Can't Wait For Saturday | With one exception (congrats Casey Washington), final day of the draft fizzles for Illini

Apr. 28—***

Casey Washington will always remember April 27 ... in a good way. His Illinois senior teammates? Not so much,

A day that started with a lot of NFL draft hopes for members of the 2023 Illinois team, ended without a draft call from the NFL.

Friday had been a banner day for Bret Bielema's program, with defensive tackle Jonny Newton selected in the second round of the NFL draft, followed by teammates Isaiah Adams and Tip Reiman going in the third.

But in the four rounds Saturday in Detroit, receiver Washington was the only one selected. He went in the sixth round to the Falcons who were likely impressed by his stellar pro day in Champaign. Washington wowed scouts with his athleticism, including a vertical leap that ranked among the best of all 2024 prospects. Washington wasn't invited to the NFL combine which in hindsight was a glaring oversight by the folks who make those decisions

Washington clearly didn't let it bother him, taking advantage of the pro day.

Originally recruited to Illinois by Lovie Smith, Washington had a knack for big plays during his career. He didn't put up numbers like teammate Isaiah Wlliams, but was a steady threat.

My guess is Washington earns a spot on the Atlanta roster and makes an immediate impact as a receiver and special-teamer. Years from now, draft experts might marvel that the Falcons landed him with a late draft choice.

Williams, defensive tackle Keith Randolph and offensive lineman Julian Pearl, who were undrafted, have a chance to join Washington in the NFL. They will all get a shot at an NFL camp and if history is a guide, many or all will make it. Good luck to them.