For the third straight year, the University of Nebraska has had at least three defensive players selected in the NFL Draft.
Linebacker Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) came off the board on Friday night, defensive tackle Jared Crick (Houston Texans) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (New England Patriots) were selected on Saturday.
Lavonte David – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Florida native was picked in the second round and 58th overall, after Tampa Bay moved up 10 spots in a trade with the Texans to specifically get David.
Immediately after the pick, David drew comparisons to former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, an eleven-time time Pro Bowler and the 2002 AP Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL.
“You see the tape and the production speaks volumes,” said Bucs general manager Mark Dominik. “Here is a who I think is one of the best coverage linebackers in this entire draft and I think that is important. He's got great movement skills, athletic ability, speed, can run, and is a good tackler, so we are excited to bring him in.”
Some NFL scouts and GMs might have been turned off by David's short tenure at Nebraska, but Dominik says it was something to take notice of.
“He got thrusted right into the starting lineup at Nebraska and took the bull by the horns,” said the GM. “I think that speaks volumes to what football means to him.”
David will play for new Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who took the job in late January after spending 11 seasons at the University of Rutgers.
“We got one of our coveted players,” said Schiano. “The thing that stands out to me when you look at Lavonte David is he's the captain of his football team and loves the game.
“Production can be a little misleading at time, but this production is not misleading...I think he can play at any of the linebacker spots, but we will put him at the outside backer spot – either Sam or Will.”
Jared Crick – Houston Texans
After an injury plagued and shortened season, the senior defensive tackle was the 126th pick overall in the fourth round by the Houston Texans.
Jared Crick (Getty Images)
A former first round projection at the beginning of the 2011 season, Crick missed the second half of the year with a torn pectoral muscle, which limited his ability to show his full potential at the combine.
“I think he’ll come in and get into a rotation, and I think he’s a hard-nosed football player,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told reporters. “He plays hard. Football is important to him, and I think you’ll see him fit right in with our group and contribute to our team.”
Crick's interaction with the Texans was limited to just the combine, but Houston felt he was a solid pickup for that late in the draft.
“I’m very excited to play for a team who prides themselves on defense as Houston does,” Crick told reporters. “Coming from Nebraska, where we do the same as far as pride on defense, it’s very exciting to go in and have the opportunity to work for a coach like coach (Texans defensive coordinator Wade) Phillips and the whole defensive staff."
Alfonzo Dennard – New England Patriots
A week after being charged with third-degree assault of an officer, resisting arrest, and third-degree assault, the Georgia native was the 224th pick in the seventh round by the New England Patriots.
Alfonzo Dennard (Getty Images)
The reigning Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year, Dennard's draft stock was falling before the incident last weekend, but not many could have projected he would be available in the seventh round. A one time first round draft projection, Dennard will join a secondary that had holes in 2011.
“He's strong. He's a physical player,” said Pats head coach Bill Belichick. “Obviously he played at a high level of competition, particularly in the 2010 season where they played so much in the passing conference – a lot of spread out offenses, a lot of nickel, dime coverage and that type of thing. Then this year, when Nebraska went to the Big Ten, they saw really a whole different schedule, a whole different style of offensive football from those teams that they played so it was interesting to watch all that...He's gone up against a lot of good players and competed well.”
The former Super Bowl winning coach says the organization spent time looking into Dennard's incident last week, but could not speak on specifics.
“We researched it and in the end we felt comfortable at the position,” said Belichick.
After battling injuries his entire career, offensive tackle Marcel Jones was the 234th pick in the seventh round by the New Orleans Saints.
With no picks in the first and second round, the Saints said the offensive line and cornerback are positions you take a chance on late in the seventh round.
“You’ve got to have the size, you’ve got to have to have the mass and you’ve got to have the footwork and hand placement to be able to compete in this league,” said Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt. “When you get a guy who has those qualities that you covet, you take a chance on him.”
An Arizona high school product, Jones came to Nebraska after selecting the Huskers over Arizona State and Oregon State.
“I am extremely excited. Oh man, this is every kid’s dream to make it to the NFL, let alone make it to a Super Bowl contending team,” Jones told NewOrleansSaints.com. “I’m just so blessed to be in this opportunity right now and hopefully I can go out there and make a good impression on the coaches and make the team.”
It didn't take long for other Nebraska players to be picked up by NFL teams as rookie free agents.
Shortly after the draft, wide receiver Brandon Kinnie tweeted to fans that he would be heading to Kansas City, hoping to make the Chiefs roster.
"I'm a little disappointed I didn't get drafted, but it's fine," Kinnie told the Lincoln Journal Star. "It's just more fuel for the tank. I'm just happy I'm getting an opportunity."
Fellow Fort Scott junior college transfer Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick, signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, joining David and former Husker Carl Nicks.
"I had a couple other options. I had to choose the best one,” Hardrick told the LJS.
In addition to those two, defensive tackle Terrence Moore tweeted this: “Baltimore here we come.” The senior performed well at Nebraska's Pro Day, drawing the interest from many scouts.