Waiting for a chance
Wingard, Granderson and other former UW players hope to hear their names called as NFL draft begins
April 25, 2019
LARAMIE - When they arrived at the University of Wyoming, Andrew Wingard and Carl Granderson were just names on a roster.
Little was known about them, and not much was expected of them outside of the coaches who recruited them.
They were underdogs.
Wingard, Granderson and a handful of other former UW players are in that same situation this week as the NFL draft starts today and concludes Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee.
They just want a chance to show what they can do at the ultimate level of football.
If Wingard and Granderson are drafted, it will be Saturday in rounds four through seven. That's where numerous national analysts have graded both to be taken - if at all. Even if they are not drafted, they will get their shot with an NFL team as free agents.
The hype leading up to this year's draft is much different than 2018 when quarterback Josh Allen was UW's highest-ever draft pick when he was the seventh selection in the first round by the Buffalo Bills. Allen participated in all the pre-draft activities in Arlington, Texas, and the buzz back at UW and around the state was at a fever's pitch when Allen's name was called.
This weekend will be more subdued. If Wingard or Granderson get drafted, it likely will be when UW is playing its spring game at War Memorial Stadium.
Wingard said during UW's pro day in Laramie in March that he planned to be home in Colorado with friends and family during the draft. Through his agent, Wingard didn't want to talk to WyoSports until after the draft. Efforts by WyoSports to contact Granderson prior to the draft were unsuccessful.
According to the so-called national experts, Granderson has the best chance to be drafted. Chad Reuter of NFL.com has him going in the fourth round to the Los Angeles Chargers. Most others have him going in the sixth or seventh rounds.
Not bad for a 6-foot-5 guy who came to UW weighing 185 pounds and developed into a 254-pound defensive end.
However, the elephant in the room with Granderson is the criminal charges facing him. He is charged with one count of third-degree sexual assault and one count of sexual battery from an alleged incident at an off-campus apartment in Laramie in November of 2018. Granderson has pleaded not guilty to both charges, and a jury trial is scheduled for July 15.
How will that effect Granderson's draft status is hard to tell, but for sure, it doesn't help. It also doesn't help that this year's draft is deep among defensive ends.
Safety is another deep position in this year's draft, and most draft analysts have Wingard going in the late rounds or being signed as a free agent. However, ESPN's Todd McShay recently gave Wingard a fourth- to fifth-round grade after looking at his film. McShay said he has Wingard among his top 20 safeties in this draft, and could be a "really good" special teams player and a "good" pro.
Wingard could join John Wendling and Chris Prosinski, two former UW safeties who did just that in the NFL.
You can look at all the mock drafts and scouting reports you want, but all that matters is that one team likes Granderson and Wingard. All they want is a chance, just like four to five years ago when they were going through the recruiting process for colleges. UW gave them a chance, and they made the most of it.
One has to think they will make the most of their chance at the NFL level.
The same can be said for other UW players whose names you won't find as potential NFL draft picks. Running back Nico Evans, safety Marcus Epps, defensive tackle Sidney Malauulu and defensive end Kevin Prosser all could land spots in rookie camps with NFL teams with a chance to make a roster.
Epps walked on at UW, and ended up being a three-year captain and one of the Cowboys' more versatile safeties in recent memory. Evans went from a plug-in player his first three years to the Mountain West's leading rusher last season.
I wouldn't bet against those guys making an NFL team based on their determination and drive.
If UW has a player drafted this week, it will be the first time since 1995-97 at least one player has been taken in three consecutive NFL drafts. That would be nice for the program to say and brag about.
But all any of these former UW players want is a chance, and if any of the 32 NFL teams are smart, they will give these guys a shot. Chances are they won't be disappointed if they do.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected] or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.