Michigan State’s offense won the annual spring game, and coach Mark Dantonio tried to put the Spartans in tough situations.
EAST LANSING — Michigan State had just one player — center Brian Allen — taken in this year’s NFL draft.
Keeping the Spartans’ draft streak alive next year shouldn’t be as dramatic.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said earlier this month that the Spartans “will have several” NFL prospects next year at this time. And depending on how this season goes for a number of MSU’s juniors, it could be more.
The phrase “it’s never too early to look ahead” defines two things in football — recruiting and the NFL draft. So let’s glimpse into the crystal ball to see which Spartans might be hearing their name called at the 2019 NFL draft.
Felton Davis III, WR: Davis blossomed into one of QB Brian Lewerke’s top targets and a third-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches. At 6-foot-4, he could have considered entering the 2018 draft, but his size and sure-handedness projects him as the 11th-best wide receiver for next year according to draftscout.com.
Jake Hartbarger, P: A four-year starter and honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2017, Hartbarger has shown the ability to both boom punts vertically and hang them up horizontally to pin opponents deep in their own territory. He is rated ninth among 2019 punters by draftscout.com, but NFL teams showed a willingness to draft punters, taking four in this year’s draft.
LJ Scott, RB:Scott bypassed entering the draft following his junior year, though he has yet to have a 1,000-yard rushing season in college. He is ranked the 14th-best running back for 2019 by draftscout.com, but showing durability and ability to hold onto the ball could boost him into a second-day selection.
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Matt Sokol, TE: A converted high school quarterback, Sokol continues to grow into his position and develop as a pass-catcher and blocker. His acumen and athletic ability has him rated fifth at tight end by draftscout.com.
Khari Willis, SS: NFL teams love a strong safety who can crash down and fill gaps in run support, which Willis excels at doing. The All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2017 is ranked 13th at strong safety for the 2019 draft by draftscout.com.
Others (with draftscout.com ranking): David Beedle, OG (21st); Andrew Dowell, OLB (57th); Grayson Miller, SS (40th).
David Dowell, FS: Dowell earned first-team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention by the coaches in his first year as a starter, thanks to ranking second in the league and 11th nationally with five interceptions. He is the seventh-best safety prospect for 2019 according to WalterFootball.com.
Justin Layne, CB: The converted wide receiver has the combination of size (6-3), speed and ball skills that NFL scouts love. He’s only entering his third season at MSU after playing as a true freshman but earned honorable mention All-Big Ten last year.
Brian Lewerke, QB: NFL teams are starting to look more at mobile quarterbacks who can run the ball, and Lewerke fits that bill. He would need a strong season of throwing the ball downfield with accuracy, however, to consider leaving early.
Raequan Williams, DT: An honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the media, Williams was one of the anchors up the middle for MSU’s run defense that finished second nationally. A big junior season could vault him up draft boards, and he is considered the 10th-best defensive tackle who could enter the draft by WalterFootball.com.
Others: Joe Bachie, LB; Mike Panasiuk, DT; Darrell Stewart Jr., WR; Kenny Willekes, DE.
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!