Once the days of Dri Archer and Traiyon Durham and the rest of the 2012 Kent State Golden Flashes were over, there wasn't a whole lot of hype surrounding the program.
Coach Darrell Hazell left. Spencer Keith left. Archer left. Durham is leaving. They've gone 6-18 since the MAC Championship Game that year, but they still had Casey Pierce.
Pierce was a sophomore that year and only caught one pass for ten yards. A change in the coaching staff with Hazell leaving for Purdue (Kent State has won more games than Purdue has in the past two seasons, by the way) and a promising junior season by Pierce showed that he has some potential to play at a higher level. In 2013, Pierce caught 33 passes for 364 yards with a team-leading five touchdowns.
And then there was his senior season, when he was the offense.
As a fifth-year senior, Pierce led the team in receptions (60), receiving yards (641) and touchdown catches (6). When a tight end is leading a team in all of those categories, it's almost always either because it's still the 1930s or the rest of the offense is just that bad. While a lot of other players may have struggled to put Pierce in a better position to perhaps have better numbers, they were still good enough for him to earn Second Team All-MAC honors after this past season.
Mocking the Draft only has 12 tight ends listed in their NFL Draft rankings for the position, which Pierce is not mentioned. Here's how he compares with some of them:
|Rank||Name (School)||Ht.||Wt.||Games||Catches||Yards||Yards per catch||Yards per game||TD|
|1||Clive Walford (Miami, FL)||6'4"||258 lbs.||48||121||1,753||14.5||36.5||14|
|3||Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State)||6'5"||255||36||35||585||16.7||16.3||5|
|7||Jean Sifrin (UMass)||6'7"||250||11||42||642||15.3||58.4||6|
|12||Rory Anderson (South Carolina)||6'5"||227||43||61||954||15.6||22.2||9|
|NR||Casey Pierce (Kent State)||6'4"||242||45||97||1,040||10.7||23.1||11|
|NR||Tyreese Russell (Eastern Michigan)||6'3"||238||35||101||1,417||14.0||40.5||11|
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Pierce as the 14th best tight end prospect in 2015, 250 overall. They also say that he is projected to be taken in the 7th round of the draft. CBS's projections will tell you the exact same thing. Bleacher Report might have the nicest rankings for Pierce, putting him as their 10th best tight end coming into the draft, ahead of Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman.
Casey Pierce's stock may be greatly influenced by how he performs in practices leading up to and in this Saturday's Reese's Senior Bowl. He and Miami's Quinten Rollins are the only two players from the MAC participating in that game.
It's almost a safe assumption to think that Pierce will be taken in the 7th round of the NFL Draft, but if not, then it's very likely that he'll be taken as an undrafted free agent in the immediate hours following. Teams need guys that can catch the ball, which is something he does very well at.