Washington Huskies 2016 NFL Draft Review

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies fans in body paint await the start of a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies fans in body paint await the start of a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Huskies in the 2016 NFL Draft were neither highly ranked not drafted early, but they may be finding their niche in the NFL

Washington Huskies fans recognize the names of players who were available for the 2016 NFL Draft:   But a year ago, the Washington Huskies were not emerging from a surprising appearance in the NCAA playoffs.  Those names are:

Players On Offense

Running Back Dwayne Washington

Projected as a sixth or seventh rounder, Washington was picked in the seventh round (236 overall) by the Detroit Lions.  While he didn’t exactly set the NFL on fire in his first year (he carried the ball 90 times for 226 yards), he did enough in his first year to encourage optimism in the eyes of the coaching staff.

Per Detroit Free Press Dave Birkett, Washington has endeared the coaches to him somewhat over his strong work ethics.

"“He’s still learning how to play NFL football,” Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said late in the year. “He does some really good things and then, sometimes, he has a mistake or two that you’d like to have back. He’s still learning the game, he’s still honing in on some things. We’re excited about … Dwayne. We’re going to keep him coming. He’s working hard to get better, and we’ll keep him coming. I think he would maybe like some of his runs back, from decisions made out there or kind of where the ball ended up, but he’s doing a good job. He’s really trying hard, he’s really working hard and we’re excited to have him.”"

And so his sophomore year, while it may not land him on the NFL leaderboard for rushing yards, will likely see his role expand somewhat.

Wide Receiver Jaydon Mickens

Projected as a sixth or seventh rounder, Mickens did not hear his name called via the NFL Draft. But he did land on the receiving corps of the Oakland Raiders. Eventually, he migrated over to the team’s practice squad for the 2016 season.  But Mickens is hopeful that 2017 will be a breakout year for him.

Standing 5-foot-10, he is the shortest wide receiver on the team.  But the Dallas Cowboys have a 5-foot-8 wide receiver named Cole Beasley on their team who contributes to the offense. Ultimately, that is the hope of Mickens, who is exceptionally fast and explosive.  Add to his skillset the fact that he also played quarterback and running back in high school, and you have a versatile weapon for the Raiders this year.

Players On Defense

Outside Linebacker Travis Feeney

Projected  as a fifth or sixth rounder, Feeney came off the board in the sixth round (220th overall) to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers did not see enough to place Feeney on their 53 man roster, but did see enough to sign him to the team’s practice squad.

However, the New Orleans Saints had great success with another Washington Husky outside linebacker by the name of  Hau’oki Kikaha, who the Saints selected out of Washington in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft after he led the nation in sacks with 19, and it was that success that piqued their interest in Feeney.

As Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com wrote from his interview with head coach Sean Payton,

"I see him playing at (weak-side linebacker),” Payton said. “He is long. He is someone that ran well, and someone with traits that we like a lot.”"

As such, you can expect Feeney’s role to expand this season with the Saints.

Outside Linebacker Cory Littleton

Projected as an undrafted free agent, Littleton did not hear his name called during the 2016 NFL Draft. But he did sign with the Los Angeles Rams, and even made their 53 man roster, beating the 35 percent probability of TurfShowTimes.com roster preview.

He was mainly a special teams player, but by seasons end, he did see some time on the field.  His best game occurred on December 4, 2016 against the New England Patriots, where he recorded eight tackles.

While his 20 tackles for the season seems modest, he recorded a majority of those tackles in the final four games of the season.

2016 NFL Draft Summary

Not surprisingly, the four players hoping for an NFL opportunity are still in the NFL. Even more telling, all project to have even larger roles with their respective teams this year. And why not?  Head coach Chris Petersen coaches success on the field and into the future.

As eight Washington Huskies prepare for the thrill or disappointment housed in the 2017 NFL Draft, there is a lesson to be had by those who faced the 2016 NFL Draft a year earlier. Stay true, optimistic, and give your all.  Washington Huskies outhustle, outtrain, and outperform scouting reports.

Next: Washington Huskies NFL Prospects Ranked 16th In NFL Draft Picks

Now, it’s time for the 2017 NFL Draft Class to do continue that legacy.