It took almost six and a half hours on Saturday but Josh Jones finally got some company from his N.C. State teammates in the NFL draft.
Cornerback Jack Tocho went to the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round, No. 245 overall, and then seven picks later, finally, running back Matt Dayes.
Twenty-nine other running backs, including 23 on Saturday, went before Dayes heard his name with the No. 252 pick. The Cleveland Browns took the Wolfpack’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002 with the penultimate pick in the draft.
Jones was taken in the second round by the Green Bay Packers on Friday night. There was a long wait, about four rounds and six hours and 25 minutes, before a second Wolfpack player went off the board on Saturday.
Dayes, who was projected to go as early as the fourth round, had seemingly given up on being drafted with 15 picks left in the seventh and final round.
“Life is sometimes unfair and (poop emoji) happens but it’s alright. I’ve been through this my whole life,” Dayes wrote on his account before the Browns took him off the board.
Dayes led the Wolfpack with 1,166 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.
The Packers took Jones, the Wolfpack’s top tackler, at No. 61 overall in the second round.
East Carolina receiver Zay Jones (second round, Buffalo), Charlotte defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (third round, Cleveland), N.C. A&T running back Tarik Cohen (fourth round, Chicago) and Wake Forest linebacker Marquel Lee (fifth round, Oakland) were among the other in-state players taken in the NFL draft.
The Packers were happy to get Jones, one of nine safeties taken in the first two rounds.
“He’s a very good tackler, in space and in the box,” Green Bay director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst said, according to Packers.com. “He’ll shoot the gap and take on the big guys inside. He has no problem doing that. With Josh, the versatility, that’s exciting for us, the ability to do so many different things.”
Jones led the Wolfpack with 109 tackles and three interceptions. A fourth-year junior, Jones could have returned to N.C. State but the early jump paid off.
Jones watched the draft on Friday night and said the Packers had called while the Dallas Cowboys were making their second-round pick at No. 60.
“I just jumped out of my seat so fast,” Jones said, according to Packers.com. “I knew this was my opportunity.”
ECU’s Jones will get a good shot to make an early difference for a Buffalo offense which ranked 30th in the NFL in passing.
Jones set NCAA single-season (158) and career records (399) for receptions with the Pirates. Jones is reunited with Bills receiver coach Phil McGeoghan, who previously worked with Jones at ECU.
New Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said the volume of Jones’ production mattered when the team was making the selection.
“I mean that’s a lot of balls,” McDermott said, according to the Buffalo News. “It’s a ton of balls in a college career, that’s very impressive. You can’t ignore it.”
Ogunjobi became the first player drafted from the Charlotte program when the Browns took him in the third round with the No. 65 overall pick.
Cohen, from Bunn, ran for 1,588 yards for the Aggies this past season and scored 18 touchdowns. The Bears took him in the fourth round with the No. 119 overall pick.
Dayes waited and waited but finally heard his name.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio