Stanford football had three former players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft this weekend in New York City, all between the second and fifth rounds.
Senior tight end Zach Ertz was the first Cardinal prospect selected when the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the third pick of the second round.
It is an ironic twist of fate for Ertz. The 6-foot-8 tight end will now play for former Oregon football head coach Chip Kelly, whom Ertz helped Stanford defeat with a dominant 11-reception, 106-yard performance that included the game-tying touchdown grab with under two minutes remaining.
“I couldn’t be happier to be going to play for Coach Kelly and the Eagles,” Ertz said. “My mom and dad were both born in Pennsylvania, so it feels like this very cool circle of life.”
The next Stanford player to come off the board was, somewhat surprisingly, Ertz’s fellow senior tight end Levine Toilolo, who went to the Atlanta Falcons with the last pick of the fourth round.
Toilolo surprised many with his decision to declare for the draft after a disappointing 2012 season. Toilolo grabbed 24 catches for 393 yards and four touchdowns, solid numbers yet below expectations after an almost equally productive season in his first full year of action in 2011.
Toilolo redshirted the 2009 season and missed most of 2010 with an injury in the season’s first game against Sacramento State, so he would have had at least one additional year of eligibility at Stanford.
“I’m beyond excited right now. I’m looking forward to being a part of the Falcons organization,” Toilolo said. “I’ll be able to learn from Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the position in the game.”
The final Stanford player to hear his name called in the draft was senior running back Stepfan Taylor, who the Arizona Cardinals selected with the seventh pick of the fifth round.
Taylor leaves the Farm as the Cardinal’s all-time career leader with 4,300 rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns. Taylor had the most productive season of his career in 2012, rushing for 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of the Arizona Cardinals’ (organization),” Taylor said. “This is the perfect situation for me. I want to thank the Stanford family for the last four years, all of their support and best wishes.”
The surprise of the draft for Stanford was fifth-year senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas not being selected.
Thomas was projected by most to go in the third or fourth round, falling below even higher original projections due to his 4.91 40-yard dash time at February’s NFL Scouting Combine.
Production was certainly not an issue for Thomas. The outside linebacker finished second on the Cardinal with 71 tackles and tied for second with 7.5 sacks in 2012. Thomas finished his career with 50 tackles for a loss.
Thomas signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent Saturday after the draft concluded. Packer Report reported on Twitter than the Packers were also interested, but Thomas chose to sign with the Saints.
Senior wide receiver Drew Terrell announced that he would attend a rookie minicamp with the Kansas City Chiefs after going undrafted. Fellow senior wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson will head to the Indianapolis Colts after also going undrafted. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Alex Debniak will reportedly be switching positions to fullback when he reports to the 49ers as an undrafted free agent as well.
The undrafted free agent route is a path that has been fruitful for Stanford players in the past—12 of the 25 former Stanford players currently on active NFL rosters began their careers as undrafted free agents, including Griff Whalen ‘12 with the Indianapolis Colts.
Stanford’s 2013 NFL Draft class did not have the same top-end success as the Class of 2012 did last April. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Cardinal had four players drafted in the first 42 slots, including No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck ‘12 to the Indianapolis Colts and No. 24 overall selection David DeCastro ‘12 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But no Cardinal player was drafted after Jonathan Martin ‘12 at No. 42 overall to the Miami Dolphins.
Early indications have fifth-year senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov and fifth-year senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy as the Cardinal’s top prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu.