Two Minnesota Gophers Selected in NFL Draft

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eric decker

By Mike Gallagher

The Minnesota Golden Gophers football team definitely did better for themselves in the NFL draft than they did for themselves on the football field.

The Gophers had two players expected to be taken in the middle to later rounds, and that’s what happened for “The Midwest” U’s wide receiver Eric Decker and linebacker Nate Triplett.

Decker was without a doubt the most talented and highly touted Gopher last year, on track to be an All-American before his season ending foot injury in game #9.

He still managed to amass 50 receptions and 758 yards over those first eight and a half games, and finds himself in a very fortuitous situation having been selected by the Denver Broncos with the 87th overall pick.

With a 6’3”, 217-pound frame, Decker has an NFL ready body and ran in the 4.5’s when timed before his foot injury.  He is very willing to go over the middle and take a big hit to come down with the ball, something he excelled in last year.  He has improved every year with the Gophers despite facing double and triple teams his entire senior campaign.  In short, he was the Gophers offense.

While he doesn’t have a top shelf quarterback in Denver, he does have three that are set out to prove themselves.  Even more encouraging for Decker, is Brandon Marshall’s departure.  While the Broncos did draft Demaryius Thomas, Decker will be given the opportunity to compete for at worst, the number four receiver spot, with Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokely locking down one and two, and Jabar Gaffney/Brandon Lloyd going after the number three spot.

If the Broncos can find a capable QB on their roster, they will be a dangerous team for years to come, and Eric Decker is a very capable receiver, and should be a solid #2 or at worst slot guy in the league.

Nate Triplett finds himself in a less opportune position, but saw his impressive senior campaign pay off with the Vikings selecting him with their fifth round draft choice, #167 overall.

nate triplett

Triplett didn’t start the first three years he was a Gopher, but came on strong his senior year, tallying 105 tackles and two interceptions.  He is an inside linebacker at the pro level and is an insurance pick for the Vikings with E.J. Henderson coming off season ending leg surgery.  Jasper Brinkley will be the starter if Henderson can’t go, but Triplett will compete for the main backup spot if Henderson doesn’t start the season.

Triplett is a strong, physical guy, but lacks elite speed and athleticism.  His panning out at the next level seems doubtful, considering he is a one year wonder and doesn’t have the speed that teams look for in an inside linebacker these days.  Still, Triplett will get a shot and for a fifth round pick, he sits in a rather favorable spot on his hometown team.

This is by no means comparable to what the Timberwolves did with Rick Rickert in the early 2000’s.  That was a mercy pick, the Vikings truly believe Triplett has chance to succeed at an NFL level.

Decker and Triplett were two standouts on an otherwise bad team last year, and both have good opportunities to do Minnesota proud in the NFL.  Now they just have to prove they belong.

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