The dust has barely settled on the 2020 NFL draft as No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow watches the ink dry on his $36.1 million rookie contract. During the three-day […]
The dust has barely settled on the 2020 NFL draft as No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow watches the ink dry on his $36.1 million rookie contract. During the three-day event, which could not be conducted with the usual in-person audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 255 collegiate athletes were selected over seven rounds.
Of those 255, none were ECU products, with defensive end Kendall Futrell being the lone Pirate to sign a professional contract with his free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
While Futrell was the lone Pirate to join ECU’s NFL lineage this year, the program figures to have a handful of draft eligible prospects heading into a 2021 draft that is set to take place from April 29-May 1 of next year.
As ranked by Phil Steele’s annual College Football Preview magazine, the Pirates are currently represented by four draft eligible players on various position lists within the publication.
Here is a rundown of that quartet of players:
D’Ante Smith – No. 9 OG on Top-60 Guards List
Smith is ECU’s highest ranked draft eligible player, and rightfully so. While he is represented on the guards list, he has started all 12 games each of the last two seasons at left tackle for the Pirates.
All told, Smith has started 25 consecutive games spanning the last three seasons, cementing himself as the anchor of ECU’s offensive line. Granted a medical hardship waiver for a lost season earlier in his collegiate career, Smith will be a redshirt senior in 2020 and will look to make strides with an offensive line that largely succeeded in keeping quarterback Holton Ahlers on his feet last year.
In 12 games, Smith and company allowed jut 17 sacks or 1.42 per game, ranking them 22nd in the country in sacks allowed. For his part in that success, Smith has begun racking up the national honors after being named to Steele’s Preseason All-AAC First Team and Athlon Sports’ all-conference second team.
Xavier Smith – No. 47 ILB on Top-60 Inside Linebacker List
ECU’s leading tackler last year with 81, Smith, much like his offensive line counterpart above, figures to be a linchpin in what the Pirates try to do schematically in 2020.
Save for one game last season, Smith them all at the weak-side linebacker position. His 40 solo tackles tied for the most on the roster, as he racked up 2.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
While failing to record a sack in 2019, Smith did drop back in coverage a fair amount, breaking up four passes compared to just one quarterback hit.
Heading into this season, Smith is a member of Steele’s Preseason All-AAC Second Team and Athlon Sports’ all-conference third team.
Davondre Robinson – No. 39 FS on Top-40 FS List
ECU’s second-leading tackler from his free safety position one year ago, Robinson tied Smith with 40 solo tackles while amassing 71 total stops. On down the statistics sheet, Robinson filled in just about every category with two tackles for loss, three interceptions, four pass break-ups, seven passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
In his career at ECU, Robinson has started 25 games, including 21 straight, making him the longest-tenured returner for the Pirates on the defensive side of the football in 2020.
While ECU’s defense has seen a lot of turnover since matching up with Tulsa in last year’s season finale, Robinson is expected to once again be one of the steadying forces on that side of the ball as a senior.
Robinson will enter the 2020 campaign represented on Athlon Sports’ Preseason All-AAC Third Team.
Jake Verity – No. 21 K on Top-25 K List
By the time Verity’s tenure as ECU’s kicker is over, he will be one of the best to have ever pulled on the purple and gold. Already Verity is fourth on the Pirates’ all-time scoring list, having racked up 280 points.
Last year, Verity set the ECU single-season record with 24 made field goals on 29 attempts (82.76%) and currently ranks first among all active FBS kickers with 60 career field goals made. He also ranks sixth in career field goals made per game at 1.58.
For his efforts, Verity was recently named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List. The award is given to the nation’s top placekicker, an honor Verity nearly won in 2019 as a semifinalist.
With a stellar season behind him and another on tap in his final season with the Pirates, Verity played a large role in Steele ranking ECU’s special teams unit the 25th-best in the country and second-best in the American Athletic Conference.
Individually, Verity has earned Preseason All-AAC Second Team honors by both Steele and Athlon Sports.