(Photo of Roger Goodell: Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At long last, the 2021 NFL Draft is finally here. Mock draft and big board season is now behind us, and soon we will find out where the top talents in college football will be heading to start their professional careers.
For the Louisville football program, nine players declared for this year's iteration of the draft in hopes of hearing their name called. Out of that group; wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick, and running back Javian Hawkins are the former Cards who have the highest chance of getting selected.
Atwell is widely expected to be the first of the three taken off the board. His blazing speed and yards after catch potential has made him one of the top wide receiver prospects in the draft. Atwell has drawn numerous comparisons to former first round pick Marquise Brown, and he himself is creeping up into potential first round territory. While many are reserved about his 5-foot-9, 155-pound frame, he is not one of them.
Related: Tutu Atwell 2021 NFL Draft Profile
Hawkins is not nearly as highly regarded as Atwell, but is still projecting to be either a late day two (rounds 2-3) or at least an early day three (rounds 4-7) selection. Another undersized prospect at 5-foot-8, 183-pounds, his top-tier elusiveness and second level speed is what will get him drafted. He even had a chance to display his versatility during his Pro Day to further boost his draft stock.
Fitzpatrick is largely expected to be the third and final former Cardinal to be taken in the draft, but pundits don't seem to agree on his standing. Even after a stellar offseason that grew his draft stock, some have the 6-foot-2, 208-pound wideout as high as a third-round selection in mocks, while others have him completely undrafted.
As for the other six Cards who have declared for the draft - tight end Ean Pfeifer, defensive lineman Jared Goldwire, inside linebacker Dorian Etheridge, outside linebacker Rodjay Burns, cornerback Marlon Character and safety Isaiah Hayes - they still have a chance to make an NFL roster even if they aren't drafted. They will have the opportunity to sign with any team they choose as an undrafted free agent, or UDFA, following the end of the draft if they go unselected.
"(Going undrafted) doesn't mean they can't make it into the NFL," ESPN analyst Jim Mora told Louisville Report last month. "If their agents do a good job, and their agents place them in a spot where there's a need for their position, and they go out and perform in OTA's, minicamp, training camp and get into preseason games, and show that they have some qualities that can help that team win, they're going to make a roster."
The 2021 NFL Draft will begin with round one on Thursday, Apr. 29 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Rounds 2-3 will start on Friday, Apr. 30 at 7:00 p.m. EST, and rounds 4-7 on Friday, May 1 starting at 12:00 p.m. EST. The entire draft will be on ESPN and the NFL Network.
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