Behind the Numbers: Wyoming Pokes in the NFL Draft
LARAMIE -- Skyler Miller is hopeful.
Wyoming's senior fullback is the lone Cowboy who could hear his name called in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft later this month. Unfortunately, the odds aren't on the side of the Torrington native. Of the 255 players selected a year ago, not one played Miller's position.
The fullback position, in many cases around the league, isn't valued like it once was. That is unless you can also slide out of the backfield and play the tight end spot or even carry the ball on occasion like San Francisco's Kyle Juszczyk, who just signed a five-year, $27 million deal this offseason.
If Miller doesn't get the call, this will be the first time since 2016 a Wyoming player hasn't been taken in the NFL Draft. Before that, it was 2013.
There are currently 15 former Cowboys littering NFL rosters. That is second in the Mountain West behind only Boise State, which has 20. Here is the complete list:
Boise State 20
Utah State 14
San Diego State 10
Fresno State 9
Colorado State 9
San Jose State 7
New Mexico 3
Air Force 2
Former Cowboy Eddie Yarbrough could make it 16 for UW if he finds a landing spot before the 2021 season.
Let's go behind the numbers and break down Wyoming's history with the NFL Draft:
That's how many Wyoming Cowboys have been selected in the NFL Draft. The first pick from the school was Jim Clayton, a tackle, who was taken in the 21st round of the 1947 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. His UW teammate, Hank Kolaskinski, got the call -- or probably telegram back then -- two rounds later by the Boston Yanks.
That's how many UW players have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since its inception in 1936. In 1967, defensive tackle Ron Billingsley went to the San Diego Chargers with the 14th overall pick. Lawrence Gaines (Detroit) and Aaron Kyle (Dallas) were taken No. 16 and 27 overall, respectively, in the '76 draft. Lastly, Josh Allen was selected seventh overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2018.
The 1968 NFL Draft saw this many former Wyoming Cowboys hear their names called. Kicker Jerry DePoyster (Detroit) came off the board with the 37th overall pick in the second round. Teammate Mike LaHood (LA Rams) was taken 14 spots later. Jim Kiick, the running back who went on to win a pair of Super Bowl championships with the Dolphins, was selected 118th overall in the fifth round. Mike Dirks (Philadelphia) went four picks later. Former UW quarterback and safety Paul Toscano (Houston) heard his name called in the seventh round with the with the 187th overall pick.
That's how many players Craig Bohl recruited to Laramie who have been selected in the NFL Draft. Cassh Maluia was the latest, going 204th overall in the sixth round (New England) of last spring's draft. His teammate and fellow linebacker, Logan Wilson, was taken in the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 65th overall pick. Marcus Epps was the lone UW draftee in 2019, going 191st overall to Minnesota. The year prior, Allen went No. 7 overall. In 2017, Brian Hill (Atlanta) and Chase Roullier (Washington) went in the fifth and sixth round, respectively.
That's how many former Pokes have made at least one Pro Bowl team after being selected in the NFL Draft. Allen made it last season. Jay Novacek, who was selected in the sixth round of the 1985 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, made the Pro Bowl five times, all as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Conrad Dobler, also selected by the Cardinals, was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Vic Washington was named to the Pro Bowl one time after being taken in the fourth round of the 1970 draft by San Francisco, and Kiick went to Hawaii for the annual All-Star game twice.
That's how many former UW draft picks have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy or won an NFL championship. Dale Memmelaar (21st round of the 1959 draft) was the first to do it back in 1964 with the Chicago Cardinals. Lingle native Jerry Hill (3rd round of the 1961 draft) won a title with the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 5. Kiick won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins in 1972 and '73, and fellow running back Joe Williams (12th round of the 1970 draft) won one in 1971. Kyle, a first-round pick back in 1976, claimed a Super Bowl title in 1977, and fellow Dallas Cowboy, Novacek, won three titles in the 1990's. Derrick Martin (6th round of the 2006 draft), the first Wyoming player to declare for the NFL Draft a year early, won a pair of championships as a member of the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.
That's how many former Wyoming quarterbacks have been selected in the NFL Draft. You all surely know about Allen by now, but Casey Bramlet was taken in the seventh round of the 2004 draft by the Bengals. Rick Egloff went 155th overall in the sixth round, courtesy of the Oakland Raiders. Jim Walden, "The Mississippi Gambler," was taken in the 16th round by the Cleveland Browns back in 1960.
This number is a bit deceiving, but since 2007, three safeties from Wyoming have gotten the call. John Wendling went to the Bills in the sixth round that season. The next, Chris Prosinski was selected by the Jaguars in the fourth. Marqueston Huff was a fourth-round selection of Tennessee Titans in 2014, too. Epps went in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. Wyoming currently has three safeties in the league, including Andrew Wingard and Tashaun Gipson, who both went undrafted. Epps is currently a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
If Wyoming has become known for one single position it's at wide receiver. So is it really a surprise that the Cowboys have produced a dozen draft picks at that spot? Darryl Alleman (15th round-1966-St. Louis), Gene Huey (5th round-1969-St. Louis), Vic Washington (4th round-1970-San Francisco), Jerry Gadlin (16th round-1973-Oakland), Scott Freeman (11th round-1973-Detroit), Archie Gray (10th round-1975-Pittsburgh), Danny Pittman (4th round-1980-New York Giants), Allyn Griffin (8th round-1986-Detroit), Shawn Wiggins (9th round-1991-Cleveland), Ryan Yarborough (2nd round-1994-New York Jets), Marcus Harris (7th round-1997-Detroit), Robert Herron (6th round-2014-Tampa Bay).
The Cardinals organization, whether in Chicago, St. Louis or Arizona, has drafted the most Wyoming Cowboys all time. Sonny Jones was the first UW player to play for this franchise back in 1950. That was in the Windy City. Chuck Spaulding (12th round-1953) and Dale Memmelaar (21st round-1959) also played for Chicago. Former Pokes who were drafted by St. Louis are: Dick Schnell (19th round-1961), Darryl Alleman (15th round-1966), Gene Huey (5th round-1969), Conrad Dobler (5th round-1972), Mike McGraw (10th round-1975) and Jay Novacek (6th round-1985). David Edeen (5th round-1989) is lone UW player to suit up for the Cardinals in the desert.
The 2021 NFL Draft is set to begin April 29 and conclude May 1.