Conference USA had nine players selected in the 2017 National Football League Draft, which concluded early Saturday evening. Five of the selections participated in the 2016 C-USA Championship Game, as Louisiana Tech led the way with three selections and WKU had two players taken. Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic and UTEP each had one player chosen.
WKU OL Forrest Lamp was the first player selected, going to the Los Angeles Chargers in the second round at No. 38 overall. Lamp became WKU’s highest-ever draft selection and becomes the 32nd player chosen in program history. Over his four-year career on The Hill, Lamp started all 51 games he played in, including a stretch of 39 straight at left tackle. A model of consistency both in health and fundamentals, Lamp missed just two games in his career, those coming during the Hilltoppers’ 2016 championship campaign. The former All-American is also the highest-ever draft selection among Conference USA offensive linemen and only the second round selection the league has produced at the position in its 21 years.
With the 65th pick (first pick of the third round) of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected Charlotte DT Larry Ogunjobi. And with that, Ogunjobi made history for the 49ers, becoming the first Charlotte player selected in the draft. A first team all-Conference USA pick in 2016, he was a second-team all-league selection in 2015. He graduated in December, 2016 with a degree in computer science and became the first 49er to participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in 2017. He is the only player that started and played in all 46 games in the program's history. He helped the 49ers post a win against the first FBS opponent they ever faced (W, 23-20 at Georgia State, Sept. 4, 2015) and was instrumental as the 49ers picked up their first three Conference USA wins in 2016. As a senior, he ranked fourth in C-USA (all games) in TFL with 13.5 and second in C-USA games only with 11.5. He led C-USA defensive linemen in tackles in league games (6.9) and tackles in all games (5.5) and led Charlotte in tackles for loss for the fourth straight season with 13.5. Late in 2016, he was rated first by Pro Football Focus among NCAA interior defensive lineman in run-stop pct. and he helped the 49ers rank third in the league in run defense (143.4 rushing yards allowed/game).
WKU WR Taywan Taylor was selected in the third round (No. 72 overall) by the Tennessee Titans. Taylor owns nearly every receiving record in the Hilltopper books, including career records for receiving yards (4,234), receptions (253) and receiving touchdowns (41), as well as the single-season marks in all of those categories at 1,730 yards, 98 catches and 17 touchdowns – a mark he hit in both his junior and senior campaign. Over his four-year career, the Hilltoppers won 39 games including three straight bowl championships and two consecutive Conference USA titles. As a captain on the 2016 squad, Taylor racked up first team All-Conference USA honors and was a two-time semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. He was named a second team All-American in 2015 by ProFootballFocus.com.
Louisiana Tech WR Carlos Henderson was selected in the third round as the 82nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. In his junior season, Henderson hauled in 82 receptions for 1,535 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns, while also rushing 14 times for 133 yards and two rushing touchdowns. In 2016, he was named one of 10 semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top wide receiver. After three seasons, he ended his Bulldog career ranked fifth in school history in receiving yards. Henderson became the first player in Conference USA history to be awarded both Offensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016, while he ended the season ranked first in the NCAA with 19 receiving touchdowns and fifth nationally in receiving yards. He is the only player in the history of college football to top 325 yards receiving and score five touchdowns in a single game after registering 326 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions at UMass this past season.
FIU TE Jonnu Smith became the third C-USA player in the past two seasons to be drafted by the Tennessee Titans, being selected No. 100 overall in the third round. Smith becomes the seventh Panther in FIU history to be selected in the NFL Draft and the first since 2013 (Johnathan Cyprien – second round/pick 33; Tourek Williams – sixth round/pick 179). This past season, Smith appeared and started in 11 games for the Panthers. The native of Ocala, Florida, caught 42 passes for 506 yards and four touchdowns. He became the fifth player in FIU history to register more than 2,000 yards receiving during a career (2,001 yards). Smith averaged 12.0 yards-per-catch and 46.0 yards-per-game in 2016 and finished his career registering at least one reception in every game he played (43-straight – second-most in school history). A Second-Team All-C-USA selection in 2016, Smith recorded 178 receptions for 2,001 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career. Among all positions, Smith ranks No. 4 all-time in career receptions, No. 5 in career receiving yards and No. 3 in career receiving touchdowns in the FIU record books.
Florida Atlantic DE Trey Hendrickson was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the third round, as the 103rd pick overall. Hendrickson’s selection makes him the first FAU defensive lineman to be drafted by a NFL team and the sixth Owl drafted in the young program’s history. The 2016 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year concluded his final season with career highs in tackles (50), tackles for a loss (15) and passes defended (two). He also added 9.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Hendrickson had an effect on both special teams – with four blocked kicks – and on offense when he was added to run packages as a lead blocker for a unit that recorded a program-high 31 rushing TDs. He closed his FAU career ranked No. 1 in tackles for a loss (42.5), No. 1 in yards from tackles for loss (222), No. 1 in quarterback sacks (29.5), No. 1 in quarterback hurries, and he forced eight fumbles in his career to tie for No. 1 in FF on FAU’s all-time career chart.
With five third round picks, Conference USA trailed only the Big Ten and SEC for the most selections in that round.
The San Francisco 49ers selected Louisiana Tech WR Trent Taylor as the 177th overall pick in the fifth round. In his final season with the Bulldogs, Taylor led Louisiana Tech in receiving for the third straight season after catching 136 passes for 1,803 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He ended his senior season ranked first in the NCAA in receiving yards and second in the nation in receptions per game (9.7), earning first team All-Conference USA honors as a receiver and second team honors as a punt returner. Taylor wrapped up his collegiate career as the school record-holder for career receptions with 327 and ranks second in Louisiana Tech annals with 4,179 receiving yards.
UTEP RB Aaron Jones was taken by the Green the Packers in the fifth round at No. 182 overall. Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season in 2016, including earning AP All-American third team and All-C-USA first team honors. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record. Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). He added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history). Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history. Jones ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.
Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods was selected in the sixth round as the 191st overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys. In his final season as a Bulldog, Woods registered 89 tackles (60 solo, 29 assisted) and a team-high five interceptions, which ranked first in Conference USA and 13th in the nation in 2016. As a senior, Woods earned All-Conference USA First Team honors, as well as being named C-USA All-Academic for the third consecutive season. Woods became the only player in Conference USA to be both first team all-conference and first team all-academic in three consecutive seasons. Woods recorded 14 interceptions in his four years as a Bulldog, which ranks as the third-most in Louisiana Tech history. He finished his collegiate career ranked first in program history with a total of 325 interception return yards, while he also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in 2015. In addition to his impressive ability to pick off opposing quarterbacks, Woods totaled 181 tackles in his career with 20.5 tackles for a loss of 104 yards.
Additional Conference USA players are expected to sign free agent deals in the coming days.
CONFERENCE USA’S 2017 NFL DRAFTEES
Round Overall Player Pos. C-USA School NFL Team
Second 38 Forrest Lamp OL WKU Los Angeles Chargers
Third 65 Larry Ogunjobi DT Charlotte Cleveland Browns
Third 72 Taywan Taylor WR WKU Tennessee Titans
Third 82 Carlos Henderson WR Louisiana Tech Denver Broncos
Third 100 Jonnu Smith TE FIU Tennessee Titans
Third 103 Trey Hendrickson DE Florida Atlantic New Orleans Saints
Fifth 177 Trent Taylor WR Louisiana Tech San Francisco 49ers
Fifth 182 Aaron Jones RB UTEP Green Bay Packers
Fifth 187 Xavier Woods S Louisiana Tech Dallas Cowboys