CU at the NFL Draft

Buffs with the best chances to be drafted in 2023

From the Daily Camera … Since 1938, there have been 276 former Colorado football players selected in the NFL Draft.

Last weekend, however, there were none, as the Buffaloes were shut out of the draft for the first time since 2016. Although the Buffs’ five-year streak of draft picks is over, there is a chance to start a new streak next year.

Several Buffs will need to step up their games this fall to improve their draft stock, but here’s a look at CU’s potential draft candidates for 2023. This list includes seniors, as well as some juniors, as anyone three years removed from high school is eligible to enter the draft.

1. DE Terrance Lang, Sr.: At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, Lang has always had the prototypical NFL body. He’s got the skills, too, but needs more production. He said this spring his main objective is to produce more impact plays. He has 9.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in his career. If he has a highly productive senior year, he could be high on the NFL radar.

2. TE Brady Russell, Sr.: Once a walk-on, he’s now one of the most important weapons for the Buffs and one of the better tight ends in the Pac-12. Last season, Russell led the Buffs with 25 catches and 307 receiving yards. NFL teams love good tight ends, with 19 drafted last weekend – eight more than in 2021. Russell has displayed his receiving and blocking skills. Taking his game a step forward this year could raise his stock.

3. WR RJ Sneed II, Sr.: This was the year of the receiver, with 28 drafted overall, including six in the first round. Sneed’s former Baylor teammate, Tyquan Thornton, was a second-round pick. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Sneed has not only been productive (133 career catches at Baylor) but has already been a leader in his four months at CU. With a big year for the Buffs this fall, Sneed could land in the draft.

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Mustafa Johnson to join Nate Landman in efforts to make Atlanta Falcons roster

From … As announced by the Musgrove Agency, Mustafa Johnson has accepted a training camp invite from the Atlanta Falcons. Though he has not signed a contract with the team, he can play his way into a spot on the 90-man roster.

The 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman is known for his pass-rushing skills and could help solidify an Atlanta team that ranked in the middle of the NFL in sacks last season. Johnson burst onto the scene his first year with the Buffaloes in 2018 when he led the team with 8.5 sacks and received an All-Pac-12 first-team nod by the AP.  He finished his college career with 17 sacks, 122 tackles and 31 tackles for a loss.

Johnson will join Nate Landman in trying to secure a spot on the Falcons roster. The first time we will hopefully see both on an NFL field will be at Atlanta’s Rookie Minicamp, which will take place from May 14-16.


Pac-12 Draft Totals lowest since conference was formed

From the San Jose Mercury News … The ultimate judge of football talent rendered its verdict on the Pac-12 and deemed it … substandard.

The conference produced just 25 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft — the lowest total since it expanded to 12 schools a decade ago.

The previous expansion-era low was 28 selections, a mark hit three different times, including last spring.

The SEC led all conferences with 65 selections, followed by the Big Ten with 48.

Among the Power Five leagues, only the ACC performed worse than the Pac-12 on a picks-per-team basis. (Data below.)

UCLA led the conference with six selections while the 2021 division champions, Utah and Oregon, produced one pick each.

A variety of factors account for the Pac-12’s tepid output, including a loss of talent to the transfer portal and the disruption from COVID, which impacted many programs for two offseasons.

The conference has struggled for years to retain elite West Coast prospects who are often lured to the SEC and Big Ten by the promise of packed stadiums, College Football Playoff bids and future NFL riches.

But the Pac-12 is missing on more than the five-star recruits, according to Randy Mueller, a former NFL general manager (Saints and Dolphins) who is based in Seattle and closely monitors the Pac-12.

“The identification of talent is more of a missing link than recruiting itself,” Mueller said. “You have to recruit the right guys for your system. And out here, it seems like there is a disconnect.”

Prospects ill-suited for the system and the culture are less likely to reach the potential needed for the NFL Draft.

“The thinking needs to be, ‘Am I recruiting the right guys for us?”’ Mueller said.

Here’s a look at the 2022 NFL Draft winners and losers, in the Pac-12 and across the country …

Winner: Utah. The Utes won the Pac-12 championship and nearly beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl with a roster that produced one draft pick (linebacker Devin Lloyd). Nowhere does the sum exceed the parts more frequently than in Salt Lake City. In that regard, rather than actual draft production, the Utes stand as a victor.

Losers: UCLA and ASU. Between them, the Bruins and Sun Devils had 10 draft picks — or nine more than the South division rival that pummeled them both. Oh, and they combined for one victory over a team with a winning record: ASU’s win over the Bruins.

Winner: Oregon. With the selection of Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5 to the Giants), the Ducks have produced a top-10 selection in six of the past 10 years. (The others: Dion Jordan, Marcus Mariota, DeForest Buckner, Justin Herbert and Penei Sewell.)

Loser: Oregon. Sure seems like all those highly-ranked recruiting classes should have resulted in more than one draft pick.

Winner: California (the state). It led all states in first-round production, with five natives selected on Day One: Thibodeaux, McDuffie, Lloyd, USC’s Drake London and Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, who grew up in San Marcos.

Losers: Arizona and Colorado. Two of a handful of Power Five programs (including Texas) that didn’t produce a draft pick. The Wildcats were shut out for the fifth time in the last decade. “Never again,” coach Jedd Fisch tweeted.

*** Pac-12 draft picks by year in expansion era:

2012: 28
2013: 28
2014: 34
2015: 39
2016: 32
2017: 36
2018: 30
2019: 33
2020: 32
2021: 28
2022: 25

*** 2022 draft picks by conference (total):

SEC: 65
Big Ten: 48
Big 12: 25
Pac-12: 25
ACC: 21

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Nate Landman and Carson Wells land free agent contracts

From … Colorado linebacker Nate Landman agreed to a free agent deal Saturday with the Atlanta Falcons after the conclusion of the annual NFL Draft while fellow Buffaloes ‘backer Carson Wells accepted a free agent offer from the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Buffaloes did not have a player selected in the draft, the first time since 2016 that a CU player’s name was not called during the seven rounds.

Landman was one of the most prolific and productive linebackers in CU history, becoming just the 12th player in program annals to earn at least five letters. He earned all-Pac-12 honors four times (two first-team selections, two on the second team) and finished his career with 409 tackles, tying for fifth on the all-time CU list.

He also became just the third player in Colorado history to average 10 tackles per game for three seasons, joining Buffs legends Barry Remington and Greg Biekert.

Had he not had his season shortened by injury as a senior, he no doubt would have climbed higher on the all-time tackles list.

Landman goes to an Atlanta team that finished 7-10 last season (third in the NFC South) with a defense that yielded 459 points — second-most in the NFL. Former CU standout cornerback Isaiah Oliver plays for Atlanta.

A two-time All-Pac-12 performer, Wells finished his CU career with 40 games played and 34 starts. His 187 career tackles ranked 89th on CU’s all-time list, with his 38 tackles for losses (for 132 yards) tying for eighth in the Buff record book.

He also led the nation in 2020 in tackles for loss, averaging 2.7 per game.

The Bengals won the AFC championship last year before losing to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Former CU cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and former CU defensive lineman Josh Tupou also play for Cincinnati.


Power 5 teams with zero NFL Draft Picks (2022)

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Duke
  • Louisville
  • Northwestern
  • Syracuse
  • TCU
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Vanderbilt

5-Year Recruiting Average of teams with no 2022 draft picks:

  • #8 Texas
  • #32 TCU
  • #43 Louisville
  • #44 WVU
  • #47 Colorado
  • #50 Northwestern
  • #53 Vanderbilt
  • #56 Syracuse
  • #57 Duke
  • #61 Arizona

Pac-12 selections … 

  • UCLA – 6
  • Washington – 4
  • Arizona State – 4
  • USC – 3
  • Washington State – 2
  • California – 2
  • Oregon – 1
  • Oregon State – 1
  • Stanford – 1
  • Utah – 1
  • Colorado – 0
  • Arizona – 0
  • … oh, and not for nothing … Montana State – 2

Buffs shut out of the NFL Draft for the first time since 2016

From the Daily Camera … For the first time since 2016, the Colorado Buffaloes were shut out in the NFL Draft.

It didn’t take long for one of CU’s top prospects to land a free agent deal, however.

Shortly after the conclusion of the seven-round draft on Saturday, former CU linebacker Nate Landman agreed to a free agent opportunity with the Atlanta Falcons.

Outside linebacker Carson Wells, offensive lineman Kary Kutsch, defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson and tight end Matt Lynch were among the other former Buffs hoping for an NFL opportunity.

Landman and Wells were both projected as potential late-round picks, but were not among the 262 players selected.

CU had at least one player drafted every year from 2017-2021. Prior to that stretch, the Buffs had a two-run run, in 2015 and 2016, with no players selected.

A four-time All-Pac-12 performer during his five seasons at CU, Landman participated in the NFL Combine in March. He pulled a hamstring during his 40-yard sprint, however, finishing with a time of 4.86 seconds.

At CU’s pro day on March 16, Landman did run the 40, but had 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press, which quieted some concerns about the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the final five games of the 2021 season. Landman also finished the 2020 season on the sidelines after a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

When healthy, however, Landman was one of the most productive linebackers in the Pac-12 and he was a two-time semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which is presented to the top linebacker in the country each season.

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Day Three: Decision Day for Landman and Wells

Carson Wells’ Draft Profile


Profile … Wells moved from the Sunshine State to Colorado for college after being named the Central Florida Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at South Sumter High School. He started six of 12 games played as a redshirt freshman in 2018 (25 tackles, 6.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks), one year after missing time with a leg infection. Wells started 10 games in 2019 (41 tackles, three for loss, one interception) and then became an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick by leading the FBS with 2.7 TFL per game in 2020 (37 tackles, 16 for loss with 6.5 sacks, one interception, four pass breakups in six starts). Wells was an honorable mention selection again in 2021, leading the Buffaloes with 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 12 starts (51 total tackles, one interception returned for a score, four pass breakups).

Analysis … Wells has played as an edge defender but appears to be much better suited for consideration as a 4-3 Sam linebacker as a pro. He has good play strength and excellent eyes with the ability to process and respond to play design like an inside linebacker. He’s slow-twitch, which limits his pursuit range, but he’s been a consistent tackler throughout his career and has used his recognition talent to make more plays than his athletic profile would indicate. Wells doesn’t have the juice or skill teams look for as a rusher so rebranding as backup linebacker with good toughness and a high football IQ makes the most sense.

Projection … Priority free agent


Nate Landman’s Draft Profile


Profile … Landman was born in Zimbabwe while his father, Shaun, played rugby. He eventually wound up in California, where he earned Northern California and East Bay Defensive Player of the Year as a senior (32 TFL and 38-577, seven TDs receiving). Landman played in 11 games as a reserve during his first season with Colorado in 2017 (14 tackles, four for loss) before becoming a playmaker for the Buffaloes. He garnered honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors and was named UC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 with a team-high 103 tackles, 15 for loss with four sacks, two interceptions, three pass breaksup and two forced fumbles in 12 starts. Landman made first-team all-conference as a junior, again leading the Buffs with 114 tackles (83 solo, eight for loss, two sacks) in 12 starts, and as a senior in 2020 (53 tackles, nine for loss with four sacks) in five starts. He tied for second in the FBS with 7.8 solo tackles per game and tied for eighth with 1.8 tackles for loss per game, though he ruptured an Achilles tendon in the regular-season finale. A shoulder injury limited Landman in 2021 but Pac-12 coaches still voted him second-team all-conference (63 tackles, six for loss, four pass breakups in seven starts). His brother, Brendan, played TE at Arizona State while his sister, Ocean Trail, swam at Oregon State.

Analysis … Four-year starter with excellent intangibles but below-average positional traits. Landman’s best seasons were in 2018 and 2019 but his Achilles tear in 2020 hurt his momentum and his 2021 tape was very average prior to suffering a shoulder injury. The lack of flow quickness and agility prevents him from consistently acting upon what his eyes tell him. Landman’s inconsistencies with coverage and tackling further hinder his chances of making an NFL roster.

Projection … Priority free agent.

OG Kary Kutsch hoping to hear his name called this weekend: “I’m in limbo right now”

From the Daily Camera … Through all of his work to prepare for this week’s NFL Draft, Kary Kutsch has taken some time to appreciate his opportunity.

A native of Redding, Calif., he was lightly recruited out of high school, went to a junior college and then made the most of his time with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Now, he’s hoping to get a call during the draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday.

“As a kid this was the dream,” said Kutsch, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman. “I kind of pictured myself being here, but it is kind of crazy to think that it is a rather prestigious spot to be in. … To be even considered for the pros is pretty wild.

“Yeah, it’s really exciting. It still doesn’t feel real … but it’s not kind of real until it is real.”

For Kutsch, the NFL is still a hope and a dream, but it could become real this week, either through the draft or with an undrafted free agent deal.

“I’m in limbo right now until a team signs me,” he said.

Kutsch hopes he has done enough to earn the chance to play in the NFL.

After earning All-California Community College Region I first-team honors during his one season at Butte (Calif.) College in 2017, Kutsch came to CU. He wound up playing four seasons with the Buffs, the last three as a regular starter at guard.

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Carson Wells hoping to hear his named called this weekend

From the Daily Camera … It was on the family cattle ranch in Florida where Carson Wells developed his “country” strength as a youth.

Working on that ranch prepared Wells for his high school football seasons and his career at Colorado. The ranch was a blessing to keep him shape during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when CU athletes couldn’t work out in Boulder.

Naturally, it is on that ranch where Wells has spent the past couple of months as he prepares for this week’s NFL Draft.

“We just got done clearing some land,” Wells said in a recent phone interview with BuffZone. “It’s kind of like the quarantine time period all over again for me. Just kind of like a reset. It’s real nice. It definitely takes your mind off of (the draft prep). You don’t just work out for an hour or two and then just sit around all day thinking about it.”

A former outside linebacker at CU, Wells has taken that blue-collar mentality and work ethic this far and he’s hoping it helps him get to the NFL.

The first round of the draft will be Thursday, with rounds 2-3 on Friday and rounds 4-7 on Saturday. Wells is one of several former Buffs hoping to get selected, along with inside linebacker Nate Landman, offensive lineman Kary Kutsch and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson.

CU has had at least one player selected in each of the last five drafts and Wells might be the Buffs’ best prospect this year – along with Landman.

“I’ll probably be like a third-day guy, but hopefully I hear my name pretty early on the third day,” Wells said. “You never know. You can go way higher (than projections); you can go way lower. You’ve gotta wait and see, really, how a bunch of decision makers are feeling on that day.”

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Colorado at No. 23 on the all-time list of NFL draftees

From … With one draft pick (Will Sherman) in 2021, Colorado has had a total 276 players drafted into the NFL in its history, good enough to stay in 23rd place on the all-time list. The Buffs have been losing ground on those teams just ahead of them, and may drop out of the Top 25 this year, depending on how the 2022 NFL Draft plays out …

The list …

No. 21 – Wisconsin … 289

No. 22 – Purdue … 284

No. 23 – Colorado … 276

No. 24 – Florida State … 275

No. 25 – Arkansas … 274

No. 26 – Minnesota … 273

No. 27 – Stanford … 272

Quirky CU Draft Facts 

— On two occasions, CU Buffs have been “Mr. Irrelevant”, the last choice in the NFL Draft. In 1977, the Minnesota Vikings selected fullback Jim Kelleher, while in 1984 the Los Angeles Raiders selected quarterback Randy Essington. CU was the only school with two players earning this distinction until South Carolina had the final players of the 2009 and 2013 drafts;

— Eleven times in Colorado history, an undergraduate has declared for the NFL Draft, (the most recent two before this past year being Isaiah Oliver for the 2018 Draft and Laviska Shenault for the 2020 Draft), and all eleven players have been drafted. Offensive lineman Will Sherman kept the streak alive in 2021, going to New England in the sixth round;

— CU has never had the No. 1 overall draft pick, but has had the No. 2 overall pick, with fullback Bo Matthews going No. 2 to San Diego in the 1974 NFL Draft;

— Overall, Colorado has had six top ten picks, including Matthews, HB Byron “Whizzer” White (No. 4 to Pittsburgh in 1938); WR Michael Westbrook (No. 4 to Washington in 1995); TE J.V. Cain (No. 7 to St. Louis in 1974); CB Mark Haynes (No. 8 to N.Y. Giants in 1980); and OG Chris Naeole (No. 10 to New Orleans in 1997);

— Starting in 1994, the NFL limited the draft to seven rounds. Since then, only 13 teams have had double digit draftees in the same draft, including the 1995 draft, when the 1994 Buffs had ten players drafted. In that draft, CU had seven players taken in the first 71 picks, the first time that one school had as many as seven players taken in the first 75 picks;

— In the 1977 draft, five Buffs were selected in the second round, with all five taken within 18 picks of each other;

— In the 1996 draft, CU had only seven seniors available, with five of those players being drafted (and a sixth player signing as a free agent). The five players drafted were: OG Heath Irwin (4th round; New England); DE Daryl Price (4th round; San Francisco); C Bryan Stoltenberg (6th round; San Diego); CB T.J. Cunningham (6th round; Seattle); and DT Kerry Hicks (7th round; Carolina);

— In the decade between 1991 and 2000, Colorado had 58 players drafted, second in the nation. In the most recent decade, 2010 to 2019, Colorado had … 15.

CU NFL Draftees – It’s been pretty quiet decade for Buffs

CU finished the 2021 NFL draft with one selection, with Will Sherman going to New England in the sixth round. The 2021 draft, though, represented the seventh draft in the past 12 years in which Colorado had fewer than two players selected, including three seasons (2010, 2015, and 2016) in which no Buffs were taken.

The past decade-plus of CU players selected in the NFL draft:

2010 (0)

2011 (4)
17. Nate Solder, OT, New England (1)
27. Jimmy Smith, CB, Baltimore (1)
118. Jalil Brown, CB, Kansas City (4)
227. Scotty McKnight, WR, N.Y. Jets (7)

2012 (2)
160. Ryan Miller, OG, Cleveland (5)
231. Tony Clemons, WR, Pittsburgh (7)

2013 (2)
109. David Bakhtiari, OT, Green Bay (4)
172. Nick Kasa, TE, Oakland (6)

2014 (1)
45. Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle (2)

2015 (0)

2016 (0)

2017 (4)
60. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Dallas (2)
66. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, San Francisco (3)
111. Tedric Thompson, SS, Seattle (4)
246. Jordan Carrell, DT, Dallas (7)

2018 (1)
58. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Atlanta (2)

2019 (1)
187. Juwann Winfree, WR, Denver (6)

2020 (3)
42. Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville (2)
103. Davion Taylor, LB, Philadelphia (3)
226. Arlington Hambright, OL, Chicago (7)

2021 (1)
197. Will Sherman, OL, New England (6)

NFL First Round history for the Pac-12 … 

Colorado has had 24 first round draft picks in its history, 28th in the country, seventh in the Pac-12. The Buffs are just behind Cal (with 27), Washington and Arizona State (with 26), and Stanford (with 25). Oregon State, with the fewest, celebrated just its sixth first round pick in 2014 with Brandin Cooks.

Washington State broke a long Pac-12 drought without a first round pick, dating back to 2003, when Deone Bucannon went to Arizona with the 27th pick in 2015. The longest current drought without a first round pick now belongs to Arizona, which last had a first round pick in 2008.

The Pac-12 conference and the first round of the NFL draft (rank nationally, number of all-time first round picks, and each school’s most recent first round picks – Source: Winsipedia):

(Updated to include 2022 NFL Draft, with four Pac-12 first round picks) …

No. 2 – USC – 84 … Most recent: 2022 – Drake London, WR, 8th pick, Atlanta Falcons

No. 16t – UCLA – 36 … Most recent: 2018 – Josh Rosen, QB, 10th pick, Arizona; Kolton Miller, OT, Oakland Raiders

No. 22t – Washington – 28 … Most recent: 2022 – Trent McDuffie, CB, 21st pick, Kansas City Chiefs

No. 22t – California – 27 … Most recent: 2016 – Jared Goff, QB, 1st overall pick, Los Angeles Rams

No. 24 – Arizona State – 26 … Most recent: 2020 – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 25th pick, San Francisco 49ers

No. 25t – Stanford – 25 … Most recent: 2017 – Solomon Thomas, DT, 3rd pick, San Francisco 49ers; Christian McCaffrey, RB, 8th pick, Carolina Panthers

No. 28 – Colorado – 24 … Most recent: 2011 – Nate Solder, OT, 17th pick, New England; and Jimmy Smith, CB, 27th pick, Baltimore

No. 37 – Oregon – 21 … Most recent: 2022 – Kayvon Thibodeaux, D5, 5th pick, New York Giants

No. 49 – Washington State – 14 … Most recent: 2019 – Andre Dillard, OL, 22nd pick, Philadelphia

No. 55 – Arizona – 10 … Most recent: 2008 – Antoine Cason, CB, 27th pick, San Diego

No. 61t – Utah – 9 …  Most recent: 2022 – Devin Lloyd, LB, 27th pick, Jacksonville Jaguars

No. 66t – Oregon State – 6 … Most recent: 2014 – Brandin Cooks, WR, 20th pick, New Orleans

(And, in case you are wondering … No. 68t – Colorado State – 5 … Most recent: 1987 – Kelly Stouffer, QB, 6th pick, St. Louis)



4 Replies to “CU at the NFL Draft”

  1. Texas and Oregon combine for a total of 1 player in this year’s draft…. what about all those 4 and 5 star studs they recruit?

    umm, maybe not… Buffs are going to be fine. Good to see Dorrell bringing in ‘journeyman’ talent to fill the gaps

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