Spartans have NFL talent in this draft after Waynes
Going into Thursday night's NFL draft, there wasn't much doubt which Michigan State player would go first -- cornerback Trae Waynes.
It was setting up as the second straight year a Spartans corner has gone in the opening round after Darqueze Dennard was taken last year by the Bengals. But the difference is what happens after the first round.
In 2014, Dennard was the only Spartans player taken in the draft.
Seeing a Michigan State player go Friday in rounds two or three might be a stretch, but by the time the draft ends Saturday, there should be several Spartans names called.
The best chance Friday appears to be running back Jeremy Langford. He recorded the fastest 40 time (4.42 seconds) among running backs at the combine and is ranked in the top 10 at his position by most analysts.
Langford gained nearly 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in his career, including 18 100-yard games.
"Langford is a guy I really like," ESPN analyst and former coach Jon Gruden wrote. "I don't understand why we don't hear his name more. He ran a 4.4. He gained 100 or more yards in every Big Ten film I watched. He breaks tackles, he picks up blitzes and he looks like an NFL back for sure. He is tough, he can catch, he has home run speed."
The next group of Spartans are likely to go early Saturday in the fourth- or fifth-round range, including wide receiver Tony Lippett, safety Kurtis Drummond and linebacker Taiwan Jones.
Lippett is the most intriguing prospect because of his time playing cornerback. He is a solid receiver, running a 4.46 40 at Michigan State's pro day and piling up 1,198 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. But his 6-foot-3 frame has teams intrigued at his ability to play defense, something he did early at Michigan State and then late as a senior.
"If I was in the NFL, I'd really want to grind him a little bit and see if he could be an NFL-quality corner because the length intrigues me," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "With all those big-bodied wide receivers, more and more teams are looking for corners that are 6-feet and above. The way the league thinks is there's too many 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9 corners that are losing jump balls outside the numbers and in the red zone."
Jones and Drummond also project early on the final day.
Jones has plenty of size to play inside in the NFL but lacks top-line speed. He is ranked the No. 8 inside linebacker by CBSsports.com while Drummond is the fifth-best free safety.
Drummond didn't have the senior year some thought he might have, but NFL Network analyst Charles Davis still has him rated highly.
"I think he could ultimately be a really good addition to someone," Davis said, "because I think he can play man (man-to-man defense), I know he can cover over the top and erase some mistakes that happen underneath. I think he's a good tackler when he brings his eyes to everything."
Defensive end Marcus Rush, wide receiver Keith Mumphery, punter Mike Sadler and offensive lineman Travis Jackson all have an equal shot of getting taken late or going undrafted.