No first rounders this year
In 2013, we got to see Eric Fisher be the first overall pick out of Central Michigan to help out the Kansas City Chiefs' front line. He wasn't a quarterback. He wasn't somebody from a Power 5 school. He was just the best player in the Draft. Year after that, Khalil Mack was the fifth to hear his name be called by the Oakland Raiders. The stud linebacker tore it up in Buffalo and became the guy that should've won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Jimmie Ward, a safety from Northern Illinois, had his name called by the San Francisco 49ers with the 30th overall pick that round too.
It's not the craziest thing in the world to hear three MAC players' names be heard in the first round of the NFL Draft, but even the casual fan knows that it's also not something that happens with much regularity. Since Chad Pennington was the 18th overall pick in 2000, six players from the MAC have been first round picks between then and 2013 (Byron Leftwich in 2003, Ben Roethlisberger and Jason Babin in 2004, Joe Staley in 2007, Larry English in 2009 and Muhammad Wilkerson in 2011).
To hear MAC players names be called on the first day is exciting. There weren't any projections to have any MAC guys go in the first round this year, and rightfully so. Sometimes the MAC doesn't provide the absolute best football talents whereas schools in the SEC or Big Ten or Pac-12 probably will.
Only four from the MAC were drafted
Quinten Rollins was the first MAC prospect taken. Right in the neighborhood of where Rollins was projected to go as the 62nd overall pick, 62 picks higher than anybody would've expected last year when he made the transition from basketball to football. Last year's MAC Defensive Player of the Year made noise in the NFL right away and though Rollins might not have the biggest impact on their defense next year, he'll certainly be given an opportunity to do so.
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More NFL Draft
When it came to making predictions and mock drafts, a lot of people tried to connect the dots and say "Aha! Rollins will be the MAC player that the Pittsburgh Steelers want this year!" Instead, CMU defensive tackle Leterrius Walton would be the defensive help that the Steelers would take from the MAC, their fourth defensive Draft selection. Fun fact: Antonio Brown was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round (195 overall) of the 2010 Draft.
The Seattle Seahawks, mostly known as the team that has the "Legion of Boom" and a Pete Carroll-coached team that didn't hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, took Kristjan Sokoloji out of Buffalo in the latter end of the sixth round. The Seahawks actually took Sokoloi as a project pick rather than being taken as a prospect. In 2012, Seattle picked J.R. Sweezy from North Carolina State in the seventh round when he was known for being a defensive tackle for the Wolfpack, but is now their starting right guard on the offensive line. Sokoloji was a defensive lineman for Buffalo, but the Seahawks have those same plans to put Sokoloji on the offensive side of the line.
The final MAC draftee was a wide receiver. It wasn't Titus Davis though, it was Da'Ron Brown from Northern Illinois. The Chiefs took Fisher in 2013 to block for the quarterback, now they have a MAC player for him to throw to.
That's right, Titus Davis went undrafted
Take stats out of it. NFL caliber footwork, quickness and route running. Good enough athlete with no drop concerns. Nobody wants that guy?— Jim Costa (@JimCosta_) May 2, 2015
Davis eventually got himself a job and signed with the San Diego Chargers, but this caught a lot of us off guard. If there was going to be one offensive player from the MAC taken in the Draft this year, it was surely to be Titus Davis. Despite what he measures, despite his lack of athleticism as eyed out by scouts (per Dan Kadar in our podcast), he's still been extremely productive for the Chippewas. However, the Chiefs ultimately found more value in grabbing Brown in the seventh round over Davis.
Let's not forget that the Chargers also picked up Branden Oliver as an undrafted free agent last year and he had a better rookie year than anybody had expected him to have. If Davis can prove his worth and make it onto the 53-man roster next season and he becomes really good friends with Phillip Rivers (who might be getting a contract extension) then he'll still have the chance to produce for his NFL team as anticipated.
Thomas Rawls, Greg Mancz, Jahwan Edwards and others taken as UDFAs
The two top running backs out of the MAC were taken as undrafted free agents. Jahwan Edwards found himself a job signing with the Chargers and Thomas Rawls would find himself a job with the Seahawks. Greg Mancz, the center for Toledo, has some concerns regarding injury but is going to be with the Houston Texans. Cameron Stingily, a stocky running back prospect from Northern Illinois, is an additional MAC pickup for the Steelers in the signing period.
We're keeping up with all of the players being signed, so be sure to follow our tracker throughout the process.
Again, only four players were taken in the draft
Four players from a team to go to the NFL Draft is really good, but we're talking about the collective talents from 13 teams. Since 2000, there have been 111 MAC players that were selected in the NFL Draft, seven of which were first rounders. Having only four players taken for the whole draft isn't the worst that the MAC has had, but it's definitely down there. Keeping things in the 2000's, the 2001 NFL Draft only featured three MAC players, as did the 2011 draft (two in the 2011 draft were from Temple).
Since 2000, the MAC has produced about 7 or 8 draftees each year, but that's only the average. Like these few low years, we'll also find some good years that surround. Though most of them were from Marshall and Central Florida, the 2003 Draft had nine players come from the MAC. The 2008 Draft also had nine MAC draftees like defensive end Jason Jones (EMU) and running back Jalen Parmele (Toledo). Or even the 2009 class with 10 total players taken (five through the first three rounds) like Louis Delmas (WMU), Michael Mitchell (Ohio), T.J. Lang (EMU) and Julian Edelman (Kent State). But the 2005 is still the best one on the timeline with 11 MAC players drafted. The first MAC player taken then was Charlie Frye, quarterback for Akron, as the 67th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns after Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers and Jason Campbell all went in the first round.
Of course, there's no cause for concern here. A down year for the MAC in terms of NFL Draft selections doesn't really hurt the current state of MAC football. You can't always expect the best talents and prospects to come from here every year, but this is all fifty times more fun when they do.