The 247 Sports composite gods say the Big Red inked seven 4-star prospects in the 2013 recruiting class and signed eight the year before. So you’ll forgive Cethan Carter if he thinks the whispers sandbagging the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ crop of NFL-eligible talent in 2017 are careless.
Also, dumb, shortsighted and ignorant. But mostly careless.
“All of them are workhorses, and I know all of them can play at the next level,” the Huskers’ senior tight end said of his fellow potential Big Red draftees. “When their time is upon them, I guess they’ll have to show them what they can do.”
Streaks are treasured in Lincoln, and with the NFL’s annual Scouting Combine looming at the end of the week, some wonder if one could be hitting the skids.
The Huskers are the only Football Bowl Subdivision program to have more than one player taken in each NFL draft since 1963. The Big Red had two players selected in 2013 (running back Rex Burkhead and defensive back Daimion Stafford), which is the fewest produced in any given class since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.
Only two Huskers — Carter and safety Nate Gerry — were invited to work out at Indianapolis at the 2017 combine, which starts Feb. 28 and runs through March 5. The last time Nebraska had fewer than three players invited was also 2013, when Burkhead and Stafford got their tickets punched.
“I just think when you look at the Big Ten, look at some of the top-tier talent schools, I think you can broaden it and open up a little bit more,” former NFL tight end and ESPN analyst Anthony Becht told Land of 10.
“Sometimes we try to reach for this Division II, Division III guy. For me, I just feel the competition level of players with a lot of these teams in the Big Ten and these conferences, you should be able to have more than one or two of these guys at the combine. I would say schools like Nebraska shouldn’t have (only) a player or two who should go.”
Despite four former 4-star prospects in the pool, including wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and linebacker Josh Banderas, NFLDraftScout.com only lists a pair of Huskers in the 2017 draft class as among its top 30 prospects at their respective positions: Carter at tight end (No. 18 overall) and Gerry at strong safety (also 18th).
The site projects Carter as a likely seventh-rounder or a priority free agent and Gerry as a possible priority free agent. The tea leaves have been wrong before, but depending on how Carter and Gerry perform this week, some wonder if a run of nearly five-and-a-half decades of drafts with multiple Huskers is in trouble.
“Time will tell.”
— Cethan Carter, former Nebraska tight end, on the Huskers’ NFL draft eligibles
“You know, I think more guys should earn the right to go,” said Becht, who coached Carter at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January and has been working this winter with another Big Ten combine snub, Michigan State tight end Josiah Price. “And you can’t tell me what (Price) did on the field, and the production he had, that he didn’t earn the right to go to the combine.
“I don’t know what that (selection) process is. I’m not in on that. From anybody that watches football, watches the games and knows what they’ve done in their career, it’s kind of a slap in the face.”
Despite a senior season slowed by back and knee problems, Westerkamp (6-foot, 200 pounds) finished his Huskers career second on Nebraska’s career receptions list (167) and tied for second in career 100-yard games (eight). The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Banderas led the Huskers in tackles this past fall with 93.
Both are expected to participate in Nebraska’s pro day, slated for March 14, along with classmates Tommy Armstrong, Kevin Maurice, Alonzo Moore, Terrell Newby and Brandon Reilly.
“Time will tell,” Carter said. “But I’m confident that all of them can play.”