A WVU football player has been selected in the first round in four of the last five NFL Drafts; they’ve all gone top-15, a feat no other college program can claim. Is there anyway a Mountaineer can continue down this path in 2017?
Five Mountaineers were invited to the NFL Combine, a place where a player’s draft stock can soar into the first round or plummet to Day 3 of the draft (the NFL Draft is only a three day event). Representing WVU at the combine will be Rasul Douglas, Shelton Gibson, Noble Nwachukwu, Tyler Orlosky and Rushel Shell. West Virginia’s five players were the most invited from a Big 12 school.
Rasul Douglas will be missed by West Virginia fans, but we’ll get the privilege of watching him on Sundays for a long time. NFL teams search for a certain body type when trying to find a No. 1 corner, and Douglas fits it perfectly. All combine attendees will get official height and weight measurements taken, but he was listed at 6’2″, 208 lbs. in the program.
Measurements aren’t extremely important when evaluating a player like Douglas, simply because his on-field production was so high. He contributed in every facet of the defense, being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after tying for the country’s lead in interceptions with eight. He was also a Reese’s Senior Bowl participant. A good performance at the combine could see his stock rise, but there are a number of defensive backs with early-round potential. Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, LSU’s Jamal Adams, and Miami’s Corn Elder are a few names to watch, along with Ohio State’s Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker.
Shelton Gibson is the only underclassmen from WVU attending the combine, but could leap up draft boards with a good performance. Speed kills in football, so naturally teams want it; Gibson has plenty. He routinely beat Big 12 defenses down the field and led the team with eight receiving touchdowns. Only third on the team in catches, Gibson still managed to lead the team in yards with 951. This tells me Gibson is a playmaker once catching the ball. He caught 17 touchdowns and racked up 1,838 receiving yards while being one of the main targets the past two years. He’s not the big-bodied receiver that former ‘Eer Kevin White was, but he’ll be able to carve out his own niche in a NFL offense.
Noble Nwachukwu produced at a high level this season, but didn’t live up to his preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection. He was 10th on the team in tackles and got to the quarterback four times, a dip in production compared to his 8.5 sacks the year prior. He’ll need an excellent workout and a few players ahead of him to stumble in order to climb up draft boards. This seems like a typical Mountaineer tale, though: the name recognition just isn’t there.
Tyler Orlosky was the first person to touch the ball every offensive play, so I guess you could say he was a big part of the Mountaineers’ success. More than just snapping the ball though, Orlosky was the center for a unit that rushed for 228 yards per game, good for 25th in the country. He was named first-team All-Big 12, second-team in USA Today and was a Rimington Trophy finalist. Orlosky also boosted his stock by playing in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January.
When Rushel Shell finished high school, he was the state of Pennsylvania’s all-time leading rusher. Many think his career in Morgantown didn’t live up to the hype, but I beg to differ.
He dealt with injuries during his senior campaign, but still managed 514 yards and five touchdowns while splitting time in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Both of those were career lows for him at WVU, though. Shell rushed for 708 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, and 788 yards and seven touchdowns his sophomore season. He seems to have all the potential in the world, but the life of a running back in today’s NFL isn’t an encouraging one. The New England Patriots go through running backs like napkins at wing night. The Dallas Cowboys however drafted Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall and he was the league’s leading rusher, so maybe the right fit is what Shell needs.
Bruce Irvin, Tavon Austin, Kevin White and Karl Joseph were the Mountaineers selected in the top-15 over the last five years. Irvin by Seattle at No. 15, Austin 7th by the Rams, White 7th by Chicago and Joseph by the Raiders at No. 15. Could one of this year’s draftees add their name to WVU football history?