First in-state player taken in NFL draft won't be from ACC, Armstrong says

Mark Armstrong Image
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Who will be the first NC player taken in the NFL draft?
Lenoir-Rhyne defensive back Kyle Dugger runs a drill at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Dugger made Hickory, North Carolina, a must-stop for NFL scouts last fall.

This NFL draft was supposed to be in Las Vegas and was supposed to have gondolas. Gondolas.

Alas, all that pomp and pageantry went out the window with the pandemic, so we're left with NFL GMs making picks from their home offices and players enjoying the biggest moment of their young life at home with immediate family, which is the way it maybe should be now that I type that out.

It doesn't figure to be a very eventful draft in terms of local players. There will be no Mitch Trubisky collective gasp like in 2017, no Mario Williams beating out Reggie Bush for the top pick, not even an Eric Ebron slipping into the top 10.

In fact, the first in-state player off the board will likely be a player from Lenoir-Rhyne. You read that correctly. Safety Kyle Dugger should become the highest-drafted Bear ever (only five have ever been drafted) and first to be taken since 2000.

HOW TO WATCH: The NFL Draft airs tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC11

Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither is also in that mix for first North Carolina collegian to be selected.

As for our Triangle teams, players like Jason Strowbridge and Charlie Heck of UNC and Larrell Murchison and James Smith-Williams of NC State will likely have to wait until Saturday, when the fourth through seventh rounds are picked, to get their phone calls.

I'd expect Strowbridge to go somewhere in the fourth-round range. The others could land in similar spots or potentially not get picked at all.

Heck has the benefit of a long family NFL bloodline that will help, not to mention his dad coaches the offensive line for the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Drafted or not, they will all get opportunities in a camp somewhere.


That brings us to the Panthers, who own the seventh overall pick.

There's one guy that I'd want to be sitting there when their turn arrives.

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons is an all-over-the-field menace and given that Luke Kuechly is no longer roaming the middle of the Carolina defense, that'd be a no brainer selection.