UNLV’s drought of not having a player selected in the NFL draft could end — next year.
The Rebels haven’t had a player drafted since center Joe Hawley went to the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but there is genuine hope that the Rebels will begin to produce draftees in the coming years.
“I think it does say a lot if you’re starting to get guys drafted more consistently,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “It helps with recruiting. Twenty-ten was the last time. It’s a long, long time.”
Sanchez wouldn’t speak about which players are the most likely future draftees, but here are the best possibilities. The years are based on players staying through their senior seasons. Some could opt to leave a year early.
Guard Justin Polu is the UNLV’s best hope to to end its draft skid. At 6 feet 4 inches, 325 pounds, he helps form a strong right side to the Rebels’ offensive line. Defensive end/outside linebacker Gabe McCoy, who made 13½ tackles for loss last season, is another possibility.
An under-the-radar player to watch is cornerback Myles Plummer.
Quarterback Armani Rogers needs to improve his accuracy, but his arm strength, athleticism and 6-5, 225-pound frame should draw interest.
Running back Charles Williams has the speed of a sprinter, though his 5-9, 192-pound size could be a concern. Safety Drew Tejchman and defensive linemen Nick Dehdashtian, Tavai Tuitasi and Kolo Uasike are possibilities as well.
Newly signed linebacker Vic Viramontes certainly has the potential, but the junior college transfer must first prove he can play at the four-year level.
Tackle Justice Oluwaseun already is UNLV’s best offensive lineman, and if he improves and stays healthy, he could become an early round pick.
Wide receiver Tyleek Collins showed his potential as a freshman last season, finishing second on the team with 31 catches for 422 and six touchdowns. If he builds on that performance, Collins could become a serious draft prospect.
Tight end Noah Bean is another potential draft pick.
As for this year’s draft, which is Thursday through Saturday, there is a chance running back Lexington Thomas could break through with a late-round selection. But Thomas, who according to NFL.com ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at his pro day, is expected to sign as an undrafted free agent.
Offensive lineman Nathan Jacobson also could sign a free agent deal.
It’s a down year for local draft prospects in general. Notre Dame tight end Alize Jones, who went to Bishop Gorman, could get drafted in the late rounds or sign as a free agent.
Getting drafted isn’t the only avenue to the NFL. UNLV has five players — wide receiver Devonte Boyd with the Cincinnati Bengals, and defenders Torry McTyer and Jeremiah Valoaga with the Miami Dolphins, Robert Jackson with the Cleveland Browns and Mike Hughes Jr. with the Jacksonville Jaguars — who are in the league after signing as free agents.
“There are a handful of guys playing in the league and doing some good things, which is good because it means we’ve done a good job in developing those guys,” Sanchez said. “I know we’ll have some guys get into camp.”
UNLV in the NFL draft
2010 — OL Joe Hawley, fourth round, Atlanta Falcons
2009 — RB Frank Summers, fifth round, Pittsburgh Steelers
2008 — LB Beau Bell, fourth round, Cleveland Browns
2007 — DB Eric Wright, second round, Cleveland Browns
2005 — LB Adam Seward, fifth round, Carolina Panthers; LB Ryan Claridge, fifth round, New England Patriots
2004 — OL Dominic Furio, seventh round, Philadelphia Eagles
2002 — DL Anton Palepoi, second round, Seattle Seahawks; DB Sam Brandon, fourth round, Denver Broncos; DB Kevin Thomas, sixth round, Buffalo Bills; DL Ahmad Miller, seventh round, Houston Texans
2000 — DB Quincy Sanders, fifth round, Washington Redskins