of starting game tape demonstrate that he is both a ball hawk and a reliable tackler. The fact that he has been welcome around campus by Chris Petersen following his mid-season dismissal seems to have answered questions about his behavioral risk and he figures to be one of the first two corners selected in the Draft.
At the mid-tier level of the Draft, the Huskies offer two absolute studs in Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha. Thompson may still sneak into the first round given his athleticism and his demonstrated productivity as a college player. He has been called by just about every analyst the most versatile of all players in the draft and the fact that he can literally play three - if not four (S, OLB, RB and Special Teams) - roles on a team will boost his stock for any team looking to fill multiple gaps.
Kikaha is in a similar situation. His injury risk and lack of elite athleticism dampen his stock somewhat. However, the productivity that he has demonstrated throughout his career - including leading the nation in sacks in 2015 - is a huge factor for NFL executives. Kikaha demonstrates an active motor and outstanding pass rush technique. The fact that he is a Judo champion provides some insight as to where his remarkable balance and violent hand action comes from. Given the value put on pass rushers and his proven productivity, look for Hau'oli to go between the 2nd and 4th rounds.
At the back end of the draft, the Huskies offer several guys who will get looks from NFL scouts. The most likely to be drafted are LB John Timu and WR Kasen Williams. Guys like OL Micah Hatchie, DE Andrew Hudson, DT Evan Hudson, OL Mike Criste and CB Travell Dixon may also get some sniffs by teams that are looking to add guys who either have unique production at the college level or unique physical characteristics that are otherwise hard to find in the free agent market.
When it is all said and done, it is a virtual lock that at least four Huskies will get drafted starting tonight. That number could get up to six or seven if the cards lay out just right. But even if it doesn't get that high, this will most assuredly go down as the most accomplished year for Washington in the NFL Draft in the last 10 years.
And that, my friends, is both a good sign for the program and the beginning (we hope) of more to come in this new era of Husky Football.