Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Arkansas hopefuls await call
Quarterback Tyler Wilson is one of a handful of Arkansas players hoping to hear their name called Friday in the NFL Draft.
FAYETTEVILLE - The NFL Draft will heat up in earnest tonight for the prospects with Arkansas ties, such as former Razorbacks Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Chris Gragg and Alvin Bailey, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
Wilson missed out on perhaps his best chance to be taken in the first round late Thursday when the Buffalo Bills made Florida State’s EJ Manuel the first quarterback selected with the No. 16 pick. Wilson had visited in Buffalo with new Bills Coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett after the Hogs’ pro day, and the Bills as much as announced they would be taking a quarterback.
The draft continues with the second and third rounds today at 5:30 p.m. from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Wilson, of Greenwood, said he will be hanging out with a tight group of friends and family in Fort Smith to watch tonight’s coverage.
“This is something that obviously you dream about for a while, that you’re excited about and nervous about because you don’t know where you’re going to end up and where you’re going to be living,” Wilson said.
“So that’s obviously a little bit of uncertainty there. I’m excited. On ... Friday, whenever it is, it’s going to be a big day.”
Wilson had a shot at being a first-round pick in the 2012 draft after passing for 3,638 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and becoming the first Arkansas quarterback to earn first-team All-SEC honors. However, he decided to return for what was a highly regarded team that began the season ranked No. 10 by the Associated Press. But the Razorbacks crashed to a 4-8 season under interim Coach John L. Smith after Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle wreck and firing.
Buffalo had originally been in the No. 8 slot, but traded with St. Louis and received the Rams’ picks at No. 16, 46, 78 and 222 in exchange for the Nos. 8 and 71 selections.
Armstead is part of a talented collection of offensive linemen in what is otherwise considered a sub-par draft. Three of the first four picks Thursday were tackles - Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, who went No. 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M (No. 2, Jacksonville Jaguars) and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma (No. 4, Philadelphia Eagles). North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, and Alabama’s Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were linemen also taken in the first 11 picks.
Gragg showed the knee injury that kept him out of seven games in 2012 was old news when he aced the testing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He is considered just behind the top wave of tight ends, which includes Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert.
“I’ve heard everything from second round to fifth round,” Gragg said. “I’m not going to be disappointed.”
Hamilton, who participated in the Senior Bowl and the combine, did not conduct individual workouts with NFL teams after Arkansas’ pro day.
Asked where he thought he might be drafted, Hamilton said, “I really don’t have a clue. I’m more expected for Saturday.
“If I get a call [today], I’ll be jumping up and down. … I feel pretty confident of getting a phone call some time Saturday.”
Davis, who has a history of ankle injuries, is two years removed from his 1,322-yard season in 2010, but he had a big combine performance.
“I’m a good running back and a reliable guy,” Davis said. “I can help a team out.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 04/26/2013