Four Gophers Selected in the NFL Draft

Four Gophers Selected in the NFL Draft

There were four Gophers selected in the NFL Draft this weekend. That marks the fifth time this century that at least four Minnesota players were taken.

Boye Mafe, Round 2, Seattle Seahawks

Seattle took Mafe, a defensive end, with the eighth pick of the second round and 40th overall. Here’s what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Yahoo about how he sees Mafe contributing in Seattle:

“He’s a very versatile football player… I like him particularly coming forward and getting after the quarterback, which we’d like to emphasize that as we get started, but he’ll be an outside backer in the system and outside rusher in the in the 4-3 stuff so he’ll get a really good chance to see where he fits in with that”.

Mafe’s stock rose considerably after his the Senior Bowl, and again at the NFL Combine. (Some experts even thought he could sneak into the late first round). He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and provided a 38-inch vertical jump, both very impressive for a guy who’s 6’4″ and 260 pounds. He led the Gophers this year with seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Like nearly all college players, Mafe will need to work on technique, but he has the athleticism in spades. This is a guy who goes from zero to full speed really quickly- a fantastic trait for an edge rusher.

Daniel Fa’alele, Round 4, Baltimore Ravens

As Gopher fans know, Fa’alele has a really interesting background. An Australia native and rugby player, he arrived at the IMG academy in Florida having never played a down of American football. He spent his junior year learning the game and played ONE season as a senior. A four-star recruit (after ONE SEASON OF PLAYING FOOTBALL), he started eight games as a freshman at Minnesota and never looked back.

Also, he’s 6’8″ and 384 pounds.

Make no mistake, Fa’alele is a bit of a project. Even at the FBS level, his sheer size and strength meant that defenders did not move him, or go through him. This definitely mitigated some of the weaknesses in his game. However, his limited experience means his ceiling is extremely high. We can’t emphasize this enough- he’s played five years of football. Most NFLers have played for five years before they start high school, if not middle school.

Esezi Otomewo, Round 5, Minnesota Vikings

Edge rusher Esezi Otomewo is staying in the Twin Cities. The Vikings took him 165th overall.

At 6’5″ and 282 pounds, Otomewo is a bit of a “tweener”: he’s a little big for an NFL end, but probably not big enough to play inside, even in a 4-3. According to Yahoo, “Otomewo’s tweener build and lack of pass-rushing traits make him a tough projection. He’s likely only a fit for certain teams… can slot in between 3-tech and 5-tech to provide reliable run defense off the bench.” Presumably, the Vikings saw enough of Otomewo during his Gopher days to feel confident that they’re one of those teams.

Ko Kieft, Round 6, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minnesota doesn’t get the tight ends involved in the passing game very often. In 2021, Ko Kieft caught seven passes for 101 yards and a single touchdown, one of two he scored in five years as a Gopher.

But if you’re looking for a blocking tight end, look no further. That’s the 6’4″, 259-pound Kieft’s specialty. And he’s good enough at it that Tampa traded up in the sixth round to nab him. He’s got the motor and on-field demeanor you want from the guy helping open holes for Leonard Fournette.

In Tampa, Kieft joins former Gopher teammates Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson, both drafted by the Bucs in 2020.

Undrafted Free Agents

In addition to the four Gophers selected in the NFL draft, three will be attending training camps as UDFAs: offensive lineman Sam Schlueter with the 49ers, linebacker Jack Gibbens with the Titans, offensive lineman Blaise Andries with the Dolphins.

St. Paul native Seth Green, the wildcat quarterback/tight end who transferred to Houston for the 2021 season, will be in camp with the Texans.

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