Illini Football: 2016 NFL Draft Return a Future Springboard?

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In 2016 Lovie Smith takes over an Illini football program that recently had a really good reputation as a NFL vocational development school. Then Mike Thomas came along; and hired Tim Beckman. For two years the NFL Draft then became an Illini football free zone. Illinois excelled in winning draft night up until 2014, as the program was then shut out in 2015 and 2016.

The Illini were among the best, if not the best in the Big Ten when it came to being a NFL Draft factory, which we covered in more detail here.

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Now it’s time for the program to get that back and the first step came this past weekend with the NFL Draft. Illinois sent three players to the draft, led by DE Jihad Ward who went 44th overall to the Oakland Raiders. We’ve covered his story and how he fits in with Oakland at this link.

When Ward was selected, the Illini became the third school to send someone to the NFL this past draft. With 3 draft picks, Illinois tied for the 5th-most in the Big Ten with Indiana, Michigan & Maryland – behind Ohio State (12), Michigan State (5), Penn State (5), Nebraska (4).

Illinois had had three or more draft picks in 6 of the last 8 years (every year since  2009, except for 2014 and 2015)

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Offensive Guard Ted Karras was picked in the sixth round (221st overall) by the New England Patriots, and safety Clayton Fejedelem went in the seventh round (245th overall) to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Karras was an anchor on the Illinois offensive line for the last four years, making 43 career starts. As a team captain in 2015, he played 88.6% of snaps for the Illini’s offensive line that allowed just 1.67 sacks per game, starting all 12 game and earning third-team All-Big Ten honors.

Karras is the seventh member of his family to play football in the Big Ten, including his great-uncle, Alex, who was an All-American offensive lineman for Iowa a four-time NFL Pro Bowler before starting an acting career that resulted in a starring role in the 1980s sitcom “Webster.”

If you could pick one Illini football player to go to New England it would be this guys. Karras will be a perfect fit for the patriot way.

He also consistently appears on numerous talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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Comments

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