Where will Gophers players be selected in NFL draft?

Tyler Nubin’s legacy as a Gophers football player will add another chapter this weekend. The Illinois native might be the first collegiate safety selected this weekend.

The Gophers’ career interceptions leader is projected as a second- or third-round pick in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday with Round 1. The second and third rounds will take place Friday.

Nubin was hanging around the Gophers’ Larson Football Performance Center during spring practices, fitting considering the impact he had during his five years in Dinkytown.

“I don’t want to put one word on it because (Nubin) is that special of a player, a special person,” linebacker Cody Lindenberg said this month. “Just being around him changed the atmosphere.” analyst Lance Zierlein pegs Nubin as an “eventual starter,” while The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said Nubin is a “four-down player with a coveted skill set because of his split-field range, playmaking, instincts and toughness versus the run.”

Gophers safeties coach Danny Collins said Nubin was “so fun to coach” because he never had to be reminded about effort.

“He would look you in the eye and whatever you wanted to get done, he would do it for you,” Collins said this month. “He would do it for the team. He’s a guy who played 100 miles an hour, played as hard as he could, played through injuries and was incredibly smart. I think when you add all those things together, that is when you have a really special player. Super excited for his future.”

Nubin last season played through a meniscus injury that required surgery and left him less than 100 percent at the NFL scouting combine. He was around 90 percent healthy when he ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the U Pro Day in March.

At 6 feet 1 and 205 pounds, Nubin’s speed and movement in the secondary is considered a slight concern, Zierlein and Burger noted. But Nubin might join Antoine Winfied Jr., as U safeties taken on the second day of the draft. Winfield went 45th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

“Just hoping the best for him in his future — whatever that holds,” Lindenberg said. “I hope it holds 10-plus years in the NFL, which we know he can do. We are very excited to watch him do that.”

The Gophers had three players taken in the 2023 draft, which wrapped up a record-tying four-year streak for the U. They had 14 total players taken from 2020-23, which equaled its best run from 1988-91.

Zierlein analyzed only two other Gophers — tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford and defensive tackle Kyler Baugh. Brugler had Nubin as his third-best safety and Spann-Ford as the 13th-best tight end.

Spann-Ford, a St. Cloud native, dealt with dropped passes during his senior season, but his body of work, success in run blocking and his 6-foot-7 frame earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl and combine. slotted Spann-Ford as a candidate to be a Round 7 pick or priority free agent come Saturday. Zierlien gave him a grade of “candidate for bottom of the roster or practice squad.”

Like Gophers fans over the past few years, Brugler is intrigued by Spann-Ford’s upside.

“Overall, Spann-Ford must improve his consistency — especially in the red zone — for him to stay on an NFL field,” Brugler wrote in his “The Beast” draft dossier. “But he is a smooth athlete with body flexibility and toughness to translate to the pro game. He will interest NFL teams looking for a promising ‘Y’ tight end prospect with rotational upside.”

Baugh impressed during Gophers’ Pro Day, a similar showing to what tight end Ko Kieft made in 2022 before rising up and becoming a sixth-round pick that April.

Baugh might not hear his name called; the 6-foot-2 and 305 pound lineman is considered a priority free agent, per Zierlein. Brugler has Baugh as his 38th defensive tackle.

Like Nubin, teammates raved about what Baugh meant to the Gophers program on and off the field.

The Gophers had six other players from the 2023 team compete at their Pro Day, and they hope to catch on with an NFL team this weekend: receivers Chris Autman-Bell and Corey Crooms, running back Sean Tyler, cornerback Tre’Von Jones, defensive end Chris Collins and long snapper Brady Weeks.

A few former Gophers players are expected to be selected in the draft, including defensive end Austin Booker (Kansas) and running back Bucky Irving (Oregon).

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