By Shan Reddy
Five Stanford players were picked in the 2019 NFL Draft, which was held in Nashville this past Thursday through Saturday. Though none went in the first round on Thursday, one Cardinal player was drafted in each of the following five rounds.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Wide receiver, pick no. 57, Philadelphia Eagles)
Senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the first of the group to be selected, drafted in the second round at pick No. 57 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. The 2018 team captain and All-Pac-12 second team honoree finished off his career with the Cardinal with a stellar senior season in which he tied a 41-year-old school record for touchdowns in a single season with 14. The international relations major is the first Cardinal selected by the Eagles since Ed Reynolds went in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.
“His work ethic is unbelievable,” said Stanford wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. “He wants to be a really good player. I think he’s only scratched the tip of his potential. Play after play after play after play, if you look at him throughout his career at Stanford, he just continued to make plays. He’s not only a great player, but a great person. The Eagles are getting a player who will not only improve the organization as a player, but even more so as a person.”
Bobby Okereke (Inside linebacker, pick no. 89, Indianapolis Colts)
Senior linebacker Bobby Okereke was a late riser in the draft process, showing off impressive athleticism and receiving staunch support from the Cardinal coaching staff. The Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist joins a linebacking corps in Indianapolis that features 2018 First Team All-Pro selection Darius Leonard, who was also drafted on day two by the Colts just one year ago.
“Okereke is an all-down linebacker,” said Stanford inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen. “He is long, he is fast, he has good hip flexibility and he can flip his hips and cover in space. He can tackle in space, too. He has extremely long arms so he can keep himself clean off blockers. He will fit in really well with the Colts.”
Bryce Love (Running back, pick no. 112, Washington Redskins)
Senior running back Bryce Love became one of the most celebrated and acclaimed players to ever play on the Farm, but his pick by the Redskins was a surprising one. Washington boasts an already deep backfield that features future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice and former First-Team All-Big Ten powerback Samaje Perine. Nonetheless, Love’s talent is undeniable.
“He’s a game changer, a field position changer,” said head coach David Shaw. “He scores touchdowns and he’s also a phenomenal human being. He’s going to be a strong asset for the Washington Redskins.”
Jake Bailey (Punter, pick no. 163, New England Patriots)
Three-time All-Pac-12 honoree and Stanford’s all-time career punting average leader Jake Bailey was the third special teamer picked in this year’s draft. A versatile player, the senior excelled in the traditional punter and holder roles for the Cardinal as well as in kickoffs; he also showed off some athleticism at the combine with 117.0-inch broad jump and 33.0-inch vertical jump marks that lead the special teams group.
Bailey will be brought into compete with longtime Patriots starter and three-time Super Bowl champion Ryan Allen, who led the NCAA in yards per punt back in 2012 with Louisiana Tech.
“Jake Bailey has been a weapon for us for years,” said coach Shaw. “He has the strong leg to be a very good kickoff specialist that pins the opponent’s offense back to start their drives. Jake also has the ability not only to boot long punts that change field position, but also to pin the opponent back inside their 20-yard-line, sometimes inside the 10. That is a skill that is very coveted by NFL teams and the Patriots are getting a good one.”
Kaden Smith (Tight end, pick no. 176, San Francisco 49ers)
After general manager Kyle Shanahan visited campus for Stanford’s pro day last month, it’s no surprise that the 49ers picked up a Cardinal player in this year’s draft. The Niners have one of the league’s premier tight ends in Pro Bowler George Kittle, and they will be bringing over a running mate for him in Smith, who was named to the All-Pac-12 second team this past season.
“Kaden is the most complete tight end coming out in this year’s class,” said Stanford tight ends coach Morgan Turner. “His ability to make tough catches is rivaled by very few. He also wants to be part of the run game, which very few guys want to do these days. You can put him at the point of attack and trust him in the run game. Kaden really embraced that and did a great job with it.”
Contact Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu.