PULLMAN – As the NFL draft buzz crescendos to a fever pitch, Joe Dahl, who has worked for years to bring himself to this moment, hunkers down at his parent’s home in Spokane and waits for it to all be over.
There are no more combines, or workouts. His “stock” should only rise or fall a few dozen more times before some team in need of an offensive lineman chooses his first home as a professional. A week from now he might be living in Buffalo, New York. He might be living in Miami.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking just waiting around and not really knowing what your future is,” Dahl said. “For me, I’m just anxious and I just want to figure out which team it’s going to be and when I’m shipping off and back to playing football.”
The Patriots, Jets, Lions, Buccaneers and Titans have all reportedly met with Dahl. Teams have talked with Dahl about playing tackle, guard, and even center, although the Washington State and University High graduate expects he’ll probably play guard.
Dahl appears likely to be selected on Friday, during either the draft’s second or third rounds, or maybe early on Saturday during the fourth round. He will pay attention to the first round on Thursday, he said, but not with the expectation of being selected, more so to see what happens to friends he’s made during the draft process.
Carson Wentz, who many expect Philadelphia to select with the No. 2 overall pick, was Dahl’s roommate for a couple months down in Irvine, California, while the two trained for the NFL combine.
Dahl’s performance at the combine, and at the Senior Bowl, solidified him as an upper-half-of-the-draft prospect, particularly after a foot injury shortened his senior season.
Rob Rang, an NFL draft analyst for CBS sports, predicts Dahl will be drafted Friday in the third round. Rang also expects Dahl, who played left tackle his final two years at WSU, will end up as an interior lineman as a professional.
As soon as the combine ended, Dahl began a different sort of training. He won’t ever be asked to run a 40-yard dash again in his life; it’s unlikely anyone will care to test how many times he can bench 225 pounds. But NFL rookie camps start just days after the draft ends, and so Dahl has spent the last couple months back in the Inland Northwest, trying to get in game shape while simultaneously working out for NFL teams.
He’s appreciated the distraction.
“Just being back in Spokane, seeing my family and friends, just pretty much not having any downtime, I think that helps with calming the nerves a little bit,” Dahl said.
Dahl is not the only Cougar, whose professional career will be decided this weekend. Wide receiver Dom Williams and defensive lineman Darryl Paulo may not get drafted, but both should be able to sign free-agent contracts. Paulo has already met with the Bears and Vikings.
Defensive end Destiny Vaeao will likely have to sweat through the later rounds to see if he is drafted or not.
“I personally think Destiny is a seventh-round or priority free agent, but the fact that he was not invited to the combine is a little bit discouraging in that regard,” Rang said. “But I think he’s a good football player, and I think him not getting invited, frankly, is a statement about this year’s class and how deep it is at defensive tackle.”
For Dahl’s part, he plans to keep the weekend fairly lowkey. The classic image of the draft now is the massive family piled into a living room so the TV cameras can catch the celebration when a player’s name is called. But Dahl plans to sit and watch with his family, and wait to find out where he’s going to live, and what jersey he’s going to wear.
Mostly, Dahl just wants to get back to playing football, and put all this draft business behind him.
“I don’t want to do anything too big and be sitting around anxious with all these people around,” he said. “I think personally I’d rather just get it over with.”
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