The 2016 NFL draft saw two Australians, Adam Gotsis and Lachlan Edwards, picked up in the second and seventh rounds respectively.
Gotsis, a defensive tackle who hails from Kew in Victoria, was one of three captains at Georgia Tech. At the beginning of the 2015 NCAA season there was speculation that he would be picked up in the first or second rounds. But a knee injury that he sustained in November left him unable to play for the remainder of the season, and as a consequence many analysts suggested that he would be most likely be a fifth round pick.
But the Denver Broncos thought otherwise, picking Gotsis with their second round pick and 63rd overall. This made Gotsis the highest ever Australian drafted to the NFL, with the previous best being Colin Scotts who was drafted 70th overall to the Arizona Cardinals in 1987.
I appreciate all the support and love from everyone along the road! This is the next chapter! #BroncosCountry
— Adam Gotsis (@gotsis96) April 30, 2016
However, Gotsis will have his work cut-out to get a game in the Broncos defence. Not only are they the reigning Superbowl Champions, but they are considered by many to be the best defensive unit in the NFL.
— Zac Stevens (@Zactionpacked) April 30, 2016
Adam Gotsis with good play recognition and a big hit to finish the play. https://t.co/5hJVOG5MdN
— David Holmes (@DHolmes6) April 25, 2016
But while it was expected that Gotsis would be drafted, the second Australian to be picked was a bit more of a surprising choice.
Punter Lachlan Edwards, who is from Hastings in Victoria, was drafted in the 7th round and 235th overall to the New York Jets. As far as Australian punters go, Edwards was a quiet achiever at Sam Houston State University where he was a three year starter. In the 2015 season Edwards punted 74 times for an average of 41.5 yards.
— Lachlan Edwards (@Lach_Edwards49) April 30, 2016
Our first pick in the 7th: P Lac Edwards! pic.twitter.com/2QI8XduaRo
— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 30, 2016
Many expected that if any Australian punters were to be drafted it would be two time Ray Guy Award winner Tom Hackett from Utah State University. However, in an interesting move, the Jets promptly signed Tom Hackett as a free agent at the draft’s conclusion. This means that Edwards and Hackett will be competing for the place as the Jets’ number one punter.
— The MUSS (@TheMUSS) April 30, 2016
Likewise, it wasn’t all bad news for two other Australians who didn’t get drafted, with offensive lineman Blake Muir and kicker Brad Caddock being picked up as free agents by the 49ers and the Browns.
Muir, who is originally from Sutherland in New South Wales, started in 25 out of 26 games in the his two years at Baylor University, and was rated by ESPN as an All Big 12 First Teamer in 2015. This development is likely to have Jarryd Hayne worried that he may no longer be the best Australian on the 49ers roster.
Baylor Bear Blake Muir is heading to San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/MUMQensM2f
— Woot and Wye NFL (@WootandWye) May 1, 2016
Craddock, who is from Adelaide in South Australia, went to Maryland University as a punter but quickly found his spot as a place kicker. In 2014 he was award the Lou Groza award for the best kicker in College Football making 94.7% of field goals. His 2015 season started strong but a hand injury in November finished his season early. Craddock will be competing for a spot in the Browns starting lineup against the incumbent Travis Coons.
This leaves punters Alex Kinal and Jamie Keenh as the only serious Australian prospects remaining as undrafted free agents. Likewise, we will be keenly watching to see if any teams show interest in defensive tackle Jesse Williams who is now also a free agent after the Seahawks cut him from their roster back in March.