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Three former MAC stars who transferred as graduates sign on with NFL teams as UDFA’s

Just as the NFL Draft treated former MAC transfers nicely in 2020, the UDFA route also produced a handful of signees with former MAC experience.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL Draft was unique for a number of reasons, but the most prevalent takeaway was that the prospects with more film to glean were selected, while those from smaller schools who didn’t get a chance to have pro days or play in an exhibition bowl game were hurt.

This showed itself in a big way over the weekend, as the MAC finished with its lowest amount of draft picks since 1996, and eclipsed its previous record for lowest debut on the draft board (also in 1996,) while three former MAC prospects who transferred were drafted, including two who transferred to Power Five schools in Mike Danna (CMU to Michigan) and KJ Osborn (Buffalo to Miami [FL].)

Some other former MAC star transfers who declared for the NFL draft did manage to find their way onto rosters via the UDFA route, with at least three former MAC stars signing contracts with teams after their graduate transfer year.

James Gilbert, who finished his career at Kansas State as a starting running back, signed with the Los Angeles Rams. The five-foot-nine, 198 lb. running back finished the 2019 season on the all-Big 12 honorable mention team, leading the Wildcats with 737 rushing yards and six touchdowns (second on the team.) Prior to his arrival in Manhattan, Kansas, the Indianapolis, Indiana native rushed for 2,806 yards and 30 touchdowns at Ball State, gaining first-team all-MAC honors in his freshman season after a 1,332 yard, 12 touchdown campaign.

RIley Neal, who finished his career at Vanderbilt as their starting quarterback, signed with the Denver Broncos. Neal had a tough go of it in Nashville, finishing the year with 1,585 passing yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions in his graduate year, starting in 10 of his 11 appearances. Prior to his transfer, Neal, a Yorkton, Indiana native, was a starter for Ball State, finising his career in Cardinal and White with 7,393 yards, 46 touchdowns and 25 interceptions through the air, and 1,363 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns.

Former Buffalo TE Tyler Mabry, who finished his career at Maryland, signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Mabry was a contributor to a rebuilding Maryland squad, primarily as a blocker, but also finished with 13 receptions for 155 yards and three touchdowns. Mabry, who stands at six-foot-four, 248 lbs., was the first Maryland tight end to catch touchdowns in three consecutive games since Vernon Davis (2005) and first Maryland receiver at any position to do so since DJ Moore (2017.) The Ypsilanti, Michigan native was a bit of a surprise transfer in 2019, as the three-year starter was a first-team all-MAC selection in 2018 coming off a career year, finishing with 27 receptions for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his career in Buffalo with 567 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 60 receptions.