Fresno State defensive lineman Tyeler Davison, the first Bulldog off the board, was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the 154th overall pick. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
Tyeler Davison was the first Fresno State player drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, but his name wasn’t called until Saturday.
All Fresno State players were drafted lower than expected, except Cody Wichmann, who was viewed as more of a post-draft priority free agent.
Davison takes his talents to New Orleans, where he has the best chance of any Fresno State alum to get playing time right away.
Davison’s stock started low. At the beginning of the process, he was being viewed as a sixth- or seventh-round prospect. Slowly but surely, teams came around on the versatile product from Scottsdale, Arizona.
As Davison took private visits, his name started cropping up a lot more in predraft talk, and he shot up in mock drafts.
Perhaps teams recognized what Davison believes to be his greatest strength: He’s a big man that can get after the quarterback.
With 14.5 sacks in his career from the nose guard position, including 8 1/2 in a breakout senior season, Davison showed he can do far more for a team than occupy double-teams.
Davison had career highs in tackles (61) and tackles for loss (13) last season, which culminated in him being the 18th selection in the fifth round.
New Orleans has three defensive tackles on the roster: Brodrick Bunkley, John Jenkins and Lawrence Virgil.
Only one of those players, Jenkins, fits the dimensions and skill-set of a 3-4 nose tackle. At 6 feet, 2 inches and 316 pounds, Davison fits the bill and can rotate in when the Saints are in their 3-4 base.
Expect Davison to excel in the preseason and carve out a niche immediately in the Saints’ rotation. He’s a player who has barely scratched the surface in terms of his potential.
Smith goes to Cincinnati
Derron Smith was the second Fresno State player selected, but he had to wait until the late sixth round (pick 197 overall) for the Cincinnati Bengals to take a flier.
One AFC executive, per NFL.com, said his draft stock will be hurt by his size, at 5 feet, 10 inches, he is a tad short for a starting safety.
For a player once thought of as one of the best safeties in this draft, this dive has to be disappointing. But Smith is a hard worker who will make the most of whatever opportunity he receives.
The Bengals added Smith likely to bolster a position very thin on depth. Currently they have just one backup at either safety spot.
Both George Iloka and Reggie Nelson appear entrenched as starters so Smith, as a likely strong safety in the NFL, will have to compete with a fellow Bulldog in former Georgia standout Shawn Williams.
Smith boasts impressive instincts as evidenced by his 15 career interceptions, including a stellar 2013, when he snagged seven.
In looking at 2014 tape, Smith seemed to be attempting to do too much on defense to pick up the slack for a young secondary that included a freshman starter at cornerback.
It’s possible this could have hurt his stock further, but Smith has all the potential to make a mark in the NFL, and he will likely earn that opportunity somewhere down the line.
Rams pick up Wichmann
Wichmann, the final Fresno State player drafted, was another late sixth rounder and was one of several offensive lineman that head coach Jeff Fisher picked in the 2015 draft to fortify a middling rushing offense for St. Louis.
Wichmann sports impressive size at 6 feet, 6 inches and 315 pounds and is known more for his play strength than his quick feet or athleticism.
He has a good chance to make an NFL roster as a backup guard in a power-blocking scheme, where he’s allowed to win one-on-ones with his sheer mass. But he will likely not thrive in a zone-blocking scheme.
Wichmann has a good chance of sticking with the Rams, as he slots as the primary backup to starting left guard Roger Saffold.
He was part of a dominant offensive line in 2013, which allowed only 11 sacks of quarterback Derek Carr, and he continued to be a steady starter for a revolving door at quarterback last season.
Undrafted Harper signs with Oakland
Josh Harper, once thought of as a potential fourth-round pick, saw his stock drop significantly with nagging injuries.
He was the wideout on the other side when Carr and Davante Adams were breaking records, and he was no slouch either.
Harper made a mark for the Bulldogs from the start of his career as a possession receiver who could create yards after catches.
He notched nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 but he really broke out as a junior as part of the high-flying Bulldogs offense.
That year he caught 79 passes for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns despite nagging injuries.
He showed in 2014 that he wasn’t just a product of a talented quarterback, as he became the No. 1 target for anyone who started at quarterback. He finished with 90 catches for 1,097 yards and seven touchdowns.
Though Harper went undrafted, he fittingly landed with the quarterback he had the most success with, rejoining Carr with the Raiders.
Oakland has a stable of journeymen who Harper will have to outwork, and at the current time, he is likely viewed as a camp body.
He has the talent, however, to not only make an NFL roster but begin contributing very quickly. If not with the Raiders, then with a receiver-needy team elsewhere.