It has been three years since the Colorado football program has produced a first-round draft pick in the NFL and the consensus among analysts is the program won't have a player selected on the first day once again this year.

But former CU wide receiver Paul Richardson says he has been told he can be expected to be taken as high as late in the first round or the second round. That should be reason for CU fans to pay attention Thursday night when the three-day draft begins with the first 32 of 256 overall selections.

Richardson became the eighth player in CU history to declare for the draft with college eligibility still remaining. Only two of the previous seven were selected in the first round — Leonard Renfro in 1993 and Rashaan Salaam in 1995. The last CU players picked in the first round were offensive lineman Nate Solder and cornerback Jimmy Smith who both went in the first round in 2011.

Richardson would have been a senior in the 2014 season if he remained in Boulder, but he will be playing on Sundays and earning a nice paycheck to do so instead.

He also will be fulfilling a childhood dream.

"I'm very excited, very appreciative," Richardson said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I feel real blessed and just glad that my support system has been consistent throughout this process to where I was able to make the decision comfortably and then I was able to go through with the decision without having to look back and I'm in a position athletically and skill set-wise to be very successful."

Richardson's speed is coveted by NFL teams. Richardson has the kind of speed and playmaking ability that could make him a valuable weapon in a league that has become more and more about passing in recent years.

He had 13 receptions of 50 yards or longer in his career, a modern-day CU record. He set single-season receiving records last fall with 83 receptions for 1,383 yards. His 10 touchdowns were one short of the single-season mark held by Derek McCoy.

Richardson has added weight since his CU career ended. He is comfortably at 183 now and says he believes he will play at about 190 pounds as a rookie.

There are obvious financial considerations that come with being drafted higher. Richardson is like anyone else in wanting to be picked as high as possible, but he is also level-headed about not letting those concerns overwhelm him or the experience.

"If I don't go late-Day One, then I would like to go somewhere where there is an established quarterback and I would still be going pretty early to where I know the situation would be for me to come in pretty early and play as soon as possible rather than coming in to play behind other people and see what happens in the future," he said.

CU coach Mike MacIntyre said last week he has fielded a lot of calls from general managers and coaches about Richardson this spring, which makes him believe Richardson will be selected early. Richardson said he has visited multiple teams such as Seattle, the New York Jets, Dallas, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and others.

Richardson is considered the only sure thing when it comes to possible draft picks from CU this year. The only other CU player who is considered a potential draft pick is defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who will probably be an outside linebacker as a pro and probably won't be taken until Saturday if he is drafted at all.

Former Buffs such as center Gus Handler, linebacker Derrick Webb, defensive back Parker Orms, defensive tackle Nate Bonsu and longsnapper Ryan Iverson are potential free agents signees. Former Buffs from previous years such as linebacker Doug Rippy and defensive back Travis Sandersfeld are hoping to get another shot by signing free agents deals, too.

Richardson said he plans to watch the draft from his home near Anaheim, Calif. He said he has received a lot of support from his former CU coaches past and present.

"I appreciate Colorado and them taking a chance on me," he said. "I know they appreciated me and helping turn the program around as much as I could while I was there."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or on Twitter: @kyleringo.