• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Chidobe Awuzie was one of 22 players invited to attend the draft, which is a good sign that if he doesn't hear his name in Thursday's first round, it could be early in Friday's second round.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Safety Tedric Thompson was given a thrid/fourth round grade by NFL.com.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon's upside is so good that it's tough to see him lasting past the third round.



CU in the draft

NFL draft results for the Colorado Buffaloes in the last five years:

2016 — None selected

2015 — None selected

2014 — 2nd round (No. 45): Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle

2013 — 4th (No. 109): David Bakhtiari, OT, Green Bay; 6th (No. 172): Nick Kasa, TE, Oakland

2012 — 5th (No. 160): Ryan Miller, OG, Cleveland; 7th (No. 231): Tony Clemons, WR, Pittsburgh

Throughout its history, the Colorado football team has had 266 players selected in the NFL draft.

Only 21 teams in the country have had more.

In recent years, however, the NFL has given more attention to schools such as Western Kentucky, Montana State and even Maine.

Receiver Paul Richardson was the last CU player drafted, taken by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 2014 draft. Since then, 19 rounds have passed and 720 players have been selected.

CU’s dry spell is sure to end this weekend, however. The NFL will hold its annual draft Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia, and there could be a handful of Buffs hearing their names called.

Here’s a look at the Buffs most likely to be selected, listed in order of their draft potential.

Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie: In recent weeks, Awuzie’s stock has risen, to the point that many mock drafts now have him going in the latter part of the first round. He was one of 22 players invited to attend the draft, which is a good sign that if he doesn’t hear his name in Thursday’s first round, it could be early in Friday’s second round. Several mocks have Awuzie going to the Green Bay Packers with pick No. 29. CU fans aren’t surprised by the recent attention, having watched Awuzie dominate throughout his career. A versatile and talented corner, he can help a team anywhere in the secondary. CU hasn’t had a player go in the first round since 2011, when Nate Solder (No. 17 to the New England Patriots) and Jimmy Smith (No. 27 to the Baltimore Ravens) were selected.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon: Throughout this offseason, Witherspoon has turned a lot of heads around the NFL with his size (6-3, 198) and athleticism. While he hasn’t played football long, his game has improved every year and there’s a belief that he will continue to get better. Most mock drafts have him going in the second or third round. This is a deep draft for cornerbacks, which works against Witherspoon, but his upside is so good that it’s tough to see him lasting past the third round.

Safety Tedric Thompson: One of the top playmakers on the CU defense last season, Thompson has drawn interest across the league. It’s tough to get a read on where he will land, though, because opinions seem to vary quite a bit. NFL.com gives him a third/fourth-rank projection, where others have him in the fifth or sixth round. Safety is another position loaded with talent and that could push Thompson down in the draft. It would be a surprise if he’s not picked at some point, however.

Nose tackle Josh Tupou: After the defensive backs are off the board, the next-best bet to be drafted is Tupou. At 6-foot-3 and roughly 340 pounds, Tupou is a big nose tackle that never really got the credit he deserved last season. While he doesn’t rack up stats, he was a disruptive force for the Buffs in their 3-4 defense could be a valuable player in the right system. If he’s drafted, it’s likely to be in either the sixth or seven rounds.

Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert: While he had a great senior year for the Buffs, Gilbert is a borderline draft pick. It’s possible that a team takes a chance on him in the seventh round, but he’s most likely going to be signed as a free agent after the draft. At 6-5 an about 230 pounds, he’s lean for an outside backer/defensive end. If a team is patient with him and gives him a year to bulk up and develop on a practice squad, he could be a productive NFL player.

Quarterback Sefo Liufau: It was a bit of a surprise to see Liufau invited to the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. Unless a team really likes him and wants to take a chance on him in the late rounds, Liufau is likely to be signed as an undrafted free agent.

Others to watch: Several other Buffs aren’t likely to be drafted, but could get a free agent contract. Defensive linemen Jordan Carrell and Samson Kafovalu, linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, center Alex Kelley and tight end Sean Irwin are among those hoping to get a call.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

First-round Buffs

Last 15 CU players selected in the first round of the NFL draft

Year Pick Player Team

1980 8 Mark Haynes, CB N.Y. Giants

1980 12 Stan Brock, OT Saints

1991 13 Mike Pritchard, WR Falcons

1991 18 Alfred Williams, OLB Bengals

1993 23 Deon Figures, CB Steelers

1993 24 Leonard Renfro, DT Eagles

1994 17 Charles Johnson, WR Steelers

1995 4 Michael Westbrook, WR Redskins

1995 21 Rashaan Salaam, RB Bears 

1997 10 Chris Naeole, OG Saints

1997 27 Rae Carruth, WR Panthers

2002 21 Daniel Graham, TE Patriots

2003 32 Tyler Brayton, DT Raiders

2011 17 Nate Solder, OT Patriots

2011 27 Jimmy Smith, CB Ravens