The 2012 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in New York City and according to most draft experts, at least three Vanderbilt players are likely to be selected during the three-day event. The Vanderbilt contingent is highlighted by second team All-America and All-SEC defensive back Casey Hayward, safety Sean Richardson and defensive end Tim Fugger.
The last time three Commodore players were picked was 2008 when Chicago took offensive lineman Chris Williams (first round) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (third round), and the New York Giants chose linebacker Jonathan Goff (fifth round).
Casey Hayward, a lockdown corner with tremendous ball skills, finished his Vanderbilt career tied for first with 15 interceptions and holds the team record with 46 passes defended. Hayward also owns the team's single-season record of 17 passes defended, accomplished in both his junior and senior seasons. The product of Perry, Ga., was a three-year starter and a part of the first Commodore senior class to experience multiple postseason bowl appearances.
Hayward participated in the NFL Combine in late February and was one of the top performers in agility tests, including registering the best time of all invitees in the 20-yard shuttle (3.90). Most analysts think Hayward will be the first Commodore to come off the draft board.
Sean Richardson, a physical and durable strong safety, played in 50 games and earned 35 starts, including the last 31 games of his career. Richardson's 256 career total tackles ranks among the Commodores' all-time top 25. In his senior season, the Linden, Ala., native was second on the team in total tackles (63) and fifth in tackles for loss (6.5). He will also long be remembered by fans for scoring Vanderbilt's lone touchdown on a fumble recovery in the Commodores' win over Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl.
At the NFL Combine, Richardson ranked among the top safeties in the 40-yard dash, bench press, and vertical and broad jumps. Some analysts think Richardson might have the opportunity to play outside linebacker at the next level.
Tim Fugger, who blends quickness and power from the defensive end position, was incredibly productive as a senior and posted several single-season career highs in 13 starts. From Oak Brook, Ill., Fugger contributed 8.0 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. Fugger shares the school career record with eight forced fumbles.
In the months since the Liberty Bowl, Fugger has watched his stock rise among pro evaluators based on tremendous testing at Vanderbilt's Pro Day event. He also has the versatility to play either defensive end or linebacker.