The offseason can be long and arduous, but thank goodness we have the NFL Draft right in the middle to give us a three-day break. It’s an exciting event where college football and the NFL come together for a weekend. Let’s take a look at how Conference USA fared in this year’s draft.
Forrest Lamp, G, WKU: Round 2, Pick 6 (38 overall), Los Angeles Chargers
C-USA unfortunately didn’t get a first rounder this year with Lamp falling to the second round. Lamp was still only the second lineman taken overall and the first guard selected. He was the fourth G5 player taken and first G5 lineman. He got C-USA started when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers (still gotta get used to that). Chargers. Lamp. Let the puns commence.
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte: Round 3, Pick 1 (65), Cleveland Browns
Oh, how close he was to being a second rounder. Still, despite several defensive lineman going before him, he was the first G5 defensive lineman to go, the 10th G5 player overall. The big story here is that he becomes the first ever draftee from Charlotte in their short four-year history. Oh, and by the way: Larry Ogunjobi will be part of a defensive line squad that now also includes Myles Garrett. Imagine those two side-by-side.
Taywan Taylor, WR, WKU: Round 3, Pick 8 (72), Tennessee Titans
Taywan Taylor doesn’t have very far to go as he moves over just one state to join a Titans squad that drafted four non-P5 players. He was the third G5 wide receiver drafted, behind Corey Davis (5), also taken by the Titans, and FBS receptions leader Zay Jones (37). Just imagine: Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor will both be catching passes from Marcus Mariota. Boy, the draft is fun!
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech: Round 3, Pick 18 (82), Denver Broncos
The next G5 wide out after Taylor would of course be Henderson. Henderson, who tied with Corey Davis for most receiving touchdowns in FBS in 2016, got the Bulldogs on the board when Denver called. Too bad he’s a little too late for the Sheriff, but he’ll do just fine. We could potentially soon be seeing Henderson catch passes from Paxton Lynch. G5 to G5 in the pros would be a great sight. Henderson will also be joining former teammate Vontarrius Dora.
Jonnu Smith, TE, FIU: Round 3, Pick 36 (100), Tennessee Titans
The 100th pick saw another C-USA player go to the Titans. He overcame injuries sustained from a pot of scalding hot water, and now he’ll seek to overcome the small-school label alongside Taywan Taylor and Corey Davis. It’ll be great to see these guys together.
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic: Round 3, Pick 39 (103), New Orleans Saints
Who dat? Trey dat. Hendrickson gets the Owls on the board just three picks after the Panthers (don’t think FIU fans are gonna live that down). The Saints needed defense, and that dominated their draft picks. Hendrickson would be the first Florida-based defensive end drafted by New Orleans, but he wouldn’t be the last, as Miami’s Al-Quadin Muhammad was taken in the sixth. Would there be poetry behind two Florida defensive ends wrecking havoc on Jameis Winston? I think there would.
Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech: Round 5, Pick 33 (177), San Francisco 49ers
Day 3 of the draft started slowly for C-USA with no one going in the 4th round or most of the 5th round. But the compensatory fifth round picks got C-USA back in the conversation, starting with the other Taylor. La Tech’s all-time leader in receptions goes to the 49ers, a team that has somewhat of a history with Tech. They had previously drafted La Tech’s great receiver of the last regime (Quinton Patton), and just last year drafted QB Jeff Driskel. Several other Bulldogs have been drafted by the 49ers, to include QB Tim Rattay, who now serves as QB coach at Tech (was receivers coach prior to that).
Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP: Round 5, Pick 38 (182), Green Bay Packers
C-USA’s leading rusher from 2016 was taken shortly after Taylor. Curiously, he was the second of three running backs drafted by Green Bay, alongside Jamaal Williams from BYU and Devante Mays from Utah State. This is an interesting move by the Packers, and it means Jones will have his work cut out for him as he tries to ultimately make the Packers roster. If he can make the cut and find some playing time, it’ll be exciting to see what he can do as part of an elite NFL team.
Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech: Round 6, Pick 7 (191), Dallas Cowboys
Xavier Woods brings up the rear for C-USA as an early sixth-rounder, but considering he wanted to be a Cowboy, I don’t think he’ll mind, especially since they traded up for him. The Bulldog defensive back was the only safety Dallas drafted, although they did take three cornerbacks. Like Taywan Taylor, he’s going just down the street. Last year, the Cowboys hit the jackpot with a north Louisiana native on Day 3 in Dak Prescott. Woods hopes to make it two years in a row.
Total C-USA picks: 9
Picks by round:
Picks by team:
La Tech: 3
Biggest Surprise: The Tennessee Titans. They drafted three G5 players, including two from C-USA. After taking Corey Davis of Western Michigan fifth overall, they later drafted Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith. They really showed that they don’t care where you played, only what you can do for them. The thought of Marcus Mariota passing to multiple C-USA players is really nice.
Biggest Disappointment: For the first time since the 2011 draft, Southern Miss did not have any players taken. They’ve seen a few get free agent deals such as Nick Mullens with the 49ers (Nick Mullens passing to Trent Taylor?!), but no one’s name was called in Philly.
Most likely to contribute early: Carlos Henderson doesn’t just bring offense to the table, he’s also made a name for himself in the return game, something the Broncos could use a boost in. He scored three kick return touchdowns in his career, including two in 2016. He also returned the opening kickoff of his last game to the opponent’s 17. Very possible we could see Henderson get early playing time through special teams in Denver.