Still looking at this past weekend’s NFL draft, here’s a short piece categorizing MWC related things into winners and losers. This clearly isn’t an exhaustive list but are some of the trends and observations from the draft.
What a landing spot for last year’s top college tight end. He is selected by a team with a young, dynamic quarterback in Kyler Murray. He gets to learn from one of the best of the past few years in fellow TE Zack Ertz. And, he does not have massive expectations placed on him immediately. Instead, McBride can develop at his own pace and see his role expands as production allows. But he should blossom into a major weapon offensively for the Cardinals.
Speaking of the Cardinals, they doubled up on Mountain West players on Day 2, selecting DE Cam Thomas out of San Diego State. Thomas was the 2021 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and should become a solid NFL regular. Arizona loaded up on MWC talent and it should bode well for them.
San Diego State
The Aztecs had a great showing in this year’s NFL draft. They had the most players drafted in the Mountain West, with four. Also, that number puts them in a position that was better than nine of twelve teams in the PAC-12. Which conference is the strongest in the west again? SDSU also had a high number of UDFAs this year.
Buffalo drafted two Mountain West players, Khalil Shakir and Matt Araiza. Both should add instant talent to a team already poised for a deep playoff run. Good on the Bills for recognizing talent, no matter the conference.
DaRon Bland/Jordan Jackson
Neither Bland nor Jackson found themselves on many draft boards leading up to the process, but it wasn’t because they lacked talent. And teams took notice of their skills, as both players heard their names called this past weekend. Congrats to both of them on being drafted.
The Mountain West
The number of undrafted Mountain West players who are drafted and those who sign with teams as free agents seems to vary year by year. Covid spoiled chances for many players two years ago and last year saw 13 players become UDFA, plus another one who got a mini-camp invite. Also, only 3 players were drafted last year after the shortened pandemic season. This year, that changed in a big way. At the time of this writing, 42 MWC players has some kind of affiliation with an NFL team. 11 players were drafted, 22 have been signed as an UDFA, plus 8 mini-camp invites and 1 tryout.
Last year around this time, Strong was being touted as a potential first-round draft pick. After a great 2021 campaign, he positioned himself to be a mid-round selection. Or so it seemed. For reasons unknown at the time of this writing, Strong was not drafted and instead signed as an UDFA. It is quite the fall for him.
Speaking of falls, Shakir looked like a sure-fire day two draft pick. However, the call never came on Friday evening. Instead, he was drafted in the 5th round by the Buffalo Bills in what appears to be a good landing spot for him. It was a deep wide receiver draft and there were some questionable WR picks before him. He is a safe bet to beat his draft status and have many good years. But as far as the actual draft process went, it was disappointing for the Bronco great.
Similarly, Araiza was taken later in the draft process. However, the sixth round isn’t a bad spot for a punter. What was surprising was that he was not the first punter taken in the draft. He wasn’t even the second one. Araiza was the third punter selected this year, which was quite the surprise for someone who put
Dunkle left San Diego State early and was an intriguing name heading into the draft. But then his name slowly started to disappear and that silence continued throughout the entire draft. He still signed as an undrafted free agent, but not being drafted after leaving school early is far from ideal.
It’s tough being the bottom dwellers of the conference. The Lobos and Rebels not only brought up the rear during the 2021 season but now unsurprisingly do the same as it relates to the draft. Neither had a player drafted, but they were not alone in that (Hawaii, SJSU, and Utah State also had no draftees). However, neither team produced any undrafted free agents either. Between the two of them, they only produced one draft weekend update. RB Charles Williams secured a tryout with the Steelers. Otherwise, they were silent this weekend.
Your turn: What did we get right and wrong? What winners and losers would you add to this list? Comment below.