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How will Minnesota be represented in the NFL draft? Some local names to know

Vaseline 2 months ago

In addition to former Gopher safety Tyler Nubin, who may be the top safety, several players from Minnesota colleges and high schools are hoping to catch the attention of the NFL during the draft, which begins Thursday. Here are some names to know:

OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame: A Totino-Grace product, Alt is often projected as a top-10 draft pick after a stellar three-year run for the Fighting Irish that ended with an All-America selection. He is the last Alt to go to the NFL after his father, John, was a first-round pick in 1984 and was a member of the Chiefs Hall of Honor in 2002. At the NFL scouting combine, Alt said he met with many teams, including those with top-10 picks like the Patriots, Titans and Jets. He is expected to be the first player with Minnesota ties selected in the draft.

TE Brevyn Spann-Ford, Gophers: Once a three-star recruit out of St. Cloud Tech, Spann-Ford entered college as a lanky receiver. He developed into a 260-pound tight end, well-equipped to do the blocking necessary for a run-heavy Gophers offense. His career-high 42 catches for 497 yards and two scores came in 2022. He said he grew up a Vikings fan and wouldn’t mind staying home. “It would definitely be a dream come true,” Spann-Ford said of the combination. “I’ve met them a few times, at the Senior Bowl.”

WR Chris Autman-Bell, Gophers: Autman-Bell played seven years at the University of Minnesota and returned last fall on an injury waiver due to a 2022 knee injury. He didn’t play a major role for nine games. He recently ran routes for NFL scouts. “It was great. I just felt good, flying around and in my second home,” Autman-Bell said at Gophers pro day in March. “It was great to move around and show everyone that I can still be ‘Crab’.”

CB Trey Vaval, Mankato, Minnesota State: Vaval (listed by his university as 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds) also did drills for scouts at Gophers pro day in March. A native of Blue Springs, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City, he was also one of 33 local prospects hosted by the Chiefs during their visit to area prospects. Vaval was a standout kickoff and punt returner at Missouri Western before playing the past two years in Mankato, where he was also a sprinter on the track team.

DT Kyler Baugh, Gophers: Baugh showed off his strength and explosion at Gophers pro day, leading the day with 34 reps of a 225-pound bench press. That ranked second among all potential customers at the combination. He also had a vertical jump of 33.5 inches, which would have been the best among defensive tackles. That combination of strength and athleticism usually gets opportunities in training camps.

WR Corey Crooms Jr., Gophers: Croom transferred from Western Michigan and caught 28 passes for 376 yards in his lone Gophers season last fall. The Chicago native was one of more than 40 local prospects invited to the Bears facility during their local visit this offseason.