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Tulane’s Mooney, Keyes Selected in 2020 NFL Draft

For the fourth consecutive year, the Green Wave had at least one name called in the draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 04 Armed Forces Bowl - Southern Miss v Tulane Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It may have taken until Saturday afternoon, but the Tulane Green Wave was able to send two of its most prolific players into the NFL in style via the 2020 draft. Darnell Mooney (WR) and Thakarius “Bo Pete” Keyes (CB) were the team’s only selections in this year’s draft and, to those who follow the Wave closely, that should come to little surprise.

Mooney was the first of the two picked on Saturday. The Chicago Bears, who traded up in the fifth round to make the selection, nabbed Mooney with the 173rd overall pick. He is the first Green Wave receiver since Ryan Grant to be taken in the draft and is also the latest selection the Bears have made out of Tulane since they took standout running back Matt Forte in 2008.

Chicago will be getting one of the speediest players of this year’s class as Mooney ran the fifth fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine back in February, clocking in at a blazing 4.38. That mark was also the fourth fastest among wideouts who partook in the Combine.

NFL Combine - Day 3
Darnell Mooney runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It wasn’t just Mooney’s 40 time, though, that caught the Bears’ attention. He also has quite the resume to go with it. During his four years at Tulane (2016-19) Mooney caught 154 passes and 19 touchdowns. His 2,572 receiving yards are good for sixth all-time in school history.

Mooney led the Wave in receiving yardage in both his junior and senior years and scouts were quick to note that many of his touchdowns came off short throws that he turned into long distance scores. In 2018 alone, Mooney had receiving touchdowns of 86, 79 and 55 yards respectively.

His battle to land a roster spot in Chicago will be an uphill one as the Bears have guys like Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. Mooney, though, initially sits as a 2-deep receiver on the Bears depth chart according to ESPN.

It wasn’t until the seventh and final round that Tulane saw its other selection made. Keyes was snagged by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 237th overall pick and will also be taking an impressive pedigree into the pros. In his career with the Wave (2016-19), Keyes made 95 total tackles (76 solo, 19 assisted) and grabbed two interceptions. He also finished with 15 defended passes. Unlike Mooney, however, Keyes did not see much significant playing time until his junior season, making his selection all the more noteworthy.

Scouts at this year’s combine raved over his arm length (32 5/8’’) and noted that he has a “good competitive streak”. That being said, though, Keyes will have a tall task in finding a long-term home with the defending Super Bowl champs. He currently sits in the 4-deep spot behind notables such as Charvarius Ward and Chris Lammons.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Tulane at Temple
Thakarius Keyes attempts to make an interception in a 2019 contest at Temple.

Keyes now joins a line of Tulane corners that have been taken in the draft including Parry Nickerson (2018) and Donnie Lewis Jr. (2019). Overall, Tulane has seen 17 DBs selected in during the Super Bowl era, by far the most drafted position the school has in that time.

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While draft selections, especially later ones, may not be noteworthy to the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world, they most certainly are for G5 teams like Tulane. Not only is it an endorsement for the program, but it is also a testament to head coach Willie Fritz who has now had at least one player drafted in each of his four seasons with the Greenies. Most importantly, though, Mooney and Keyes are now one step closer to realizing their NFL dreams.

As far as other Green Wave pro hopefuls are concerned, at time of publication three additional Tulane players have signed onto NFL teams as undrafted free agents. Receiver Jalen McCleskey is currently an Atlanta Falcon, running back Darius Bradwell joined the Los Angeles Chargers and guard Christian Montano has been picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They too will face the same challenges as Keyes and Mooney in trying to make final roster cuts later this summer.