On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the first players report to the NFL Combine in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft. Nebraska has not sent more than four players to the NFL combine since nine went in 2011, and the Huskers sent two last year. This year, kicker Drew Brown, offensive tackle Nick Gates, cornerback Chris Jones, safety Joshua Kalu and quarterback Tanner Lee were all invited.
On the Tuesday edition of Hail Varsity Radio, Chris Schmidt spoke to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay as we are in evaluation season for the draft. McShay opened up, sympathizing with some of the frustrations Husker fans are feeling in recent years about the draft process and about some of the Huskers entering the draft.
“It’s frustrating if you’re a Nebraska fan," McShay said. "Now you have Scott Frost coming, but UCF is going to have the more impressive group of guys coming in starting with Mike Hughes in the first round, the cornerback, than Nebraska will.
"That tells you what has happened with the talent base and where it needs to go back to. Not be negative on it, but you look back and the years when Nebraska was great, seven guys drafted in 2001, seven guys drafted in 1999, Grant Wistrom, Jason Peter, etcs, etc. It is good that they have a lot of guys going [to the combine] but if you are a Nebraska fan, you’d like to see more guys going and at a higher level.”
Safety Joshua Kalu was thought to have a bright future in the NFL once he made the switch from cornerback. McShay discussed what he sees in Kalu as well as what he wants to see from offensive tackle Nick Gates during the draft process.
“Kalu to me, is probably the biggest upside of the group. With his frame and the transition to safety, the versatility he has, I think he's got a chance to be a good player at the next level," McShay said. "When you look at the tackle position, Nick Gates has potential. He needs to get stronger but he moves well. He’s 6-5, 300 pounds. I want to see his explosion numbers with his vertical jump, broad jump and working on getting stronger to be a better anchor in pass protection. He’s a guy with some potential.”
Last season, there were frustrating times with quarterback Tanner Lee and there were times you truly saw NFL potential. Lee threw for 3,143 yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while completing 57.5 percent of his passes. So, what does McShay think of Lee’s draft stock?
“Tanner Lee has a big arm," he said. "Teams will either draft him late or bring him in as a priority free agent because there’s ability there. There’s just been a lot of inconsistency and a lot of ball security issues that he has to work out. He’s probably a practice-squad-type player, but he’s going to get a shot to chase that dream at the next level. Hopefully he’s going to get with a QB coach that can work on the few things that he needs to work on in order to advance his game.”
The NFL combine runs from Feb. 27 to March 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianpolis. The NFL draft is from April 26 through April 28.