N.C. State had three players taken in the NFL draft last year but only a total of four in the past three years.
The Wolfpack will add to its list of former players in the pros this week in the draft, which starts Thursday with the first round and continues through Saturday’s last four rounds.
Safety Josh Jones will likely be the first N.C. State player, and second Triangle player (behind UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky), to hear his name called at this year’s draft.
Running back Matt Dayes and cornerback Jack Tocho are also likely to get drafted. Center Joe Scelfo has an outside chance of being drafted but will undoubtedly be in an NFL training camp this summer.
Jones has shot up some mock draft boards but is likely to settle in the second round. N.C. State’s last first-round pick was defensive end Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall selection in 2006. Jones does have a chance to be the Wolfpack’s highest selection since then (cornerback David Amerson, No. 51 overall, second round in 2013).
A look at what the NFL will be getting from the rookie Wolfpackers:
Vitals: S, 6-1, 220 pounds
Projected (CBS Sports): 2nd round
Plus: Fast (4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash), strong (20 reps in the bench press), Jones is an elite athlete. He’s mentally tough, too. You can’t have a year like Jones did in 2015 (as a sophomore) and recover the way he did in 2016 without being tough.
Jones had a remarkable junior season (his fourth in college) last season with a team-best 109 tackles and three interceptions. He was aggressive in the run game and cleaned up almost all of his mistakes in pass coverage.
The switch from strong safety to free safety helped Jones clarify and simplify his role last season.
Minus: When you’re as naturally talented as Jones is, there is a tendency to take chances. He took too many in 2015, to the point where no-name teams picked on him. South Alabama’s first play from scrimmage was a double-move to get Jones to bite and throw over the top of him.
To Jones’ credit, he learned from his difficult season. He can even joke about it or at least poke fun at me for it.
Before N.C. State’s bowl game this season, Jones started an interview with the highlight of the season (for me): “Why you always picking on me, Joe?”
Vitals: RB, 5-9, 205 pounds
Projected (CBS Sports): 5th round
Plus: Stat peeps won’t care for this but Dayes is a pure gamer. Knee, ankle, foot Dayes was just all-around smashed up after 214 carries in the first 11 games but State needed him against North Carolina. He barely practiced that week but he poured it out in the game with 104 yards (on 26 carries) and two touchdowns.
He saved N.C. State’s season, and maybe even Dave Doeren’s job, with one of the gutsiest performances by an N.C. State player in the last 25 years.
The rest of the year wasn’t bad, either. N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher (1,166) in 14 years. He had eight 100-yard games, including a brilliant, one-man gang effort in what should have been a win at Clemson.
He can also catch the ball but more importantly he can do what all NFL running backs have to do – make the first guy miss.
And he’s a me-last kind of guy who is loved by his teammates and coaches.
Minus: He’s not the biggest dude or the fastest and he put on some hard miles the past two seasons. His quickness can make up for his lack of foot speed but number-types might be turned off by lack of home-run speed.
Vitals: CB, 6-0, 202 pounds
Projected (CBS Sports): 7th round-free agent
Plus: A smart, experienced player who’ll be able to step in and pick up a scheme. Tocho’s a hard worker with good size and a leader. He had two interceptions and nine pass breakups in his senior season.
Minus: Speed and luck. Tocho is usually in the right position to make a play but can’t quite pull it off. One play in particular from his junior season stood out as an example of this. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson threaded a 40-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain (my word, what a ridiculous throw by Watson).
Tocho ran step-for-step with Cain and got his left hand up to at least contest the throw but Cain made the grab and scored the TD (he accidentally kicked Tocho in the throat in the process).
NC State draft picks
Joe Thuney, G
Jacoby Brissett, QB
Juston Burris, CB
Dontae Johnson, S
David Amerson, CB
Mike Glennon, QB
Earl Wolff, S
T.J. Graham, WR
Russell Wilson, QB
Terrell Manning, LB
Audie Cole, LB
J.R. Sweezy, G
Markus Kuhn, DT
Nate Irving, LB
Ted Larsen, G
Willie Young, DE