The 2022 NFL Draft has finally arrived, and there are a handful of Michigan State Spartans who are hoping to hear their name called over these next three days.
In 2021, Michigan State's streak of having a player selected in the NFL Draft was snapped at 80 consecutive years, but the program will begin a new streak this weekend.
Star tailback Kenneth Walker III is the headliner for the Spartans, as he's expected to be either the first or second running back taken in this year's draft. If the Doak Walker Award winner is selected in the first round, he'll be the first Michigan State player to be selected in the first round since offensive tackle Jack Conklin (No. 8 overall, Tennessee Titans) in 2016.
However, most publications agree that Walker will be a middle to late second round pick. Both CBS and NFL.com project him to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 55 overall. In addition, Walker has been projected No. 60 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by ESPN, as well as No. 57 overall to the Buffalo Bills by Sporting News.
The Spartans have not had a second round selection since Malik McDowell (No. 35 overall, Seattle Seahawks) in 2017.
After Walker's selection, things will likely go quiet for Michigan State, as the tailback is the only Spartan who is expected to be selected in the first three rounds, which will be revealed Thursday and Friday.
Michigan State has not had more than two players selected in any NFL Draft since 2016, but there are a couple guys who could hear their names called on Saturday, as rounds four through seven are drafted.
The Spartan with the best chance at being selected is wide receiver Jalen Nailor, but there's a wide variation in where Nailor is being projected to land. CBS has Nailor going No. 134 overall to the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round, while ESPN and NFL.com have him going undrafted. The Sporting News has Nailor projected to go No. 196 overall to the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round.
A third player who has generated some buss during the draft process is converted tight end Connor Heyward. While his name did not appear in most mock drafts, NFL.com projects Heyward to be selected No. 208 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round. Connor's brother, Cameron Heyward, is an 11-year veteran of the Steelers, having been drafted by the organization in 2011.
If Heyward were to go undrafted, there's a high chance he will be picked up as an undrafted free agent somewhere around the league.
Several other Michigan State players could also sign contracts as undrafted free agents, starting with offensive linemen Matt Allen, AJ Arcuri, Blake Beuter and Kevin Jarvis. The Spartans also have several defensive guys who could begin professional careers in defensive ends Drew Beesley, Drew Jordan and Jacub Panasiuk, as well as linebacker Noah Harvey.
Also draft eligible are kicker Matt Coghlin, punter Cody Waddell and quarterback Anthony Russo.
The 2022 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 and will continue through Saturday, April 30.