Remember last year at this time, when Danny Shelton was bear-hugging the NFL commissioner as the first of four Washington Huskies players to be picked within the first 44 selections of the NFL draft?
Well, this year is going to be much quieter for UW. The Huskies won’t have anyone drafted in the first round -- which commences at 5 p.m. Thursday on ESPN -- and likely won’t have anyone picked in the second and third rounds on the second day, either. But there will be a few names to monitor as the draft churns into rounds four through seven on Saturday.
The most likely UW draftee seems to be outside linebacker Travis Feeney, who posted an impressive NFL combine performance before sports hernia surgery prevented him from testing at UW’s Pro Day. Feeney ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and checked in with a vertical leap of 40 inches at the combine, and later said he didn’t feel anywhere near 100 percent.
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Feeney is obviously a bit of a tweener -- he came to UW as a safety before moving to linebacker, then played the hybrid BUCK spot as a fifth-year senior in 2015 -- which might hurt his stock a bit. He also needed several surgeries to repair shoulder injuries throughout his collegiate career, though he only missed one game due to injury.
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So, where might he end up? Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated describes Feeney in favorable terms as somewhat of a sleeper, writing: “Don’t be surprised if Feeney sneaks his way into Day 2.”
Burke continues: “... Look no further than Feeney’s combine performance to see why defensive coordinators would love to get their hands on him: 4.5-second 40, 40-inch vertical jump, 130-inch broad jump and an 11.71 60-yard shuttle (third best among LBs), all while dealing with a sports hernia which eventually required surgery. His strength will be a concern. So, too, will his medical history. If nothing else, though, he’ll carve out a role on special teams. The ceiling is much higher.”
In its “Perfect NFL draft for all 32 teams” feature, the Washington Post slots Feeney as a sixth-round pick to the San Diego Chargers. CBS Sports sees him as a fifth or sixth-rounder. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has Feeney just outside its rating of the 10 best linebackers in the draft. UW’s Cory Littleton, the only other Huskies player invited to the NFL combine, is also listed in the same group as Feeney, and might also receive some late-round consideration on Saturday, though some project him as an undrafted free agent.
Jaydon Mickens, who left UW as the No. 2 pass-catcher in school history with 203 receptions, has also improved his body and his speed and could possibly sneak into the final round. His CBS Sports profile projects him as a seventh-round to undrafted prospect, but it seems almost certain that he’ll at least get a look as a free agent in a camp somewhere.
That might also be true of Dwayne Washington, the former UW running back who declared for the draft after his fourth-year junior season and possesses an intriguing blend of size and speed. NFL.com sees him as a potential sixth or seventh-rounder.
Barring a pretty significant surprise, though, don’t expect to hear about any Huskies in the draft until Saturday.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple