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April 25, 2009

Nine Huskies set for NFL Draft

With the NFL Draft set to take place this weekend, UConn is certain to have at least four players selected by NFL teams and perhaps even a player taken in the first round - both firsts for the program. The following is a breakdown of each player, his attributes and where UConnReport.com projects that player will be selected.
NOTE: Players are sorted by order of expected selection; official NFL heights and weights used where available.
CB Darius Butler
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 183 pounds
In College: A four-year starter at cornerback, Butler was so athletic that the decision was made before the season to put him to work on offense. Thus, the former high school quarterback recorded the first rushing and receiving touchdowns of his career as a senior, and when combined with his skills as a shut-down corner and his prowess in the return game, Butler would have been the Huskies' most valuable player if not for running back Donald Brown.
In The NFL: Butler has the best shot of UConn's top four prospects to be the school's first-ever first-round draft pick. He followed up his 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine with an unofficial 4.38-second effort at UConn's pro day workouts in mid-March and showed no difficulty doing anything asked of him by the assembled scouts in positional drills. He would make a great fit for a team willing to use him in all phases of the game, such as New England, but will first need to prove his worth as a defensive back.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 1st Round; No. 21 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles


RB Donald Brown
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 210 pounds
In College: Brown became only the sixth player in the Division I Bowl Subdivision since 2002 to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season when his 261-yard effort in the International Bowl gave him a firm hold on the title of the nation's leading rusher. Not surprisingly, Brown soon made the decision to leave UConn for the NFL, becoming the team's only early-entry player in the draft class. This past season was the first as a full-time starter for Brown, who split carries with Terry Caulley as a freshman and Andre Dixon as a sophomore.
In The NFL: Brown's work ethic and character make him one of the most coveted running backs in the entire draft attributes that are helpful in a time where off-the-field movements are scrutinized just as much as anything a player does on the field. His ability to break tackles, including a devastating stiff-arm, and versatility out of the backfield as a blocker and a receiver should make him a late first-round pick.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 1st Round; No. 31 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.


OT Will Beatty
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 307 pounds
In College: A veteran left tackle who started at the position each of his final two years at UConn, Beatty's success story epitomizes the type of player that UConn head coach Randy Edsall loves to recruit. Beatty's final college choice came between the Huskies and Division III Shippensburg and five years later, the player nobody recruited is now a likely first-day draft pick.
In The NFL: Beatty's agility, including his quickness on his feet, and his blocking abilities have him pegged as one of the top offensive tackles in the entire draft. What has concerned many scouts, however, is Beatty's lack of overall aggression something that never truly started to blossom until his senior year at UConn. With so many upper-tier left tackles available in the draft, including potential top picks Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith and Jason Smith, Beatty will likely slide past his true value and be a bargain for the team that ends up with him.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 2nd Round, third pick; No. 35 overall to the St. Louis Rams.


DE/OLB Cody Brown
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 244 pounds
In College: Brown's aggression and his ability to rush off the edge made him one of the top defensive ends in the Big East in 2008 and a first-team all-conference selection. His strength allowed him to bull-rush tackles with relative ease, forcing him to learn to work more off the edge as a senior and use his explosion and agility to work his way on the outside. The effort led to a career-high 56 tackles and a team-high 11 sacks last year.
In The NFL: Slightly too small to be a defensive end in the NFL, Brown has demonstrated a proclivity to learn the outside linebacker position and projects to fit well in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Originally pegged as a fourth-round draft pick, Brown's private workouts have apparently been strong enough to merit him consideration as a second-round player.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 3rd Round, 24th pick; No. 88 overall to the Baltimore Ravens.


DE/OLB Julius Williams
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 258 pounds
In College: A durable player who never missed a game and started opposite Cody Brown at defensive end in each of his final two seasons, Williams' aggression and athleticism led him to career highs of 41 tackles 11 for a loss and six sacks as a senior.
In The NFL: One of the first players not to receive an invitation to the NFL Combine, Williams, like Brown, is too small to fit in the NFL as a defensive end, so he'll return to the position where he began his collegiate career outside linebacker. The adjustment will be smoother for Williams, and his freakish athleticism his vertical leap measured 41 inches at UConn's pro day workouts in mid-March will give him a shot to take his game to the next level.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 5th round, 13th pick; No. 149 overall to the Denver Broncos.


S Dahna Deleston
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 211 pounds
In College: A quiet, reserved player whose shyness was never to be confused with arrogance, Deleston preferred to let his actions on the field speak louder than his words. The four-year starting strong safety ended his college career in style with a 100-yard interception return in the closing minutes of the International Bowl.
In The NFL: Deleston's performance at UConn's pro day workouts earned him a closer look from scouts who saw flashes of brilliance at the Texas vs. The Nation senior all-star game. His 4.45-second 40-yard dash was not only second to Darius Butler amongst UConn players, it would have qualified him as one of the fastest safeties at the NFL Combine. His work ethic and attitude have earned him private interviews with interested teams.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 6th round, seventh pick; No. 180 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.


C Keith Gray
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 276 pounds
In College: One of the smartest players on UConn's offensive line, Gray started his final two and a half seasons at center for the Huskies. What Gray lacked in strength and quickness he made up for with strong fundamentals.
In The NFL: Gray earned respect from scouts with a 4.98-second 40-yard dash at the Huskies' pro day workouts and recorded 28 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press. But it was his ability to put on weight Gray bulked up to 290 pounds in two months that turned heads. In a shallow draft for centers, Gray has a chance to get a look from a team late in the draft looking for a developmental player.
UConnReport.com Prediction: 7th round, 26th pick; No. 235 overall to the Denver Broncos.


QB Tyler Lorenzen
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 222 pounds
In College: Lorenzen's leadership qualities and his desire to win were apparent from the first moments he stepped in as UConn's quarterback in 2007, engineering a heroic turnaround for the Huskies that saw them reach nine wins that season and earn their first trip to a bowl game in three seasons. Not so accurate as a passer, Lorenzen achieved more success as a rushing quarterback in his senior season.
In The NFL: Lorenzen originally left Iowa State because he didn't want to play wide receiver, yet it appears his best chances of having a pro career are at that position. His inability to put on weight likely disqualifies him as a realistic tight end, though his mobility could help him latch on as a safety.
UConnReport.com Prediction: Undrafted free agent who signs with the New England Patriots.


TE Steve Brouse
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 252 pounds
In College: A proficient receiver who worked to improve his blocking throughout his career. A broken fibula suffered early in his senior season severely derailed any chance Brouse had at a breakout year, though he did catch 26 passes for four touchdowns as a junior.
In The NFL: The injury will likely cost him a reasonable look in the draft, though it wouldn't be surprising to see Brouse catch on somewhere as a practice player. His lack of quickness and smaller frame probably limit his options as a realistic NFL tight end, though a team with a track record of developing players at the position may give him a shot.
UConnReport.com Prediction: Undrafted free agent who signs with the Baltimore Ravens.


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