While the 2011 Orange Bowl remains, in my mind, the moment when Stanford football officially burst back on to the national scene and became an essential part of the college football discussion, I’d have to put the 2012 NFL Draft right there behind it.
With Andrew Luck grabbing the first overall pick and David DeCastro, Coby Fleener and Jonathan Martin following quickly in succession at picks 24, 34 and 42, respectively, the Cardinal enjoyed their most successful draft in recent memory and became a center of conversation during the draft.
However, as monumental as that 2012 draft was for the Stanford football program, 2015 might be just as historic and memorable. The key is context.
Last year, we saw the Cardinal’s all-everything linebacker and emotional leader Shayne Skov go undrafted while two-time All-American David Yankey fell all the way to the fifth round. 2014 was by no stretch of the imagination a bad year for Stanford. After all, a total of six players heard their names called, matching this year’s total. But the fact that several Cardinal standouts saw their names slide on Draft Day raised a lot of questions.
This year’s NFL Draft was remarkable for Stanford because the Cardinal, coming off of a 7-5 season, saw a number of players fall into great situations; it also affirmed that, even in a down year, NFL organizations recognized the talent on the Farm. While there’s so much more to the health of a college football program than NFL success, this year’s draft silenced a lot of the questions regarding the viability of Stanford players in the NFL that surfaced after some of the disappointments of last year.
Moreover, all six Stanford players drafted last weekend come into exciting situations and should have a legitimate chance of competing right away.
From the moment he stepped on the Farm, Peat had been mentioned as potential first-round draft pick — speculation which intensified during his sophomore year when he anchored Stanford’s offensive line alongside four seniors. In fact, some projected that Peat might have been a top-five pick had he been eligible last season.
Coming in to New Orleans as the 13th overall pick in the draft is a major accomplishment for Peat, who became Stanford’s first first-round selection since Luck and DeCastro in 2012. Peat arrives in New Orleans at an exciting time as the Saints are clearly pushing to become a more physical, run-oriented football team. The decision to trade Jimmy Graham for Pro-Bowl center Max Unger all but confirms that the Saints want to place a greater emphasis on power football. As a first-round selection, Peat figures to be a key piece in this transition, and he’ll also have the opportunity to protect some guy named Drew Brees. Not a bad start to your pro career.
When I saw Richards’ name come off the board in the second round, I nearly choked on my slice of pizza. But it was the good kind of choking — the kind where your struggle for air is matched only by your happiness. Richards is a true model of the student-athlete ideal, and his leadership and intelligence clearly caught the eye of Bill Belichick.
Projected by many to go in the sixth round, Richards generated a lot of murmurs when the Patriots, a team notorious for trading down for value, decided to invest their second-round pick on the former Cardinal safety. If anything, New England’s selection indicates just how much it valued Richards and how little stock it placed in his less-than-stellar 40 time at the combine (which he improved upon considerably at Stanford’s Pro Day).
Almost immediately after the pick was announced, many fans were quick to draw a comparison between Richards and another surprising Patriots second-round safety selection, Tavon Wilson, who has yet to see any significant playing time in a New England uniform. While Belichick’s certainly had his fair share of misses drafting defensive backs, his track record is overall very good, considering that he also drafted safeties Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather and Devin McCourty. Richards’ smarts and physicality should make him a hit in New England and he should have a role right away, whether in the secondary or on special teams.
If the Indianapolis Colts are trying to keep their Stanford fetish a secret, they’re doing a pretty bad job. Anderson (and later on David Parry) became the next Cardinal alum to put on the horseshoe, but the match between Anderson and Indy extends far beyond the name of his school.
Specifically, Anderson fits right in as a defensive end in the Colts’ 3-4 defensive scheme. In Stanford’s hybrid 3-4, Anderson would line up in the interior as well as on the outside, causing havoc in all cases. As an extremely hard-working, physical player who can both stop the run and get after the quarterback, Anderson has a real chance to develop into a special player at the next level. He’ll likely have to add some weight onto his already stout 6-foot-6, 294-pound frame to play defensive end at the next level, but, in any case, the very underrated Anderson has a real chance to be remembered as one of the best value picks in this year’s draft.
Some NFL scouts assessed Montgomery as already being at his physical peak and likely as good as he’ll ever be. If that critique is accurate, then Green Bay, a team already loaded with offensive weapons and looking to win right now, makes a lot of sense as a final destination for the former Stanford superstar. Montgomery could factor into the Packers’ return game on day one and the thought of him being a third or fourth option for Aaron Rodgers is downright frightening. For a team looking to win now, Montgomery looks like a fantastic fit and his big-play potential could pay dividends in a big game down the road.
Like Peat, Carter came into Stanford with obvious NFL talent and decided to enter the pro ranks after three years. The Lions plan to try Carter out in a variety of positions, from corner to nickel to special teams. With veteran Rashean Mathis on the roster, Carter won’t be tasked with covering No. 1 receivers in the NFL right away, but — with his considerable talent — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in that position very soon.
From arriving to the Farm as a walk-on to leaving as a fifth-round draft selection, David Parry’s journey will continue in Indianapolis, where he’ll mesh very well in the interior of the Colts’ 3-4 scheme. The combo of Anderson and Parry at Stanford has been devastating the past two seasons at Stanford, and they should bring that continuity to the NFL and provide a much-needed upgrade to that Colts defensive line from day one.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.