New Orleans Saints Draft Illini LB Nate Bussey in Final Round

nate-bussey

It’s four, not three that’s a magic number for the Illini and the New Orleans Saints on this final evening of the NFL Draft. With the 243rd pick on Saturday (11 ahead of the infamous “Mr. Irrelevant” pick) during the third day of the 2011 draft, the Saints took Illinois Linebacker Nate Bussey

Yesterday, the Saints took fellow Illini linebacker Martez Wilson in the third round (72nd overall) Bussey and Wilson will be the third and fourth former Illini players on the Saints’ roster. New Orleans linebacker Danny Clark and running back Pierre Thomas also played at Illinois. If only they hadn’t traded punter Steve Weatherford to the New York Jets, then they’d have five.

Illinois had four players selected in this year’s draft. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (first round, 18th, San Diego Chargers) and running back Mikel Leshoure (second round, 57th overall, Detroit Lions) were also drafted. It was the most NFL picks Illinois has had in a draft since having five players go in 2003.

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NFL Draft’s First Two Rounds Will Feature Some Illini

For the fourth year in a row, the first couple rounds of the NFL Draft will feature a couple names from your Illinois Fighting Illini. Tailback Rashard Mendendall went in the first round in ’08, cornerback Vontae Davis was the 25th overall pick in ’09, and last year, wide receiver Arrelious Benn was just a couple picks off from being a first round selection.

With all this next level talent in Champaign, you may wonder “how come they went 8-16 during 2008-09? Well, that’s why we saw two new coordinators come in the summer before 2010. Explains a lot.

This draft will see three prospects likely to go in the first two rounds. We won’t see as many Illini choosen in this draft as we did last year, but this trio of underclassmen RB Mikel Leshoure, DT Corey Liuget and LB Martez Wilson will go higher (or as Bulls analyst Stacey King said “GO HIGHER”) than last year.

But this year, the draft seems much more satisfying because the Illini actually won a bowl game; their first since 1999.

By Paul M. Banks

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