A Remarkable 80-Year Streak Came to an End at the 2021 NFL Draft While a Pair of Even Longer Streaks Continued

Over three days and seven rounds, 259 college football players were selected at the 2021 NFL draft. In total, 89 different universities had at least one player selected, and Alabama and Ohio State led the way with 10 each. Six of the Crimson Tide players were chosen in the first round, tying an NFL draft record originally set by Miami back in 2004. Georgia and Notre Dame were right behind with nine players selected, while Michigan and Florida each had eight players taken.

One school whose name did not get called at this year’s draft was Michigan State, which had two players projected to go in the later rounds. However, neither did, and once Houston linebacker Grant Stuard’s name was called as the 259th and final pick, the Spartans’ 80-year streak of having at least one player taken in the NFL draft came to an end.

But that 80-year run wasn’t even the longest in the now-85-year history of the draft. Michigan and USC came in with 83-year streaks, and both extended them to 84.

The 2021 NFL draft marks the first time no Michigan State player was taken since 1940

2021 NFL draft digital screens
Digital screens at the 2021 NFL draft Duane Prokop/Getty Images

Coming into the 2021 NFL draft, there had been only two instances since the first draft in 1936 in which Michigan State didn’t have at least one player selected, and those came in 1938 and 1940.

As no Spartan was taken this year, 2021 has been added to that list, which not only breaks the 80-year streak but also eliminates MSU from the shortlist of schools to have at least one player selected each year since the AFL-NFL merger formed the common draft in 1967. The other three are Michigan, USC, and Florida, all of whom kept their streaks intact.

Cornerback Shakur Brown seemed like the Spartans’ best bet to keep the streak alive, and he was even listed as the best available player by ESPN late in the sixth round. But he obviously went undrafted, as did defensive tackle Naquan Jones, who was also projected to be a late-round selection. While neither was taken, both have signed as undrafted free agents — Brown with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jones with the Tennessee Titans.

Michigan extended its streak of having at least one player selected in the NFL draft to 84 years

The first-ever player selected in the NFL draft from the University of Michigan was left end Matt Patanelli, the Wolverines’ 1936 team MVP who was taken with the 85th overall pick in the 1937 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers) but refused to play professional football for personal reasons.

Since then, at least one Wolverines player has been selected in every NFL draft, including eight players in 2021:

  • Kwity Paye, DE, 1st round, No. 21 overall, Indianapolis Colts
  • Jalen Mayfield, OL, 3rd round, No. 68 overall, Atlanta Falcons
  • Nico Collins, WR, 3rd round, No. 89 overall, Houston Texans
  • Ambry Thomas, CB, 3rd round, No. 102 overall, San Francisco 49ers
  • Cam McGrone, LB, 5th round, No. 177 overall, New England Patriots
  • Ben Mason, FB, 5th round, No. 184 overall, Baltimore Ravens
  • Chris Evans, RB, 6th round, No. 202 overall, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Camaron Cheeseman, LS, 6th round, No. 225 overall, Washington Football Team

The Wolverines also had two players sign as undrafted free agents. Tight end Nick Eubanks joined the Dallas Cowboys, and defensive lineman Carlo Kemp inked a deal with the Green Bay Packers.

USC extended its streak to 84 years, as well

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USC has also had at least one player taken in every NFL draft outside of the first one, beginning with Gil Kuhn. The offensive lineman was taken in the 10th and final round in 1937 with the 93rd overall pick by the Brooklyn Dodgers but instead chose to join the New York Yankees (we promise we’re talking about football here) of the second version of the AFL.

Five USC players were selected in the 2021 NFL draft:

  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, 1st round, No. 14 overall, New York Jets
  • Jay Tufele, DL, 4th round, No. 106 overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, 4th round, No. 112 overall, Detroit Lions
  • Talanoa Hufanga, S, 5th round, No. 180 overall, San Francisco 49ers
  • Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, 6th round, No. 189 overall, Philadelphia Eagles

The Trojans also had two players sign as undrafted free agents. Cornerback Olaijah Griffin has joined the Buffalo Bills, while wide receiver Tyler Vaughns has signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference