Former Eastern Washington University running back Taiwan Jones slipped deep into Saturday’s fourth round of the National Football League draft before being selected by the Oakland Raiders.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder, who passed up his senior year at EWU to enter the draft, was the 28th pick of the fourth round and 125th overall selection.
Jones was projected by some mock drafts as a possible late second-round pick after he wowed NFL scouts, coaches and executives with 40-yard dash times ranging from 4.25 to 4.34 seconds on his pro day on April 14.
Jones, a first-team All-American and key contributor to Eastern’s march to the NCAA Division I Football Championship last fall, rushed for 1,742 yards and 17 touchdown as a junior, with the Eagles finishing 13-2 after knocking off Delaware 20-19 in the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas.
Jones missed the semifinals and finals of the playoffs after breaking a bone in his foot in a 38-31 overtime win over North Dakota State in the quarterfinals. He also missed another game because of an abdominal contusion suffered in a 30-7 early-season road loss to Big Sky Conference rival Montana State.
“He can make plays,” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said of Jones. “The guy can score from anywhere on the field. He can catch it, he can run with it, he can play on special teams. This is another athlete who has unquestioned ability to put the ball in the end zone. And now he’s a Raider. There’s no question why he’s here. We know what he’s capable of doing, and we’re looking forward to him doing that.”
“I’ve got a lot to offer,” Jones said. “I’ve got a lot of good agility. I’m good with my speed and how they want to use me is up to them. I just know I’ll come in and give them my all.”
After two days of waiting, Idaho quarterback Nate Enderle was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft – just 16 picks after fellow Vandal Shiloh Keo. Tight end Daniel Hardy was the third Vandal drafted when Tampa Bay took him in the seventh round.
Enderle, a four-year starter for the Vandals, went in the fifth round (the 160th pick overall) to the Chicago Bears. Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz traveled to Moscow to watch Enderle’s pro day in March.
Keo was taken by Houston earlier in the fifth round (144th overall). He excelled at UI as a run-stuffing safety. He was also valuable on special teams, where he’ll no doubt get an opportunity to play with the Texans.
Hardy went as the 238th pick in the last round to Tampa Bay. He was a dynamite down-the-field receiver for the Vandals when healthy.
The three players drafted is a school record since the NFL adopted a shortened version of the draft. In 1972 the Vandals had three players picked, but the last, Ron Linehan, went in the 17th round to the Steelers.
Martz’s influence was important in the decision to draft a quarterback. Martz had worked out Enderle and came away impressed with the 6-foot-4, 234-pounder.
Enderle threw 16 interceptions and 22 TD passes in 2010 a year after throwing 22 TD passes.
The 5-11, 219-pound Keo intercepted 11 passes and made 358 tackles in 55 career games at Idaho. He also returned kicks in college, and set a school record with 585 punt-return yards.
Keo sustained a season-ending shoulder injury four games into the 2008 season and was granted a medical redshirt. He made 113 tackles in 2009, including four behind the line, and intercepted three passes.
Hardy, who was injured midway through the season, was almost speechless, according to a UI release.
“It’s so hard to explain,” he said. “It’s like 100 emotions hit you at once. I could barely breathe.”
Washington State offensive lineman Zack Williams was taken by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round.
The 6-3, 309-pound Williams played guard as a junior before switching to center last season.
The Panthers had little depth and no permanent starter at right guard last season.
“I know Ryan (Kalil) is over there at center,” Williams said, “so I’ll probably work my way in at guard.”
K.J. Wright wanted to scream. The situation dictated he whisper.
When Wright wasn’t taken in the third round of the NFL draft Friday, the Mississippi State linebacker knew that Saturday could get a little odd and a little awkward. Wright knew he was going to get drafted. The problem came with the timing.
Would Wright get the phone call he’s always wanted to receive in the middle of his college graduation ceremonies?
“As soon as I got off the phone, two minutes later I had to go up there and walk across the stage,” Wright said.
The drafting of Wright was the beginning of a busy final day of the NFL draft for the Seattle Seahawks. Picking seven times in the final three rounds, Seattle addressed mostly the defensive side of the ball after spending the first two days working to better an offensive line that was a constant problem in Pete Carroll’s first season.
Seattle grabbed a trio for its secondary with Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, Appalachian State free safety Mark LeGree, a three-time Associated Press FCS first-team all-American, and Clemson cornerback Byron Maxwell.
The Seahawks closed out the day by drafting defensive lineman Lazarius “Pep” Levingston from LSU and Southern California outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, both in the seventh round.
The only offensive player drafted Saturday was 6-5 Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham in the fourth round, a stark turn from the first two days when Seattle focused on the offensive line and took Alabama’s James Carpenter and Wisconsin’s John Moffitt.
About the only lingering position Seattle didn’t address – and most expected them to – was quarterback. Charlie Whitehurst is the only QB under contract.
“Overall, I think we were able to really improve the athleticism and speed of our team and then we were able to do some things up front from a strength and toughness standpoint,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said.
A total of 254 players were selected over seven rounds. But only a few lucky first-rounders were able to pick up playbooks Friday during a brief time when the lockout was lifted.
Day 3 of the draft was the first full day that players were locked out again after a brief respite Friday. That night, however, an appeals court decision allowed the league to reinstate the lockout that had been lifted earlier in the week.
But the draft carried on because it is protected under the old collective bargaining agreement, which expired March 11.
The draft concluded with the Houston Texans picking Rice linebacker Cheta Ozougwu. As the final pick, he will be honored as “Mr. Irrelevant,” a weeklong celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., that began in 1976.
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