Cal punter Bryan Anger didn’t lack confidence heading into the NFL draft.
“I think I’m the top guy that’s going to go,” he said of his position amongst the other punters. “I’m pretty much guaranteed to get drafted.”
Accordingly, he scheduled a draft viewing party for his friends and family on Saturday — garnering jeers and even criticism from those less confident in the punter’s prospects.
And they were right, as he wouldn’t be drafted Saturday.
Instead, he became just the 19th punter in the common draft era to be selected in the first three rounds, taken by Jacksonville with the 70th overall pick on Friday night.
“I went kind of numb for a second,” Anger said. “I got a call a couple picks before it and they asked me a couple questions and then said ‘congrats, we’re going to take you with the next pick.’ So my heart started racing a little bit. It finally came true.”
Jaguars fans also found their hearts racing, but for a different reason. The pick marks the second time in three years that the team has reached for a Cal player, taking defensive lineman Tyson Alualu with the tenth overall pick in the 2010 draft — significantly higher than his valuation on most draft boards.
But general manager Gene Smith felt that Anger could make a significant impact right away, and most scouts called him the best punting prospect to come out of college in recent history.
“I’d rather take a starter than a backup,” Smith said.
The pick highlighted a successful weekend at the NFL draft for former Cal football players. While the Bears saw their three-year streak of putting a player into the first round come to an end, six players had their names called over the course of the weekend — just one less than the last two years combined.
Offensive tackle and four-year starter Mitchell Schwartz got the ball rolling for the Bears, as the Cleveland Browns called his name with the 37th overall pick in the second round. Schwartz saw his stock steadily rise over the past few months, as teams were impressed by his sound fundamentals and high football IQ. Schwartz now joins former Bear Alex Mack on Cleveland’s offensive line.
“I’ve had a pretty good feeling about Cleveland throughout the process,” Schwartz said. “I was watching on ESPN and at the bottom, it said their pick was in and then I got the call. I had a hopeful feeling when I picked up the call and it came into fruition. I’m just excited for it.”
Nine picks later, linebacker and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles. Most analysts considered him to be Cal’s top prospect this year due to his sideline to sideline range and explosive speed, which was validated by his 4.41 40-yard dash time — the fastest of all linebackers in the draft.
Many teams held reservations about his lack of height, but Kendricks’ tenacity and explosiveness should make him a pass-rushing monster at the next level, and he projects intriguingly as a Sam backer in Philadelphia’s 3-4 scheme.
“I can play anywhere I need to play,” Kendricks said. “I feel like I’m versatile and I’m going to do what I need to do. It doesn’t matter where I play, I’m up for the job.”
Wide receiver Marvin Jones was the fourth Bear to be drafted, taken in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Following an impressive outing at the Senior Bowl, Jones saw his name shoot up draft boards leading up to this weekend. Though he lacks explosive separation speed, Jones more than makes up for it with his fluid route running and his ability to find openings in the defense.
Most analysts pegged Jones as a second or third rounder, and the Bengals had the luxury of using a fifth round choice on him.
“I definitely thought I was going to go higher up in the second round where I was slated,” Jones said. “But, it happened. It was a rollercoaster. It went up and down, my emotions and stuff like that. But ultimately I’m just happy I’m with the Bengals, and I’m ready to start this journey.”
No Bears were selected in the sixth round, but safety D.J. Campbell was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 216th pick in the seventh round, and defensive lineman Trevor Guyton was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 219th pick, becoming the fifth and sixth Bears taken in 2012 — the most from any team in the Pac-12.