A Fresno State football player has been taken in the NFL draft every year since 2001 – a 15-year stretch that’s the longest active streak in the Mountain West.
But that run could be in jeopardy when the NFL draft begins Thursday with the first round kicking things off at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater.
The group of Bulldogs who hope to have their names called include Bo Bonnheim, Dylan Detwiler, Ejiro Ederaine, Shannon Edwards, Alex Fifita, Claudell Louis, Justin Northern, Kyrian Obidiegwu, Jaamal Rose, Garrett Swanson, Marteze Waller, Charles Washington and Kyrie Wilson.
The second and third rounds of the draft are Friday before it wraps up with rounds 4-7 Saturday.
With the exception of 2000, Fresno State has had a player selected in every NFL draft since 1987.
Waller, Ederaine and Washington have an outside shot of getting drafted, possibly in the seventh round. Most mock drafts don’t list any of the former Bulldogs.
“We (NFLDraftScout.com) have a seventh round-PDFA (priority free agent) grade on running back Marteze Waller,” Rob Rang said. “He is a well-built back with the power, forward lean and experience as a receiver to contribute as a complementary threat.”
Waller is listed at 5-foot-11 and 222 pounds, having added a few pounds from his 215 listing last fall when he became the fifth Fresno State running back to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. Waller finished with 3,108 career yards and 24 career touchdowns.
Waller said he’s not paying attention to any of the mock drafts: “I’ll just wait and let whatever happens happen.”
No Fresno State players were invited to the NFL combine in February – but that didn’t hinder offensive lineman Cody Wichmann last year. While he wasn’t a combine invitee, he performed well at Fresno State Pro Day and was drafted by the Rams in the sixth round. By the middle of the last NFL season, he was a starter.
I have been waiting on this moment since (I was) a little kid.
Marteze Waller on the NFL draft
At last month’s Fresno State Pro Day, Waller logged 23 reps while bench-pressing 225 pounds, a mark that would have tied for seventh among running backs at the combine.
“I think that helped me out, but film really helped me out,” said Waller, who added he’s talked with several teams. “I also worked hard on my footwork and flexibility.”
Washington, meanwhile, doesn’t expect to get drafted and but said he’d sign an undrafted free agent contract if that’s the case. He met with the Detroit Lions last week. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Washington at Pro Day had a 41-inch vertical, which would have tied for second among cornerbacks and third overall at the combine.
Ederaine said he’s met with the Los Angeles Rams and five other teams. The 6-foot-3 linebacker gained 16 pounds since he last put on a Bulldogs uniform to weigh in at 242 at Pro Day.
“I’m extremely excited,” Ederaine said. “You pray and dream as a kid to be drafted. If I get that call, it would mean the world to me, but if I don’t get drafted and sign as a free agent that would mean the world to me, too. At the end of the day, drafted or not you still have to earn the roster spot and I’m ready for it.”
Waller also is eager to see how the draft turns out. He’ll be with family in Georgia hoping to see his name on the television screen.
“It would mean everything to me,” he said. “I have been waiting on this moment since ( I was) a little kid.”
Other draft hopefuls with local ties include Nevada defensive end Rykeem Yates (Edison) and San Diego State fullback Dakota Gordon (Clovis/Fresno City).