NFL Draft Should Be More Accommodating to the Huskies Than Last Year's

The UW should have four selections over the next three days, double that of 2020.
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For the 2020 NFL draft, Jacob Eason sat on a couch at his parents' home in Lake Stevens, Washington, watching the televised coverage. We know this because an ESPN camera periodically showed the quarterback expressionless after pick after pick was revealed without his name being called.

Labeled early on as a late first-rounder, Eason was supposed to be one of several University of Washington players drafted, with some of his teammates going so far as to opt out of the Las Vegas Bowl to protect their interests.

Yet once the talent grab was over, the Husky QB had slipped all the way to the final day and the fourth round, to the 122nd player chosen, not what anyone or least of all he expected. Center Nick Harris was the only other UW taken, going a round later. Another half-dozen went ignored.

This proved to be a major disappointment for both the players and the school, certainly a big marketing setback for a UW football program promoted as a place that will get you to the NFL.

On Thursday, the latest group of draft-eligible Huskies await their fate. By all accounts, they will go much higher and in larger amounts this time. Defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, outside linebacker Joe Tryon and defensive back Elijah Molden each have turned up in mock drafts as potential first-rounders, certainly high-round picks, with cornerback Keith Taylor mentioned as a possible fifth-round choice.

ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network each will televise the draft, which begins with the first round on Thursday, beginning at 5 p.m.; continues into Friday with rounds 2 and 3, beginning at 4 p.m.; and concludes on Saturday with rounds 4 through 7, opening at 9 a.m., all times in the Pacific Time Zone.

On Wednesday morning, UW coach Jimmy Lake relayed how an NFL general manager, who he didn't identify, called him and confirmed that pro scouts like what they see in these current players.

‘Well coach, you guys did it again," the executive informed Lake. "You have a bunch of guys that are about to get their names called early in the draft. Congratulations. You guys do it the right way."

Lake took this compliment to become overly sarcastic in the face of critics who have panned his latest recruiting efforts, with his most recent class composed of just 15 players and drawing a No. 36 national ranking.

“I just love when I see stuff like that," the coach said, goading his media audience some. "When you guys write our story about whatever signing class we sign in December, it’s going to be awesome. We’ll probably be in like 15th place in the Pac-12 or something like that. We’ll be dead last. And then we’ll have probably half the guys get drafted and get developed and play a long time in the NFL."

For now, the intrigue is not if these Huskies will get drafted, but who comes first. Onwuzurike has shown up the most in mock as a first-rounder. Tryon has reached the the highest first-round draft position, 23rd. Molden is the son of a former first-rounder.

From all of the nonstop analysis surrounding the draft, Onwuzurike stands the best chance of going in the opening round, though it's hardly a lock. 

More than one prognosticator has the 2019 first-team All-Pac-12 recipient going on the final pick at No. 32 to the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and joining former Huskies Vita Vea and Benning Potoa'e, also defensive linemen. 

Tryon, a 2019 second-team All-Pac-12 choice, seems more likely a second-day pick, as a high second-rounder, with the New York Giants' No. 42 selection mentioned as his landing place multiple times.

Molden, as productive as he's been as a two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 choice, likely slides a bit from the prognosticators' best bets for him. The multi-skilled DB has been mentioned most often going to the Buffalo Bills, who have pick No. 61 near the end of the second round.

That leaves Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback. His enticing length in coverage is offset by the fact he didn't intercept a pass for the Huskies or earn any all-conference mention. He'll likely be a third-day pick-up, pegged by some as going to the San Francisco 49ers with the 117th selection in the latter half of the fourth round.

Other Huskies who have put their name in the draft, but will be hard-pressed to get selected are defensive tackle Josiah Bronson and quarterback Kevin Thomson. They'll likely receive a free-agent opportunity somewhere.

A year ago, the UW went 0-for-121 before Eason came off the board. The Huskies could have four taken at that stage this time. 

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

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