Many Stanford players have found success in the pros, and this year, Stanford's draft prospects hope to find fits where they can succeed as well. Kevin Hogan, Joshua Garnett, Austin Hooper, Kyle Murphy, Devon Cajuste and Blake Martinez have done very well in college, but can they take their skills to the next level? How will these Stanford players' careers unfold?
Kevin Hogan exceeded expectations in college, and I'd bet on him to do the same in the NFL. Hogan was a fighter and winner in college, two intangibles that should transition well in the pros. Hogan will most likely fit well with teams like the Broncos, Bills, Colts or Jets. Those four teams will most likely look for a quarterback late in the draft, and Hogan could be their guy. The Broncos will need a quarterback after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Texans. Hogan could serve as a great backup quarterback right away, and the Bills, Colts, and Jets all are in the market for one, and with Hogan running a pro style offense at Stanford, he'd immediately be able to step in a game if his team's starting quarterback got hurt.
Josh Garnett is ranked as one of the best guards available and will most likely be the first Stanford player drafted. Garnett is highly praised for his size, strength, and quickness, all of which make him an ideal run blocker. Garnett could definitely make a difference maker for any team who drafts him. The Outland Trophy Winner most likely will be a second round pick and is drawing interest from the Seahawks, Steelers, Giants and 49ers. In Seattle, they have an offensive guard hitting free agency, and they need someone to be able to block when Russell Wilson leaves the pocket. Meanwhile in San Francisco, both guard positions need to be filled, and Chip Kelly needs someone who thrives in the run game with the ability to get upfield to block.
Kyle Murphy is the other Stanford o-line star hoping to make it in the NFL. Murphy brings good size, a good jump off the snap, and quickness to the table but lacks the strength of a NFL left tackle, which may force him back to right tackle or an inside guard in the pros. Murphy most likely will be a mid round draft pick but could be one of the sleepers in the draft. Murphy has the size and many of the tools to be an NFL starter but only lacks the strength. If Murphy can work hard in his first few years by hitting the weight room, look for him on a starting o-line in a couple years.
Austin Hooper left college early, which should prove to be a smart decision. This year's tight end class is very thin, and Hooper took advantage of it, ranked as the second best tight end in the class. Hooper is a unique tight end, who can line up off the offensive line, but he has also shown the speed to separate from linebackers and safeties, and the ability to catch jump balls in the air. Hooper's name will most likely be called somewhere between the second and fourth round for possibly the Falcons, Bears, Titans, or Steelers. He will probably need a year or two to fine-tune his skills but will make an impact on his team in years to come. Hooper might not be a superstar tight end like Rob Gronkowski, but he can be a reliable, complete tight end in the NFL.
Devon Cajuste comes to the NFL with a skill set not many receivers have. Cajuste isn't a traditional receiver who uses quickness to separate from defenders, but instead uses his size to make a catch. In the NFL, Cajuste could be a solid red zone contributor for either blocking or scoring by utilizing his toughness and size. Posting the best three cone drill at the combine, Cajuste could also combine his size with his quickness to be a player looked for in the middle of the field. The Patriots have many undersized receivers, so Cajuste could offer Tom Brady an nice alternative passing option with his size and quickness.
Blake Martinez was the most recent great Stanford linebacker, following Shayne Skov and AJ Tarpley. Martinez is a big, tall, aggressive linebacker who is solid in the open field but lacks the quickness to beat running backs to the edge and get around offensive lineman. Martinez will probably be a mid-late round draft pick and drafted by a team running a 3-4 defense. Ultimately, Martinez will most likely serve as a special teams player and backup in his career, but his competitive attitude could one day help him earn a starting job.