Draft season is upon us as the 2017 NFL Draft from Philadelphia is set to begin with the first round on Thursday night, the 2nd and 3rd rounds on Friday and things are concluded with rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday.
All college programs across the country are hopeful to have some of their players taken in this weekend's draft and the Vanderbilt Commodores are no different. The 2016 Commodores football team has a headliner associated with the 2017 NFL Draft. Junior linebacker Zach Cunningham is a consensus All-American that had stellar performances at both the combine and at his pro day on campus. He is expected to go high but many are still not sure as to how high.
Cunningham along with several other Commodore football players are either expected to be drafted, hopeful to be selected or will sign free agent contracts. DoresDaily breaks down this weekend's draft and where each Commodore prospect might or could be drafted.
The SEC's leading tackler decided to leave school early after debating his return to campus. Cunningham went to the NFL with the idea of becoming a 1st round selection and the possibility is there of happening. The 6'4 235 pound inside linebacker displayed at the Combine in Indianapolis his freakish athleticism and speed for a guy his size and his ability to cover ground all around the field. Many analysts feel Cunningham could go anywhere from the middle of the 1st and some even have him dropping into the 3rd round. I do not think that will happen as I believe NFL scouts are quite high on Cunningham and like his long term projection on the next level. Mock Projection: Middle 1st-2nd DoresDaily Projection: 1st Rd - 24th overall (Raiders)
Holden might have been one of the biggest surprises of the scouting off-season. After having a great performance at the East-West Shrine Game, Holden received an invite to the Senior Bowl. He performed well there too and that performance landed him a spot at the NFL Combine. Once again, the Florida native stood out as one of the top tackle prospects in attendance and someone who showed the ability to play inside if need be. Holden is a big, physical and long tackle prospect who has the versatility to play both tackles spots or swing inside at guard. NFL scouts definitely saw his skill set this off-season and many project the All-SEC 2nd team lineman to go pretty high in the 2017 NFL Draft. Mock Projection: Mid-2nd to Early 4th DoresDaily Projection: 3rd Rd - 71st overall (Chargers)
The Commodores leading sack creator of 2016, Butler is one prospect that honestly hasn't gotten enough attention through the draft process like he should have. Butler presents a lot of good traits that NFL scouts and coaches would like. He is a dependable, hard working guy who hardly missed a game at Vanderbilt and he has the versatility to play any position along the defensive line. Butler has the skills to rush the passer while also being stout enough at stopping the run. His size (6'4 310) and agility are very intriguing for NFL defensive line coaches because they can move him anywhere on the line and he can be a three down lineman. Butler may get drafted late or not at all but he will make an NFL roster. Mock Projection: Undrafted DoresDaily Projection: 6th Rd - 214 overall (Titans)
Vanderbilt relied a lot on McGaster over the past three years and now he is set to take his chances at the NFL. McGaster was not invited to any all-star games nor did he attend the combine. He did however participate at the Commodores Pro Day where he surprised many scouts and coaches in attendance. McGaster is a physical, hard nosed corner who could translate best to the nickel role or even safety in college. The Alabama native is a solid run stuffer and has no issues playing physical in coverage. While his chances of actually being drafted are low, McGaster will be given a chance in training camp to prove his abilities and his work ethic could land him a role on someone's team. Mock Projection: Undrafted DoresDaily Projection: Undrafted (Signs w/ Patriots)
The quiet leader of the Commodores offensive line in 2016 could find himself on an NFL roster one way or another. Gouger is an interesting prospect for scouts to evaluate because of his ability to play the center position at a high level but also swing to either guard position. NFL teams are only allowed to dress 54 players come game day and coaches usually keep seven o-lineman active, which means someone has to have the ability to play multiple positions if called upon. Gouger has those abilities and NFL scouts and coaches have noticed. Gouger attended multiple personally invited visits by NFL teams. There is a possibility that Gouger could get drafted late but more than likely, he will sign a free agent contract. Mock Projection: Undrafted DoresDaily Projection: Undradted (Signs w/ Dolphins)
Besides Cunningham, the Henry County native might have had the biggest opportunity at playing NFL football once his Commodores career was finished. Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way as Jelks dealt with two major knee injuries while at Vanderbilt and instead of returning for a medical red-shirt senior season, the 6'6 lineman decided to try his hand at pro football. Jelks has some work to do at proving he is healthy and can remain that way if he wants a shot in the NFL. He did have a good Pro Day and showed in private workouts his ability to play tackle but also go inside and play guard. The center position is also something some NFL scouts could be looking at Jelks for. He will go undrafted but if given a shot in camp, Jelks could surprise. Mock Projection: Undrafted DoresDaily Projection: Undrafted (Signs w/ Jets)
- Jakarri Thomas and Nehemiah Mitchell are two other Commodore prospects that are draft eligible but neither are considered or projected to be drafted this weeked. Both players could sign free agent contracts.