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What happened to UW Huskies in the draft? Huard, Salk and Heaps weigh in

UW tight end Hunter Bryant signed with the Detroit Lions after going undrafted. (AP)

The UW Huskies have traditionally had a strong annual showing in the NFL Draft over the last decade.

2020 NFL Draft: Just two UW Huskies, one WSU Cougar taken

From 2011 to 2019, at least one Huskies player was selected in the third round or higher in every draft except one, and entering last weekend, four or more UW players were selected in four of the last five drafts.

It wasn’t like that this time around.

UW Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason slid to the third day of the draft, going in the fourth round to the Indianapolis Colts, and his center, Cleveland Browns fifth-round selection Nick Harris, was the only other Husky player picked. That meant tight end Hunter Bryant, running back Salvon Ahmed and offensive lineman Trey Adams all had to find teams in undrafted free agency.

So what happened? That’s been a topic this week on 710 ESPN Seattle. Let’s look at three perspectives on UW’s draft showing.

Brock Huard

Like most football pundits, Huard expected Eason to be picked before the third day of the draft. That’s not to say he was all that shocked that Eason was still available to the Colts on Saturday, though.

“I can’t say I’m surprised. Everybody had him in the top 60 or so,” said Huard, who spends his fall Saturdays calling college football games on FOX TV broadcasts, on Tuesday’s Brock and Salk Podcast. “I thought maybe (he’d be picked in) the end of the second round, I thought he’d probably go by the third round, but I can’t say I was surprised to sit and watch that unfold.”

The state of the league at the QB position is why.

“Kurt Warner said it on the broadcast a bunch – this isn’t a league that needs 10 new quarterbacks. The ones that had the dire need got them at one, five and six, and Green Bay took a risk (on Jordan Love).”

There are two veteran QBs that likely factored into teams spending their picks on other positions, too.

“Remember also Cam Newton and Jameis Winston are sitting out there (in free agency),” Huard said. “It looks like Jameis is gonna go to New Orleans on a one-year deal, but they should have put those two names in my opinion right there with Jacob Eason and (Georgia’s) Jake Fromm as guys that teams are making decisions on.”

Despite Eason’s slide, it’s widely believed that he found a great landing spot in Indianapolis, where 16-year NFL veteran Philip Rivers just joined forces with offensive-minded Colts head coach Frank Reich.

“I will say this – personality-wise, Frank Reich and Philip Rivers in Indianapolis, all pretty good fits for Jacob,” Huard said.

Mike Salk

There was no mincing words by Salk when he talked about the Huskies both on the Brock and Salk Podcast and on his daily segment with Tom, Jake and Stacy on Tuesday.

“It was not a banner three days for the University of Washington,” he said. “And I can understand why. You kinda look through over the last few years, even when the teams have been good and had some really top-notch players, who’s really worked out in the pros?”

Salk did say some UW players have gone to show promise in the pros – and there’s a fairly sizable list with the likes of Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Marcus Peters, Vita Vea, Cory Littleton and the Seahawks’ Will Dissly – but there have been 24 Huskies selected since 2015, which means there’s also a big list of players who haven’t exactly found their footing in the NFL.

Pro teams appeared to shy away from the Pac-12 in general this year, as well.

“The league doesn’t respect the Pac-12 to begin with. The Pac-12 didn’t have a very good weekend any more than the Huskies did. So the league doesn’t respect the Pac-12, nor should it,” Salk said. “The Pac-12’s done nothing to earn that respect. And UW didn’t do particularly well, at least this past year, in that lousy Pac-12. … Then when you add in some of the injury concerns – I think if Hunter Bryant was healthy and had been his whole career, he’s got everything an NFL team would look for, but unfortunately just the medical stuff with him is too much to get over.”

Salk was happy about the Seahawks picking up UW wide receiver Aaron Fuller as an undrafted free agent, however.

“By the way, if I could have one guy off that UW team last year, I think the Seahawks got him: Aaron Fuller. I like the way he compete.”

Jake Heaps

Heaps, who like Huard is a former quarterback with local ties, shared Monday on Tom, Jake and Stacy why he thinks Bryant, Ahmed and Adams went undrafted.

For Bryant and Ahmed, it had to do with their performances between the end of the college season and the draft.

“Hunter Bryant and Salvon Ahmed were players that just didn’t run good 40s, and their draft stock was based off their explosiveness, their 40 times,” Heaps said. “So Salvon Ahmed, if he had run a 4.3 like people anticipated, I think he gets drafted. Hunter Bryant comes out and runs a 4.5 to a low 4.6, he gets drafted. But they both run bad 40 times, which significantly hurts their stock.”

Ahmed’s NFL Draft profile lists him with an unofficial 40 time of 4.62 seconds, and Bryant had an unofficial time of 4.74 on his.

Teams that picked tight ends went with players who play the position in perhaps a more traditional way than Bryant.

“Hunter Bryant was looked at as a great flex weapon and you saw a lot of traditional tight ends get picked in this draft over him,” Heaps said.

With Adams, who has the right size for an offensive lineman but struggled to stay healthy in college, the injury history is why he had to wait until after the draft to land with Buffalo.

“His production fell off a cliff his junior year,” Heaps said. “I never thought he quite recovered from that back surgery he ended up having and never was going to be a guy that tested well at the combine, and that was always going to be an issue for teams.”

Heaps expects Bryant and Ahmed to both make teams out of training camp, and he went as far to say Ahmed has a future with the 49ers.

“Salvon Ahmed going to the 49ers could not have been a better fit, and that scares me quite honestly with what he can do with that zone running scheme,” he said. “I’m rooting for all these guys and hope that they can make their respective rosters.”

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