Bears surprise Langford; Lippett to Dolphins, Mumphery to Texans
There were plenty of surprises on the final day of the NFL draft, and Michigan State's players were experiencing their share.
Running back Jeremy Langford expected to be picked where he was – early in the fourth round – but not exactly to the team that ended up taking him – the Chicago Bears. And midway through the fifth round, Tony Lippett was selected by the Miami Dolphins.
Only the Dolphins aren't planning on using the Big Ten's Receiver of the Year in that position. They intend to use him as a cornerback, the position Lippett started at for the final two games of the 2014 season.
Langford, who went with the seventh pick in the fourth round and 106th overall, was at home watching the draft with his family.
"It threw me for a loop," he said. "I talked to the Bears a couple of times at the Senior Bowl and the combine, but besides that it threw me for a loop.
"I can't even explain my feelings right now, but it's definitely a dream come true. When I took the call from the GM (General Manager Ryan Pace), I think my heart stopped for a moment. He said the organization really likes my toughness, productivity and work ethic. I'm happy to be a Chicago Bear."
Lippett, who became the third Michigan State player selected when the Dolphins took him in the fifth round with the 156th overall selection, played corner in 2011 before switching back to receiver and played both ways late in his senior season.
The Big Ten's receiver of the year in 2014, Lippett had 1,198 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, becoming the sixth Spartan to record a 1,000-yard receiving season.
But the versatility is something the Dolphins liked.
"This was a player where you saw the versatility," said Chris Grier, the Dolphins' director of college scouting. "The versatility is something you look for late in the draft."
Lippett (6-foot-3, 192 pounds) wasn't shying away from the challenge of playing defense in the NFL.
"I'm very confident in my skills and ability at the next level," he said. "I feel like it's a challenge and if anybody knows me, they know I'm open to a lot of challenges. I feel good about their decision of choosing me. I'm just grateful for this opportunity. It's a blessing. I'll be ready to go, ready to compete against whoever. It's going to be a learning period, but I willing to do that, I'm ready."
And he isn't ruling out the idea of playing wide receiver.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "But right now, I'm a corner for the Miami Dolphins, and I'm going to try to excel at that position as best as I can."
Late in the fifth round, wide receiver Keith Mumphery was selected by the Houston Texans with the 175th pick. It was fairly high for a player most thought would go in the last round or even undrafted.
"I'm overwhelmed right now," Mumphery said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity."
A three-year starter, Mumphery had 88 catches for 1,348 yards and seven touchdowns in 54 career games, including 26 starts. And in Houston, he'll be reunited with former teammate Keshawn Martin.
And Mumphery (6-1, 211) had a hunch Houston is where he would end up going.
"Throughout the process, I felt like they were more interested because they were the only team that actually worked me out," Mumphery said. "That was one of the main reasons why because they were the only team to work me out. So I'm like, there must be something if they are the only team that wanted to work me out."
The final surprise of the day was the fact safety Kurtis Drummond and linebacker Taiwan Jones went undrafted. Drummond (Texans) and Jones (Jets) along with defensive end Marcus Rush (49ers) and tight end Andrew Gleichert (Eagles) were to sign as undrafted free agents.
Langford's selection seemed the most certain. The 6-foot, 208-pound back gained more than 2,900 rushing yards and scored 40 touchdowns in his Michigan State career while gaining more than 100 yards in 16 straight games against Big Ten opponents over his last two seasons.
His 40 rushing TDs since the beginning of the 2013 season were the highest two-year total ever by a Spartan running back, surpassing the 30 scored by Blake Ezor from 1988-89. Eleven of his 40 rushing TDs since 2013 have come in the fourth quarter, including five of 25 yards or longer.
"I think I can hit the home run, and at the same time get the third-and-shorts," Langford said. "I feel like I could be used in any situation, on third down or be able to catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel like I'm very versatile."
In Chicago, he'll be playing behind veteran Matt Forte, who will be on the final year of his contract this season. Forte is a player Langford said he has watched closely and says he learned to be a good pass blocker from watching the Bears running back.
"I see him stand up linebackers all the time in blitz pick-up," Langford said. "I feel like he does it all. He catches the ball out of the backfield very well. He blocks linebackers very well. I learned a lot watching his film to be able to block linebackers. I feel like he does it. He has the whole package."
Langford becomes the fourth Spartan running back to be drafted in Mark Dantonio's first eight seasons at Michigan State, joining Javon Ringer (2009: Tennessee, fifth round), Edwin Baker (2012: San Diego, seventh round) and Le'Veon Bell (2013: Pittsburgh, second round).
"As a multi-dimensional player, he showcased the necessary skills to be an every-down back at the next level," Dantonio said. "Jeremy gained more than 40 percent of his yards after contact, and his combination of speed and elusiveness made him a threat to go the distance each time he touched the football. He also displayed toughness, durability and ball security over the last two seasons. In addition, Jeremy established himself as a valuable receiving outlet coming out of the backfield. He's the type of player who can have an immediate impact on special teams in the NFL."