The group is headlined by a pair of Spartans selected during the Draft. Cornerback Justin Layne was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Safety Khari Willis went a round later to the Indianapolis Colts.
Layne was always expected to be the first Spartan off the board, but did slide out of the second round. The junior was a shut-down corner for MSU in 2018 and was looked at as the next in a line of Michigan State corners to find success in the NFL.
Layne will have an opportunity to make a difference immediately with the Steelers, who have an open spot as a starting corner.
The feel-good moment of the draft for Spartans fans came in the fourth round when Willis was selected 109th overall by the Colts. From before the season even started, Willis became the emotional leader of last year’s MSU team. The senior captain went from a good college player to a true NFL prospect as the year went on.
Willis evolved into a strong tackler and had a nose for the ball. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for the Spartans.
The moment Khari Willis heard his name called in the draft. pic.twitter.com/p4vE0ifVgN— Matt Wenzel (@mwenzel2) April 27, 2019
Despite having a few more draft-eligible players, no one else went off the board for MSU. However, as soon as the draft ended, former Spartans quickly found homes in the NFL.
LJ Scott, who likely fell out of the draft due to injuries, signed with the Baltimore Ravens. He will likely get a chance to not only make the team but prove himself as a trusted running back on a Ravens team that is without a true threat in the backfield.
Injuries also derailed the draft dreams of Felton Davis III, who missed the end of the season after tearing his achilles tendon. However, the still-recovering wide receiver found a home with the Kansas City Chiefs. Unable to workout for teams at the NFL Combine or the Michigan State pro day, Davis was just able to start running again in the last two months.
However, his performances with Michigan State and his interviews during the pre-draft process was enough to get the Chiefs to sign Davis despite the injury. If given the time to heal fully, Davis could emerge as a true weapon in the NFL.
Two more Spartans found a home in the NFL during the post-draft signing period. Tight end Matt Sokol signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. Andrew Dowell, a linebacker, signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Both will likely have the best opportunity to emerge on special teams.