Washington players' prospects in the NFL draft are dim
Analysts say it's possible that no Huskies will be taken in this year's NFL draft, which would be the second time that has happened since 2003. The 2003 season is the only year Washington has not had a player taken since the NFL draft shrank to seven rounds in 1993.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Draft factsWhen: Saturday (Rounds 1-2); Sunday (Rounds 3-7).
Where: New York City.
TV: Saturday (ESPN, 9 a.m.; ESPN2, 5 p.m.); Sunday (ESPN, 7 a.m.).
Seahawks' first-round pick: No. 25
When Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham ruminated after a loss to Oregon last season that the Huskies needed to get "a few more bullets" to compete with the top teams in the Pac-10, he was criticized by some for appearing to lay blame on the players for UW's struggles.
Willingham later tried to make clear that he wasn't attempting to shift blame, just pointing out that any team losing more than it's winning would want to improve its talent base.
And, when Willingham fired two assistants after the season, he seemed to acknowledge that the coaching also needed some improving.
This weekend's NFL draft, meanwhile, figures to confirm that Willingham might not have been too far off with his "bullets" comment, as well.
Analysts say it's possible that no Huskies will be taken in this year's draft, which would be the second time that has happened since 2003. The 2003 season is the only year UW has not had a player taken since the NFL draft shrank to seven rounds in 1993.
Washington has had just nine players taken since 2003, the fewest of any conference team except Arizona.
Washington's status as a school relatively barren of prospects for this year's NFL draft was further solidified in February when no Huskies were invited to the NFL combine; UW was the only Pac-10 school not represented.
Some UW players felt they should have been invited, including receiver Anthony Russo, who said he had "no clue" why he wasn't invited. "I'm just using that for motivation. That's what all of us did," he said.
Russo later turned in an impressive workout for NFL scouts at UW's pro day in March, running a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash as well as some good times in the shuttle drills.
But draft analysts say Russo is a likely free agent and that the Husky with the best chance of being selected is another receiver, Marcel Reece.
"He has pretty rare athletic ability for a guy that size," said Rob Rang, a senior analyst for NFLdraftscout.com.
Reece checked in at 6 feet 1, 231 pounds for NFL scouts, a few pounds lighter than during his UW days, and ran a 4.42 in the 40. Rang said Reece's size and speed are intriguing to NFL scouts, who think he could be used as an H-back or even a tight end or a fullback.
"He's a versatile athlete, and he also has some special-teams possibilities," Rang said.
Pro Football Weekly recently went further in its enthusiasm for Reece, including him among players who are "opening eyes" and writing that he "clocked in the mid 4.4s at 231 pounds and moved very well in positional workouts and definitely will be drafted after barely having been on the radar of many scouts."
One possible hangup is his relative lack of production last year; he had 39 catches for 761 yards in 13 games, though he was UW's best big-play maker, averaging 19.5 yards per catch and scoring eight touchdowns.
Reece says he's willing to play whatever position an NFL team asks and that he's confident he will be selected.
"There's no real science to [the draft]," he said. "I can only worry about what I can control, and I can't control how many balls I get. The only thing I can do is make the best of the ones I get and I think I did that [at UW]."
Reece has alternated between his home in the Los Angeles area and Seattle in recent weeks, and said he plans to be back here for the draft and will attend the UW spring game Saturday.
Russo said he's heard he could be drafted as early as the third round but knows he might have to go the free-agent route. Along with pro day, he had personal workouts with the Seahawks and Raiders and said "everybody said I really helped myself."
He added, "Every team I talked to said I helped myself a lot and that they really liked how I looked running routes and catching the ball."
He also intrigues some teams with his punt-returning ability after ranking third in the Pac-10 last season at 10.1 yards per attempt. Among the coaches who worked him out with the Seahawks was assistant Keith Gilbertson, who was head coach during Russo's first two years at UW.
Other Huskies who are getting looks include running back Louis Rankin and defensive end Greyson Gunheim.
Rang says Rankin has some teams intrigued with his speed — "in daylight, he can flat move" — but "this year the running-back depth is so good that it pushes him into free agency."
Gunheim posted some impressive numbers at UW's pro day, including running a 4.58 in the 40. But Rang said Gunheim is also likely to have to go the free-agent route: "He shows flashes of athleticism, but he just didn't make enough plays [at UW]."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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