DENVER -- The NFL draft blend's two of the sport's strongest passions, love for college football and pro prospects. The NFL Draft covers multiple days, making it seem like thousands of prospects receive a chance. In truth, the sobering reality remains scant college players enter the league.
A critical first step becomes the NFL Combine, which runs Feb. 28-March 4 in Indianapolis. The NFL released its list of 330 combine invites, which includes local flavor. CU leads with four players -- cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, free safety Tedric Thompson, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and quarterback Sefo Liufau. Colorado State will send two players, linebacker Kevin Davis, the team's leading tackler, and punter Hayden Hunt. Air Force boasts one invite, Jalen Robinette, the first receiver in school history to go to the combine.
CU's All Four for One
Of the Buffaloes' group, Awuzie forecasts as the highest draft pick, projecting as a third-rounder. Awuzie received second-team All-Pac-12 honors in his final two seasons. At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Awuzie plays a physical style. His performance in the Alamo Bowl suffered because of a turf toe injury, adding importance to his showing in Indianapolis. His special teams experience should enhance his value.
Fellow defensive backs boast potential. Thompson showed great instincts as a ballhawk in college, but is a bit undersized at 6-1, 205 pounds. His seven interceptions last season speak to his ability to challenge receivers and read the eyes of quarterbacks. Witherspoon led the nation with 23 passes defensed last season. At 6-3, 190 pounds, he is rangy and long. He is strong in coverage, but needs work on his tackling.
Liufau delivered a strong senior season, helping guide the Buffaloes to a 10-4 record. He commands respect for his leadership and toughness, both of which were on display during CU's close loss at Michigan that earned Liufau praise form Wolverines boss Jim Harbaugh. Liufau brings a bullish running style on short-yardage plays, but has struggled with passing accuracy. He projects as a final day draft pick or free agent signee.
Up in the Air
Robinette brings a rare skillset and resume. He was a big play receiver at Air Force which features a run-based attack. At 6-3, 220 pounds, Robinette created mismatch issues and caught 35 passes for 959 yards and six touchdowns last season. He led the nation in yards per catch. The modified Department of Defense policy makes it more feasible for Robinette to reach the NFL. Graduates from the service academies offered to play in the pros can be reserves instead of active duty.
Davis showed well at the recent Loren Landow mock combine. He is a tackling machine, recording a career-high 19 against Colorado last season. He earned second-team All-Mountain West honors. Davis is open to playing inside or outside linebacker to receive a chance in the pros. Hunt showed nuance required for the next level. He planted 24 punts inside the 20-yard line last season.