Nine former Stanford players saw their dreams of playing professional football come true this weekend, as five Cardinal were selected in the 2016 NFL draft and four others signed with teams during the free agency period.
Stanford’s five drafted players — Joshua Garnett, Austin Hooper, Blake Martinez, Kevin Hogan and Kyle Murphy — lift Stanford’s total number of players chosen in the draft in the past five years to a Pac-12-leading 24.
Garnett was the first to go off the board when he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 28th pick in the first round, becoming the 22nd first-round pick in Cardinal history. He and two other Tunnel Workers, Andrus Peat and David DeCastro, have accounted for Stanford’s last three first-round picks.
— Joshua Garnett (@IamJoshG) April 30, 2016
Garnett, this past season’s winner of the Outland Trophy, has a strong chance at earning a starting job with the 49ers, if not a decent amount of playing time, as the team looks to rebuild its offensive line following some personnel losses during free agency.
Joining Garnett in San Francisco will be wide receiver Devon Cajuste and outside linebacker Kevin Anderson, both of whom signed with the Niners on Saturday evening.
Another pair of newly drafted Cardinal that will start their NFL careers together are Martinez and Murphy, who were both selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 131st and 200th picks in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively. The pair will join former teammate Ty Montgomery in Green Bay.
— Ty Montgomery (@TyMontgomery2) April 30, 2016
Martinez’s selection comes amid the organization’s efforts to build up its defensive positions, including both inside and outside linebacker (Martinez was the third defensive player drafted by the Packers as well as the second linebacker in a row). That being said, he may get his start at special teams before seeing more action on defense.
— Blake Martinez (@Big_Blake4) April 30, 2016
On the other side of the ball, Murphy may take some time to become a consistent contributor on the Packers’ offensive line, though some added strength will certainly do him well.
Other Cardinal standouts found their homes midway through the draft: Austin Hooper followed Garnett as the second Cardinal to be drafted when he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round with the 81st pick. Hooper is the fourth tight end from Stanford to be drafted in the last five years, following Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and future teammate Levine Toilolo.
— Steve Caric (@Caricsportsmgt) April 30, 2016
Hooper will be one of four tight ends on the Falcons’ roster, with nine-year veteran Jacob Tamme the team’s main threat at the position, and will have the opportunity to compete for time against Toilolo and D.J. Tialavea as the Falcons look to strengthen their tight end corps.
Stanford’s all-time winningest quarterback, Kevin Hogan, was taken in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 162nd pick, Stanford’s 13th drafted quarterback in school history.
— Kevin Hogan (@khoagie8) April 30, 2016
In Kansas City, Hogan, whom many described as the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, will work with Andy Reid’s run-prioritizing West Coast offense, a perfect fit for him. He will play behind Alex Smith, who will be a free agent in 2018. The battle between former Georgia Bulldog Aaron Murray and Hogan to be Smith’s backup could be competitive.
Cajuste, one of Hogan’s former favorite targets, will look to make an impact with Chip Kelly’s 49ers after being signed following the draft.
— Devon Cajuste (@devoncajuste) April 30, 2016
While he played receiver in high school and college, some question whether the 6-foot-4 Cajuste’s skills are best suited for that position and instead argue that he would be better off as a tight end or H-back. While he made a statement with his times at Stanford’s Pro Day, where he posted a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, and at the combine, where he recorded the fifth-best time in a decade for the three-cone drill, it is unclear where and how the 49ers intend to use him.
Also signing with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent was Anderson, who will continue his legacy of playing in the Bay. The outside linebacker, who went to Palo Alto High School before playing at Stanford, missed four games in the 2015 season due to an injury but ended his career on The Farm with 124 tackles, and 16.5 for loss, including 11 sacks. He will work alongside former teammate Shayne Skov ‘14 in the linebackers’ room.
Excited to announce that I will continue my football career on the peninsula and will sign with the 49ers!
— Kevin Anderson (@kanderson48) April 30, 2016
Fellow defenders Aziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett also found spots on the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans, respectively, following the draft. Shittu, who culminated his Cardinal career with Rose Bowl Defensive MVP honors, will join Ed Reynolds and Ertz in Philadelphia.
Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins were my some of my favorite players growing up watching the #Eagles!
— Aziz Shittu (@AzizShittu) May 1, 2016
Scarlett, who played his final year of college football at Stanford after transferring from Cal, led the team in sacks this past season but will face an uphill battle as he tries to make the Texans’ 53-man roster, which is full of talent on the defensive line.
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) May 2, 2016
Do-Hyoung Park and Neel Ramachandran contributed to this report.