By Christian Caple The News Tribune
Former Washington Huskies players Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey had to wait until the second day of the NFL draft to hear their names called.
But neither had to wait past the second round. Seferian-Jenkins was selected 38th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday and then Sankey came off the board with the 54th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans.
And it turned out both UW record-setters were ultimately valued more than most every other prospect at their position. Seferian-Jenkins, a Gig Harbor High School alum, was the second tight end selected in the NFL draft. Sankey was the first running back picked, though he set a record for the longest any running back has had to wait for that distinction. This is the second consecutive season that a running back wasn’t selected in the first round.
Regardless, Sankey, a Spokane prep star who set UW’s single-season rushing record in 2013 (1,870 yards), seems to be entering a favorable situation in Tennessee, where All-Pro running back Chris Johnson was released in April and the running back position appears wide open. He’ll also play alongside former UW quarterback Jake Locker, though the Titans recently declined to pick up Locker’s contract option for the 2015 season.
Sankey said Tennessee was the only team to fly him in for a visit, so he had a feeling the Titans might draft him.
“It just feels awesome,” Sankey told Tennessee reporters on a conference call. “I got a great feel when I went down on my visit. All the coaches there were great and it’s a place I really wanted to be. … I’m just ready to get to work.”
Seferian-Jenkins, who owns nearly every single-season and career receiving record for a UW tight end, might have a little more competition. Tampa Bay’s roster lists two tight ends who posted substantial numbers in 2013 — Tim Wright, who caught 54 passes for 571 yards, and Brandon Myers, who caught 47 passes for 522 yards for the New York Giants before signing with the Buccaneers in March.
There is plenty of UW company in Tampa Bay, where Seferian-Jenkins joins three former Huskies — linebacker Mason Foster, safety Dashon Goldson and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.
And the 6-foot-5, 262-pound tight end joins a pair of big dudes who can catch passes — the Bucs already have 6-foot-5 wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and used their first-round pick this year on 6-foot-5 wide receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M.
Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht called the trio “the Dunk-a-neers.” He said Tampa didn’t necessarily feel like it had to pick a tight end, but that Seferian-Jenkins, in terms of his availability at that point in the draft, was “sticking out there like a sore thumb to us.”
“I’m going to bring explosiveness, play-making ability and good blocking,” Seferian-Jenkins told reporters in Tampa Bay, according to the Tampa Tribune. “I’m going to bring an all-around tight end who is going to work hard and chase Super Bowls.”
Seferian-Jenkins is the 10th Huskies tight end drafted in the modern era, and the first since the Seattle Seahawks picked Jerramy Stevens 28th overall in 2002. Sankey’s selection is the first of a UW running back since 1998, when the Kansas City Chiefs picked Rashaan Shehee in the third round.