November 24, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins cornerback Sheldon Price (22) looks on as Stanford Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz (86) catches a pass in the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. Stanford won 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: Stanford Cardinal Preview


While some of Stanford’s best players from a season ago will be heading to the NFL in 2013, Cardinal fans will still get a chance to follow them at the professional level.

Four former Stanford players performed at the 2013 NFL Combine: Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, and Chase Thomas.

Last year, four Cardinal players were selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.

Zach Ertz and Chase Thomas should both follow their former teammates onto NFL rosters by the end of the second or third round this April.

Ertz, a projected first-rounder, has been an outstanding tight end for the Cardinal throughout his entire career. Leading the nation’s tight ends in receiving yards in 2012, he was a big reason for the Cardinal’s continued offensive success in the wake of Coby Fleener’s departure.

While he lacks the elite speed that Fleener has, posting a 4.76 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, Ertz has great size for the position. At 6’5” and 249 pounds, he can go up and grab the ball with his great hands, and can be a big challenge for shorter safeties to cover.

On the other side of the ball, Chase Thomas was a dominant force as an outside linebacker in Stanford’s 3-4 scheme. The linebacker racked up an astonishing 51 tackles for loss and 27 sacks throughout his career.

With a slightly smaller build than Ertz, Thomas’ 6’3” and 244-pound frame may limit his upside at the next level, as his 4.91 40-time at the combine will not make up for his lack of pure power.

Nonetheless, Thomas has been extremely productive at the college level, and is very effective as a pass-rusher. Expect to see him come off of the board sometime in the second or third round.

Another former Cardinal superstar set to go pro this April is running back Stepfan Taylor.

After three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Taylor proved that he was capable of dominating his opposition even without elite size or speed.

His disappointing showing in the 40-yard dash at the combine (where he ran a 4.76) indicates that he does not have the pure speed to make up for his relatively small 214-pound build.

However, Taylor has proven during his career at Stanford that he can handle the load and run the ball effectively between the tackles.

The last former Stanford player likely to be selected during the 2013 NFL Draft is tight end Levine Toilolo.

Toilolo was often overshadowed by Fleener and Ertz during his time at Stanford, so he may become a great bargain in the draft if he falls too far down draft boards.

The tight end is a matchup nightmare, especially in the red zone. Standing in at a towering 6’8” and 260 pounds, it is hard to out-jump or out-muscle Toilolo in the air.

Toilolo should be selected somewhere in the later rounds, and will likely be a pleasant surprise for whatever team picks him up.

Also eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, though, less likely to be selected are players such as Terrence Brown, who decided to forego his final season, Sam Schwartzstein, and Terrence Stephens.

Though these players may not be drafted, they all have the potential to be picked up as free agents as the season draws closer.

While the Stanford Cardinal will greatly miss these players as they take their talents to the next level, the team moved on with an excellent season without Fleener, Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, and Jonathan Martin a year ago.

Besides, fans will still be able to root them on as they look to continue their success in the NFL.

 

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: NCAA Football NFL Draft Stanford Cardinal Stanford Cardinal Football Stepfan Taylor Zach Ertz