NFL

Projecting where Minnesota Gophers could go in 2017 NFL Draft

The Minnesota Gophers football program hasn't always been known to produce high-end NFL talent. But that's a trend that seems to be changing.

Just look at Super Bowl LI. Former Gophers De'Vondre Campbell (fourth-round pick, 2016) and Ra'Shede Hageman (second-round pick, 2014) played significant roles in the Atlanta Falcons defense to get the dirty birds to the big game.

Since 1970, Minnesota has seen just four players drafted in the first round. Center Brian Williams was taken No. 18 overall in 1989, running back Darrell Thompson (19th overall) became a cheesehead in 1990, cornerback Willie Middlebrooks was drafted by Denver (24th overall) in 2001 and workhorse running back Laurence Maroney (21st overall) joined the Patriots in 2006.

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The first round on Thursday night will most likely end without a Gopher called to the podium. But it doesn't mean this maroon-and-gold draft class lacks talent. Here's a look at a few players who should hear their name called this weekend.

Jalen Myrick, cornerback

Career stats

47 games, 93 tackles, 5 interceptions, 26 passes defensed, 1,052 kickoff return yards, 3 total touchdowns

Notable

Myrick, a four-year player and two-year starter from Bloomingdale, Ga., is known for his kick returns (24.5-yard average) almost as much as his defense. He was initially looked at as just another middle-round pick that could possibly contribute to a NFL team.

Then the Pro Day happened. If you missed it, Myrick ran the fastest 40-yard dash time for a Big Ten player . . . ever. He clocked in at 4.28 seconds, good for the second-fastest time at the combine.

OH.
MY.
GOODNESS.

Jalen Myrick (DB -- @GopherFootball) runs 4.29u 40-yard dash! #NFLCombine https://t.co/RPLhbZ0Gxz

— NFL (@NFL) March 6, 2017

If you get an all-caps caption from the NFL's twitter account . . . That means something heading into the draft, right?

Which round?

CBS Sports R.J. White: 3rd round, 106th overall to the Detroit Lions
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller: 5th round, 163 overall to the Buffalo Bills
USA Today's Luke Easterling: 5th round, 165 overall to the Detroit Lions
FOX Sports Dieter Kurtenbach: 5th round, 170th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs
NFL.com's Chad Reuter: 6th round, 218th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs

Jonah Pirsig, offensive lineman

Career stats

4 seasons, 43 games

Notable

Pirsig, a native of Blue Earth, Minn., has a chance to stick in Minnesota if the Vikings call his name this weekend. Based on the Vikings' need for depth at the position, it's definitely a possibility. Pirsig was named Academic All-Big Ten all four years and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2015.

Which round?

USA Today's Luke Easterling: 6th round, 195th overall to the Buffalo Bills
NFL .com's Chad Reuter: 7th round, 232nd overall to the Minnesota Vikings
CBS Sports R.J. White: Undrafted
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller: Undrafted
FOX Sports Dieter Kurtenbach: Undrafted

Damarius Travis, defensive back

Career stats

53 games, 4 interceptions, 190 total tackles, 17 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble

Notable

Travis established himself as a playmaker for the Gophers. He led the team in tackles his senior season with 83, including five for a loss.

Which round?

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller: 6th round, 216th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs
USA Today's Luke Easterling: 7th round, 248th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL.com's Chad Reuter: Undrafted
CBS Sports R.J. White: Undrafted
FOX Sports Dieter Kurtenbach: Undrafted