With all the local college standouts hoping to get a call at this year’s NFL Draft, the first one to get picked came from the Division II USF Cougars.
Offensive tackle Trey Pipkins was the first Division II player taken this year and the first non-kicker in USF history to be selected, as the Apple Valley, Minn., native went in the third round to the Los Angeles Chargers with the 91st pick.
While that was earlier than most projections had Pipkins going, South Dakota State cornerback Jordan Brown had to wait a tad longer than he probably expected, getting the call from the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round with the 223rd pick. Andrew Van Ginkel, a defensive end who began his career at USD before transferring to Wisconsin, was taken by the Dolphins in the fifth round.
SDSU quarterback and Roosevelt grad Taryn Christion was not drafted, but signed as a free agent with the Seahawks shortly after the draft. Seattle was one of the teams that showed the most interest in Christion in the weeks leading up to the draft, and they didn’t take a quarterback with any of their 10 picks. He’ll go to Seattle looking to backup Russell Wilson and Paxton Lynch.
Pipkins was one of two players from the Dakotas taken by the Chargers, as they made North Dakota State quarterback and Missouri Valley Football Conference player of the year Easton Stick their fifth round draft choice.
While virtually everyone who follows the draft (or follows USF) expected Pipkins to be drafted, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Pipkins’ highlights on the screen on Friday during the third round.
A 6-foot-6, 309-pound three-year starter for the Cougars, Pipkins was a two-time All-NSIC selection who allowed only one sack in his final two seasons, while paving the way for two record-setting running backs in Max Mickey and then Gabe Watson.
When the commentators on the ESPN broadcast discussed the pick, famed draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., defended the Chargers’ decision to choose a Division II player in the third round by pointing out that Pipkins had dominated his level.
That’s what Chargers’ general manager Tom Telesco saw, too.
“He did what he had to do at that level and he dominated at his level of Division II,” Telesco said. “He’s 6-6, 305-pounds, really, really good feet. He’s got long arms, good feet, change of direction and he’s really smart. He went to an all-star game against Division I players and really stood out there. It’s hard to find tackles that are tall, long and have really good feet, can work, are smart and have some awareness. He has a lot of traits that we can develop. It’s going to take some time, but we have a good group he’s going to learn from, too.”
Pipkins was one of only five Division II players invited to the NFL Combine, and he impressed there. But it was at the East-West Shrine Game that Pipkins apparently caught the Chargers’ eye.
While Telesco said Pipkins has some traits that suggest he could be an NFL left tackle, the premier position on the offensive line, he could also slide inside to play guard, something that appealed to Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.