NFL Draft Preview

THE DEPARTING SENIORS—and one junior—from the 2003 Washington State football team may not yet be finished rewriting the Cougar record books. Come late April, when the 2004 NFL draft gets underway, there is a very real chance more Cougars could be chosen then ever before.

At the very least, this batch of prospective pros will challenge the WSU record set in 1978 when eight Cougs were drafted by NFL teams. Coincidentally, two of those chosen are current WSU coaches: defensive backs coach Ken Greene (round one, St. Louis) and offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller (round six, Oakland).

Seven Cougars have been projected as draft picks by TFY Draft Preview, with an additional seven players speculated to sign with pro clubs as free agents. And one or more of these projected free agents could "sneak" into the late rounds of the draft.

D.D. Acholonu, the nation's co-leader in sacks last season, has been forecast as an early fourth round choice, but not at his familiar defensive end position. Acholonu is not only being projected as an outside linebacker in the bigs, he's the eleventh best available for the draft, according to TFY.

His DE mate, Isaac Brown, also forecast as a potential NFL OLB, is ranked No. 55 at that spot and projected to sign as a free agent.

Defensive tackles Tai Tupai and Jeremey Williams, ranked No. 21 and 24, should also be selected on day two of the draft if projections are accurate. Tupai has been slated as a mid-fifth round pick; Williams as an early sixth round choice.

Cougar safeties Erik Coleman and Virgil Williams are thought to be early fifth and seventh round picks, respectively. Coleman, the 2003 Pac-10 interception leader and honorable mention All-American, is ranked No. 13 at the safety spot; Williams is rated the 19th best available. Both could improve their standings with strong NFL combine performances this week.

First team All-Pac 10 corner Jason David, said to be the 25th best available CB, is projected as an early seventh round pick.

Devard Darling, who opted to forego his senior season at Wazzu, is forecast to be the first Coug drafted, potentially an early third round pick. He was ranked the 11th best WR prior to another underclassman, USC's Mike Williams, declaring his intentions to enter the draft.

His stock could rise or fall depending on his performance at this week's combine, as could offensive lineman Josh Parrish, who is projected to sign as a free agent.

Darling's receiving mate, Holiday Bowl MVP Sammy Moore, is ranked No. 55 at his position and projected to sign as a free agent. However, his return abilities could easily make him too tempting to pass up in the draft's late rounds.

Cougar quarterback Matt Kegel is ranked No. 18 among signal callers and projected to go the free agency route.

Other Washington State players not ranked but thought to be probable free agent signees include All-American kicker Drew Dunning and second team All-Pac 10 selections, linebacker Don Jackson and running back Jonathan Smith.

JOINING GREENE and Levenseller in that bountiful 1978 draft were S Don Schwartz (round four, New Orleans), RB Dan Doornink (round seven, NY Giants), LB Don Hover (round eight, Washington), P Gavin Hedrick (round eight, San Diego), TE Eason Ramson (round 12, Green Bay), and DB Mark Patterson (round 12, Detroit).

The closest that 1978 record has come to being surpassed occurred in the 1990, when six Cougs -- led by Steve Broussard in the first round -- were selected (one could argue that seven were chosen, as the Phoenix selection of QB Timm Rosenbach's in the 1989 supplemental draft counted toward their first round pick in the 1990 draft).

The 2004 NFL draft will take place on April 25-26, with day one coverage live on ESPN and day two coverage live on ESPN2.

It should be noted that CF.C's draft records from 1930-60 may not be complete. Our research on the subject is ongoing.

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