Six Pac-12 players taken in Rounds 2 and 3 of NFL Draft
The Pac-12 saw six more of its former players go in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft. That brings the total number of Pac-12 players drafted to 11 through the first three rounds, placing the Pac-12 in third behind the SEC and ACC for most selections thus far by conference.
Like Thursday's first round, the Conference of Champions didn't have to wait long for one of its own to get his named called. And, like Thursday's first round, it only took until the third pick on Friday to kick off the festivities as the Philadelphia Eagles took Stanford's Zach Ertz 35th overall. The first unanimous tight end All-America selection since 2004 became the second at his position taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he should have a bit of familiarity with the new Eagles head coach. I take it Chip Kelly didn't want Ertz to burn one of his teams again... Last year, a Cardinal tight end was taken early in the second round as well when the Colts selected Coby Fleener with the 34th pick.
Ertz released the following statement through the Stanford athletic department once he was selected by Philadelphia: "I couldn't be happier to be going to play for Coach Kelly and the Eagles. My mom and dad were both born in Pennsylvania, so it feels like this very cool circle of life. I can't stop thinking about how the Pac-12 gave me my start, and now I will be able to keep playing for a coach that I respected since I started at Stanford."
There appears to be an exciting new pitch-and-catch combination brewing in upstate New York. Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills took Florida State signal caller EJ Manuel in the first round and today, the four-time Super Bowl runners-up selected USC wide receiver Robert Woods with the 41st pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. The sure-handed Woods hauled in 252 passes and 32 touchdown receptions over the course of his three-year Trojan career. While he wasn't used as a return specialist last season in Troy, Woods can be effective in the return game as well (he returned a kickoff for a touchdown his freshman year).
There also appears to be some serious Pac-12 love in upstate New York. Five picks after taking Woods, the Buffalo Bills selected Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso 46th overall. Alonso's past off-the-field issues are well documented, but as Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports wrote earlier this week, Alonso really turned things around with his performance in the 2012 Rose Bowl. After being named the Rose Bowl defensive player of the game in a 45-38 win against Wisconsin, Alonso went on to pick off four passes and record 14 tackles for loss in 2012 en route to a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season.
The Pac-12 ended the second round with three players chosen and would have to wait until the 71st pick for the next Left Coast selection. There, the St. Louis Rams would take hard-hitting USC safety T.J. McDonald, making him the fourth straight defensive back selected in the third round. The second-team All-Pac-12 selection was fourth in the conference with 112 total tackles. Interesting connection in St. Louis - Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was once a defensive back at USC.
The wait would be much shorter between the next two picks, as San Diego took Keenan Allen at No. 76. Injury troubles and recent off-the-field issues raised some red flags, but many thought the Cal wide receiver would be a late first-round or early-to-middle second-round selection; certainly not middle of the third round. Considered a top-five wide receiver prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft, Allen could really be a steal for the Chargers at this spot. His junior campaign in 2012 was cut three games short due to an injured left knee, but his 2011 numbers were spectacular: 98 receptions for 1,343 yards to go along with six touchdown grabs. That year, his 103.31 receiving yards per game ranked 10th nationally. He certainly has what it takes to be an explosive wide receiver at the next level.
Keenan Allen's selection by San Diego was part of a high tide for wide receivers Friday night. Three picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Oregon State's Markus Wheaton 79th overall. The Steelers made Wheaton the fourth receiver selected in a span of six picks. Wheaton kept some pretty good conference company this year, joining USC's Marqise Lee as the other receiver on the first-team offense for the Pac-12 all-conference squad as a result of his 91 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns (Wheaton also had two rushing touchdowns, bringing his overall total to 13). The Beavers' all-time leader in receptions is also a pretty fast dude, running a 10.75 in the 100 meter-dash for the Oregon State track team at Oregon's Twilight meet last May.
The Pac-12 isn't done yet. There are still plenty of big names on the board for NFL teams to take - guys like Matt Barkley, Johnathan Franklin and Matt Scott. Check back with the Pac-12 Post tomorrow, as Bryan Fischer will take us home with Saturday coverage of rounds four through seven.