Michigan State has no players selected in NFL Draft, first time in 80 years

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
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The NFL Draft came to a close Saturday, and for the first time in 80 years, a Michigan State player was not selected.

The Spartans had the third-longest streak in the nation of having at least one player taken in the draft behind Southern Cal and Michigan, but that came to an end in the 2021 edition of the draft. Junior cornerback Shakur Brown seemed the most likely to go, projected to be taken as early as the third round in at least one ranking. Senior defensive tackle Naquan Jones also seemed likely to go late in the draft, but neither heard their name called.

Cornerback Shakur Brown projected as the likeliest Spartan to be taken in the draft, but it was not to be.

Michigan State was one of four teams — Southern Cal, Michigan and Florida are the others — to have at least one player drafted every season since the modern draft began in 1967.

Brown reportedly ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at Michigan State’s pro day, not particularly fast, and it might have affected his stock. Brown did 17 bench press reps, had a 35.5-inch vertical jump and 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump, all good numbers.

Combined with his production — Brown had five interceptions last season to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as well as second-team All-American from the Walter Camp Football Foundation — and Brown seemed a likely pick for some team.

“He’s got excellent ball skills and I love what he does against the run,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said before the draft. “Inside he can work around blocks, play off blocks. When you watch the tape and then you watch a cut-up of his ball production, he's got some crazy interceptions, man, like really phenomenal ball skills.

At 6-4 and around 315 pounds, Jones slimmed down after the end of last season, something scouts told him they’d like for him to do. Still, playing most of his career at Michigan State around 340 pounds, Jones was productive at a position full of talent. He played behind Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk for the bulk of his career before starting four of seven games in 2020.

He had 24 tackles, including five for loss, drawing an invite to the NFL Combine and playing in the Hula Bowl.

“He’s an interesting one,” Jeremiah said. “He carried a little bit of extra weight, but he was a block eater. I thought there was some upside there if he could lean out. I thought you had some upside there as a pass-rusher because he's got quick feet, but he was on the ground a little bit too much getting cut.”

Soon after the draft ended, Brown signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers while Jones signed with the Tennessee Titans. There is a good chance linebacker Antjuan Simmons also will land a free-agent deal.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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