FARGO — For the NFL fan who pays close attention to the draft, there is plenty of information and video out there on potential prospects. For instance, North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick had plenty of cameras around him at the East-West Shrine Game and the NFL Combine.
But it’s what goes on behind closed doors that may make the biggest difference. That’s what NDSU associate head coach Randy Hedberg has taken away from the last few years with Stick and former Bison quarterback Carson Wentz.
“I think the thing that is most important is the meetings they have with individual teams,” Hedberg said. “Those are extremely important to teams.”
The NFL Draft begins Thursday night and ends Saturday. Stick is the Bison player most likely to hear his name and most NFL experts believe that will come Saturday in rounds four through seven.
When Wentz was going through the evaluation ringer in the winter months of 2016, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles showed the most interest. Both had intensive individual meetings with Wentz, situations where a player will get offensive information beforehand and be asked to recite it in front of them.
“Put it on a board and talk through concepts and protections,” Hedberg said. “I know that was big with Carson and I know Easton has had the same thing with the teams he went to.”
Stick has had individual meetings with teams, but it’s uncertain how many because of the private nature of them. NFL teams are reluctant to tip their hand on what players are of interest to them.
“He’s been to a couple of places,” Hedberg said.
After Stick, NDSU’s next-best prospect appears to be running back Bruce Anderson. If he does not get drafted, he will probably be quickly signed as a free agent.
Stick and Anderson got the most attention in the months after NDSU defeated Eastern Washington in the Division I FCS national title game in early January.
There are those who believe center Tanner Volson will get a free agent shot. After that, it could be iffy for wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, offensive lineman Colin Conner, cornerback Jalen Allison and safety Robbie Grimsley. All had their moments at NDSU’s Pro Day at the end of March, which drew scouts from 22 NFL teams.
NDSU has had a pretty good run of NFL interest that has spawned from its seven FCS titles in eight years.
Wentz and offensive lineman Joe Haeg were the last to get drafted in 2016. Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick in the first round and Haeg went in the fifth round.
Linebackers Chris Board and Nick DeLuca made NFL clubs after signing as free agents following the 2018 NFL Draft. NDSU had eight players on NFL rosters last year.
Stick finished his career as the all-time wins leader for an FCS quarterback with 49. He took over from Wentz when Wentz went down halfway through the 2015 season and his steady progression caught the eyes of NFL scouts.
He’s not as big as the 6-5 Wentz at 6-1 and 224 pounds, but Hedberg points to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray as an example that NFL teams are not always looking for the taller quarterback these days. The 5-10 Murray may be the first overall pick.
And what could separate Stick from others is his intelligence. He was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy that goes to the top scholar-athlete in college football.
“He’s very mature, highly intelligent and he speaks really well,” Hedberg said.
Hedberg, in talking to a scout from the Baltimore Ravens, referenced Stick’s speaking abilities when the Bison were honored at the White House in March. Stick had a few minutes to prepare an impromptu speech in presenting President Donald Trump with an NDSU jersey.
“He knocked it out of the park with what he did,” Hedberg told the Ravens scout. “That was impressive and that’s the type of young man a team will get. He handles himself with the media but he also handles himself well within a team.”