Nine seniors from the 2012 Commodore squad that put together arguably the best season in modern Vanderbilt gridiron history are looking to continue their careers in the National Football League.
Starting Thursday, the former Commodore standouts will face their first hurdle as the 2013 NFL Draft takes center stage through Saturday in New York City.
Most scouting services expect Zac Stacy, the team's all-time leading rusher, to be the first Commodore selected in the coming days. Four other seniors - quarterback Jordan Rodgers, offensive lineman Ryan Seymour, defensive lineman Rob Lohr and cornerback Trey Wilson - hold draft-eligible evaluations.
Most draft experts list Stacy, the team's first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher, among the top 12 available running backs. One highly respected service created by former Vanderbilt and NFL standout Corey Chavous, DraftNasty.com, ranks Stacy as the fourth-best back, behind only Eddie Lacey of Alabama, Le'Veon Bell of Michigan State and Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina.
In its thorough draft preview, DraftNasty praises Stacy's maturity, strong lower body, explosiveness and cutting abilities and excellent field vision. The publication cites Stacy's career achievements and impressive Scouting Combine performance while ranking him as the draft's 59th overall player. Stacy is also compared favorably to Doug Martin of Boise State, who became a first round selection last year.
Most services, including Chavous' critique, regard Rodgers among the top 12 draft-eligible quarterbacks. In giving Rodgers a fifth-round evaluation, DraftNasty listed NFL bloodlines, competitiveness, leadership traits and athleticism among Rodgers' best qualities.
Two of the most intriguing Commodores are Lohr and Seymour, both multi-year starters on the Vanderbilt front.
Lohr offers versatility. A three-year starter at defensive tackle, Lohr could project as a defensive end in 3-4 alignments, long snapper on special teams, or tight end on offense. Lohr's draft status did suffer in March when he was unable to work out at Vanderbilt's Pro Day due to a troublesome hamstring.
Like Lohr, Seymour possesses skills to also play center and guard in addition to tackle. Rated among the top 40 offensive tackles in the draft, Seymour's versatility as a potential swing backup should enhance his draft or free agent outlook.
Wilson is a two-year starter at cornerback who nearly tied the SEC career record with four interception returns for touchdowns. DraftNasty says Wilson possesses innate instincts and ball skills. Interestingly, it ranks Wilson ranks as the 31st best cornerback, the exact number of cornerbacks taken in the 2012 draft.
DraftNasty also ranks Kent as the 11th best punter. Yet, the position is one of the least selected, with less than five prospects taken during a typical draft.
Rodgers is all too familiar with the draft. In 2005, he joined the Rodgers family backstage at the Radio City Music Hall as 23 teams bypassed his older brother, former University of California quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Several hours into the draft, the potential No. 1 pick went 24th overall to the Packers. Eight years later, he's an NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP and premier player in the league.
That experience hasn't dimmed Rodgers' excitement for the coming events, which he intends to watch with his parents at their Northern California residence.
"I'm just excited it's here," Rodgers said. "It's a long process training for pro day and the draft. And I promise you, this last month has been a crawl."
Rodgers and his agent have talked with several teams in recent days. He plans to make the best of whatever transpires this weekend. "At this point, if I get drafted, I'll be happy. And if not, we get together and make the best choice regarding free agency," Rodgers said.