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15 in '15: The 2015 NFL draft consists of four Washington Huskies (and a bunch of other guys)

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With a spectacular showing at last year's NFL draft, Washington Football made the biggest statement so far that it is returning to relevancy.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from a winless 2008 campaign, nothing exemplifies the depths to which the Washington Husky football program plunged during the Keith Gilbertson/Tyrone Willingham years more than this shameful fact: Not a single Husky was selected in the NFL draft - in any round - in 2008 or 2009. Expand that out to include the 2006, 2007, and 2010 seasons, and you have a total of just five players drafted, with Donald Butler being the highest selection at #79 overall (mid-3rd round).

In fact, until Jake Locker was drafted in 2011 with the 8th overall selection, no Husky was taken in the top 50 picks since Reggie Williams (9th overall) and Tank Johnson (47th) in 2005.

Well said, Ross Perot, well said.

Following Locker's selection, UW didn't exactly set the world on fire in the 2012-2014 NFL drafts either. Just five Huskies were taken during those three years. Things were on a slight upward trajectory however, as those five players included a first-round pick (Desmond Trufant) and a pair of second rounders (Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey).

You can look at the Huskies 2015 draft class a couple ways:

Four players selected; that's respectable, but hardly newsworthy. USC and Stanford had six. Oregon and Oregon State had five.

or

Four players selected; three in the first round and one high in the second round. That's unprecedented for UW, and quite newsworthy.

Being drafted is a great honor for any college football player. It signals a solid chance to make the team and compete for playing time. And even if the player is cut, the fact that he was on one team's draft board means other teams likely saw something, and signing with another NFL squad is a good possibility.

If the player is lucky enough to be drafted in the 3rd round, he might be looking at as much as a half-million in guaranteed money to come to camp and compete. Work hard, make the team, pay your dues as a backup or special teams player, and one day you may sign that lucrative contract. One that can make all the dangers of playing pro football worthwhile, and give a player the financial security that millions of guaranteed dollars can provide.

Compare that to being drafted high in the second round, where you are a virtual cinch to make the team, play regularly, and sign a contract worth around $3-5 million guaranteed before you even step on the practice field.

Those 32 players fortunate enough to be selected as first round draft picks? Unless you are a QB, you will likely be a starter. And money-wise? Well, as you will see below...plenty of that.

Danny Shelton, DT (Rd 1 Pick 12) Cleveland

Contract: $11.7 Million (All Guaranteed)

Recruited by: Johnny Nansen

Shelton was brought in to improve the NFL's worst run defense from 2014. He did exactly that. The Browns "leaped" from 32nd to 30th. Okay, he didn't do much there. It's only been one season, but some in Cleveland are already calling him a bust. I'm going to ignore that. Despite only registering 36 tackles and zero sacks, Shelton has impressed his defensive line coach in Cleveland, and did stay healthy for all 16 games, starting 15. Besides that, who can forget when he picked up Roger Goodell and bear hugged him on the draft stage.

Marcus Peters, CB (Rd 1, Pick 18) Kansas City

Contract: $9.6  Million (All Guaranteed)

Recruited by: Nick Holt & Demetrice Martin

All Peters did in his rookie season was intercept 8 passes (tops in the NFL), take two of them back for TDs, make 60 tackles, and defense 26 passes. Tack on AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, 2nd team All Pro, and an invite to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, and I'd say Kansas City is happy with their draft value. What does he do for an encore? Probably get picked on a lot less; he did allow seven touchdown receptions.

Shaq Thompson, LB (Rd 1, Pick 25) Carolina

Contract: $8.8  Million ($7.2 Guaranteed)

Recruited by: Tosh Lupoi

Thompson played in all but two of the Panthers' games, starting 10 in the regular season and all three playoff games, including Super Bowl 50 where he made five tackles. That stat is a bit misleading, since his "starts" were on special teams. Carolina is stacked on defense and especially at the linebacker position, so cracking the starting lineup on defense will take time. Panthers fans are excited about Shaq as an heir apparent to some of Carolina's aging defensive players.

Hau'oli Kikaha, LB (Rd 2, Pick 12 - 44 Overall), New Orleans

Contract: $5.25 Million ($2.75 Guaranteed)

Recruited by: Nick Holt & Johnny Nansen

Kikaha had an impactful rookie campaign, notching four sacks, forcing four fumbles, and recovering another. He played in 15 games, starting 11. After a mid-season ankle injury, his playing time declined, though there is another theory that it had more to do with a coaching change on defense.

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The 2016 draft is likely to feature only two draftees in Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton, both of whom had very strong NFL Combine performances. 2017 and 2018, however, could see a mass exodus of purple and gold from Montlake to NFL rosters.