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USF’s NFL Draft drought could end this year

USF senior offensive lineman Donovan Jennings (73) blocking against UCF. Jennings could be the first Bull picked in the NFL Draft since 2018 later this month. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It’s been over half a decade since a USF football player had their name called in the NFL Draft. 

That streak could be broken this year. 

The last time a player was selected was in 2018. Defensive tackle Deadrin Senat was drafted in the third round, while receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling was picked in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers. 

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Two graduating seniors – offensive lineman Donovan Jennings and defensive back Daquan Evans – are names to watch when the draft kicks off on April 25. 

Jennings’ NFL prospects have picked up steam ever since he turned heads at USF’s Pro Day on March 20.   

His Relative Athletic Score – a metric that combines various measurables – placed him in the top seven offensive guards in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

The Minnesota Vikings are also set to meet with Jennings, according to draft analyst Tony Pauline. 

If selected, Jennings will likely be a Day 3 pick. Several mock drafts have him being selected in the sixth or seventh round. 

Related: Former USF football players perform in front of NFL scouts during Pro Day

“I try not to not think about anything, really just about what I’ve got to do,” Jennings said about the NFL teams that have eyes on him. “Block out all the outside noise and keep my head down, keep grinding, just doing what I’ve been doing for six years.” 

Jennings would be only the third USF offensive lineman to be drafted in program history. He would be the first since center Austin Reiter was picked up in the seventh round by the then-Washington Redskins in 2017. 

Jennings was a six-year starter for USF. He recorded his 54th career game against Charlotte on Nov. 25, tying linebacker Dwayne Boyles for the most in program history. 

Evans is another sleeper prospect. He’s built a viable NFL resume in his five seasons at USF, racking up 176 tackles and four interceptions. 

He was invited to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Day, according to NFL insider Tanner Phifer. 

Phifer also said that at least four teams see Evans as an NFL Draft candidate.

Offensive lineman Bayron Matos is another prospect to keep an eye on after working out at USF’s Pro Day with the NFL International Player Program. 

Matos has had a unique journey. Originally hailing from the Dominican Republic, Matos played college basketball at New Mexico before transferring to USF. 

He’s also brand new to football. Having just started in 2022, Matos walked onto the USF football team but didn’t see any game action. 

NFL analyst Scott Pioli listed him as one of three prospects to watch from the International Player Program and said he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Matos’ name called during the draft. 

“The training has been really good, and really hard,” Matos said after his Pro Day on March 20. “I’ve been working really hard to get to the next level.” 

The 2024 NFL Draft will be held April 25-27. It will be broadcast on ESPN and ABC.