Arkansas Team News

Jeremy Sprinkle latest addition to suddenly prolific Arkansas tight end draft tree

Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas has had 26 players drafted this decade, but just five went earlier than the fourth round. The Hogs could have as many as six or seven players drafted this year, but most look like third-day picks.

The exception could be tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who could be a second-day guy. Interestingly, the only player Arkansas has had drafted earlier than the third round this decade is tight end Hunter Henry, who went in the second round in 2016; that’s the guy Sprinkle replaced in Arkansas’ starting lineup.

Arkansas tight ends have become popular picks. The Razorbacks have had a tight end selected in four of the past six drafts, including each of the past two. That follows a 22-year stretch (1988-2010) in which there were zero.

Here’s a look at the Arkansas players who look to have a chance to be drafted this year, along with a look at the positions where Razorbacks players have fared well – and not so well – in the NFL.

This year’s potential draftees (in rough order of when they can be expected to come off the board): TE Jeremy Sprinkle, DE Deatrich Wise, WR Deon Hatcher, OT Dan Skipper, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter, LB Brooks Ellis, WR Drew Morgan.

The Razorbacks are: “Running Back U.” There’s been a Razorback stampede of tailbacks to the NFL in the past decade, with current Dallas Cowboy Darren McFadden leading the way in his ninth year. McFadden, Seattle Seahawk Alex Collins and Kansas City Chief Knile Davis all represented Arkansas in the 2016 playoffs, although all three were backups. The list doesn’t stop there: Former Cowboy Felix Jones and past Cleveland Brown Peyton Hillis, of Madden 12 cover fame, have made impacts of their own.

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Next in line: Offensive linemen – big ones. At Arkansas, it’s not enough to send blockers to the NFL; more often than not, they have to be enormous. Exhibit A is Shawn Andrews, the 2000s Philadelphia Eagles guard and two-time All-Pro who at one time weighed 397 pounds. Better conditioned, and even more effective, has been nine-time Pro Bowl T Jason Peters, still going in a long career spent with the Buffalo Bills and the Eagles. Peters, though, entered the league as an undrafted free agent. Other Arkansas products in the league now are Detroit Lions starting center Travis Swanson, who has also played guard, and the Browns’ Alvin Bailey. Also on the list in recent years are 340-pounder Bobbie Williams, interior line veteran for the Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals, and Tony Ugoh, who went to a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.

Not so much: The last effective Arkansas wide receiver in the NFL? That would be Lance Alworth, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – after retiring in 1972. Since then, exactly zero former Razorbacks receivers have started more than 12 games in a season. The only ones to even come close were former Denver Bronco Derek Russell, who played seven years in the 1990s but never caught more than 44 passes in a season (despite having John Elway as the quarterback), and converted quarterback Matt Jones, who showed occasional flashes in his four-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars but generally was regarded as a first-round disappointment.

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Over the years: It has been a few decades, but Arkansas has produced its share of versatile defensive linemen with the ability to play either on the inside or the outside. On the list: Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, a keystone on the Chicago Bears teams of the Mike Ditka-Buddy Ryan era during the 1980s; Wayne Martin, who played 11 years and made a Pro Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in the 1990s; and Billy Ray Smith, a regular on the Baltimore Colts’ teams led by Johnny Unitas in the 1960s and a starter on the team that won Super Bowl V. It looks as if last season’s Razorbacks could have used someone like that – they surrendered more than six yards per carry in 2016.

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