Texas A&M’s five-year string of having at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL draft is in serious jeopardy of being snapped this year, with the program’s hopes resting squarely on the shoulders of an offensive lineman whom many thought should return for his final year of eligibility.
Germain Ifedi certainly has the size that NFL teams are looking for (6’5”, 325 lbs), only not the technique—at least not yet. He started his career at right guard and then moved to right tackle, but wasn’t able to make the move to left tackle last season.
He’s probably destined to play guard, but in the right situation a team might try him at tackle first.
The combine will probably tell a lot about when Ifedi might be selected because, heading in, his stock appears to be on the decline.
When he declared himself eligible for the draft, Ifedi was ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect and No. 5 offensive tackle by NFLDraftScout.com. It has since dropped him to No. 51 and 7, respectively, projecting him as a second-round pick.
He also received a second-round grade from the NFL’s draft advisory committee, and the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock called him a second-round selection during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
Ifedi’s name wasn’t listed among Mayock’s top positional players at either guard or tackle, but Cedric Ogbuehi went 21st overall in the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL, so you never know.
Here’s a quick look at Texas A&M’s other players at the NFL combine:
Tra Carson, Running Back
The first 1,000-yard rusher from the running back position during the Kevin Sumlin era (since 2012), Carson was voted the team's offensive MVP.
"He's a workhorse," Sumlin said during a press conference in December. "He's 230 to 235 pounds, a big back, great blocker, trustworthy. He can do everything for us and he's a leader."
Carson’s a likely third-down and short-yardage option in the NFL, but he can improve his chances of being drafted by improving on his 40 time at the combine.
Joseph Cheek, Guard
Cheek’s father Louis played four years in the NFL with four teams after being an eighth-round selection by the Miami Dolphins. The bad news for him is that the draft is now just seven rounds and his immediate future is probably on a practice squad.
Physically, Cheek is built like a tackle (6’7”, 311 lbs) and his best chance of landing and sticking with a team is to be a versatile option at both.
De'Vante Harris, Cornerback
Harris is another NFL legacy player, as Rod Harris was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1989 and played three years. De’Vante can follow in his footsteps but needs a big combine if he’s gong to make a mark in the draft.
"He believes he's the best player on the field at all times,” NFL.com quoted an AFC area scout as saying. “I love that. If he had about 20 more pounds on those bones we might be looking at something, but I think he's late Day 3 to undrafted."
Drew Kaser, Punter
The All-American has the leg strength to be drafted, but only one punter has been selected in each of the last two drafts, and Utah’s Tom Hackett is considered to be a better pro prospect.
However, here’s a statistic that no team will look past: Kaser broke Shane Lechler's school record with a 47.4-yard average in 2013 and then topped it again in 2015 (47.47). In 2000, Lechler was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round and has been named All-Pro nine times.
Brandon Williams, Cornerback
After Germain Ifedi, who will be Texas A&M's first player drafted?
Williams, nicknamed “Two-Way Slim,” is one of the most intriguing prospects at the combine, although there’s a very decent chance he won’t be drafted. The winner of the program’s biggest honor, the Aggie Heart Award, he was the first two-way player at Texas A&M since Dave Elmendorf and Ross Brupbacher in 1968.
After solely being a running back his first two seasons, he started playing cornerback as well. His lack of experience at the position makes him a project at the next level, but there’s no doubting his athleticism. Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of buzz about him after the combine.
"At 6'0", 205, he's an average-to-slight build running back in the NFL. At 6'0", 205, he's a big cornerback and a NFL prospect," Sumlin said about the switch last year. "He's physical, one of the fastest guys on the team, has long arms and he's strong.
"The sky is the limit for him. He helps our football team at cornerback, but he's also helping himself by showcasing where he can play at the next level. If he can improve his technique, he's gone from a free agent/late-round to a draft pick."
Notable Texas A&M players who did not receive an invitation: kicker Taylor Bertolet; safety Devonta Burns; center Mike Matthews; defensive end Obi Obioha; defensive tackle Alonzo Williams.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.