High school to college. Boyhood to manhood. College football to the National Football League. There is a natural progression to becoming a professional athlete, as there is a natural progression in life.
It was at this time last year San Diego State said goodbye to two All-Mountain West wide receivers as they moved on to the NFL: Vincent Brown to the San Diego Chargers and DeMarco Sampson to the Arizona Cardinals. This year, three more Aztecs hope to move to the next level.
After successful careers at SDSU, former quarterback Ryan Lindley, running back Ronnie Hillman and linebacker Miles Burris are all projected to be drafted in this week’s NFL draft.
Lindley, the local product from Alpine threw, for 3,153 yards and 23 touchdowns against only eight interceptions this past season, despite throwing to a very young group of wide receivers.
Lindley leaves Montezuma Mesa as the all-time career leader in passing yards (12,690), touchdowns (90), total offense (12,415), completions (961) and quarterback starts (49), after starting for four years.
NFL scouts like his size and arm strength, but are concerned with his lack of athleticism and accuracy, as he only completed 53 percent of his passes this past season.
Most scouts project Lindley to go in the fourth round, as high as the third round and no later than the fifth or sixth round.
Hillman is also projected to go in the fourth round, according to scouts.
The two-time All-American wasted no time impressing Aztec fans when he burst on the scene in 2010. He rushed for 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, breaking Marshall Faulk’s freshman record for most rushing yards in a season, and 1,711 yards and 19 touchdowns this past season.
This two-season sensation is eligible for the draft because he is three years removed from high school.
While he does have the quickness and elusiveness to break away from tacklers in the open field, many doubt he will be able to run in between the tackles like he did in college. His blocking, fumble issues and tendency to dance around the line of scrimmage are also reasons for concern. Yet, many scouts believe he has a lot of upside.
Defensive players tend to be harder to grade because their stats don’t tell the whole story. Scouts look at versatility and energy when it comes to draft time.
Burris has both.
The two-time All-Mountain West pick has been labeled a “high-motor guy” with a competitiveness and ability to play both 3-4 outside linebacker and strong side linebacker.
Burris, who finished the season with a team-leading 78 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, is projected to be selected anywhere in the fifth or sixth round.
Scouts love his balance, body control and “no quit” attitude, but struggle to nail him down to a specific position in the NFL.