Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

UConn Atop the NFL Draft

Rob Joyce
April 28, 2020 - 9:06 am
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The 2020 NFL Draft is complete, and for the 13th time in the last 16 seasons a former UConn Husky was selected over the course of the seven rounds. Matt Peart is one of the newest members of the New York Giants, going in the third round (pick No. 99) to help shore up the offensive line.

Though the days of UConn getting three, four or five players drafted are gone (for now, at least) Peart's third-round pick marks the 12th time since 2005 that a former Huskies star has been picked inside the first three rounds. Like any draft picks, some have hit and some have missed, and it's impossible to tell how Peart's NFL career will go in East Rutherford. Here is the company he has joined in having a Round 1/2/3 tag in front of his name:

Alfred Fincher (2005): The first-ever third-round draft pick, the linebacker went to the Saints with the 82nd overall pick in 2005. For context, that 82nd overall placement was the earliest a UConn player had been selected since 1946, when Walt Trojanowski went 49th to Washington and Walt Dropo went 74th to Chicago. A captain and All-Big East performer in 2004, Fincher spent three years in New Orleans before playing a lone season in Washington in 2008.

 

Donald Brown (2009): The first player in program history to be drafted in the first round, Brown was the 27th overall pick to Indianapolis in 2009, on the heels of his record-setting 2,083-yard All-American season with the Huskies in 2008. He spent five years with the Colts, with his best season coming in 2011, when he set a career high in rushing yards (645) along with five scores. He scored 19 total touchdowns in Indy before spending a pair of seasons with San Diego in 2014-15.

 

Darius Butler (2009): The second-round run on Huskies in 2009 started with Butler, a team captain and All-Big East performer in 2008. The 41st overall selection to New England, Butler picked off three passes as a rookie, but largely couldn't find his footing with the Patriots. After a year in Carolina in 2011, Butler really found his footing in Indianapolis, where he started 28 games over the next six seasons, picking off a dozen passes and recovering four fumbles as he transitioned from cornerback to safety late in his career that ended after 2017.

Will Beatty (2009): The only Husky with multiple Super Bowl rings, Beatty was a second-rounder (60th overall) by the Giants after a good combine. A reserve for two years, he became the full-time starter at left tackle for New York in 2011, starting 57 of 58 games played between 2011-14, and he was rewarded with a five-year contract early in 2013. However, he was bitten a bit by the injury bug. A detached retina forced him to miss the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI victory over New England. He tore his pectoral muscle and then later his rotator cuff, missing all of 2015, and was cut by the Giants in 2016. He joined the Eagles as a reserve midway through the 2017 season and won another championship with Philly, though he did not play in the Super Bowl.

Cody Brown (2009): Three picks after Beatty, the Cardinals nabbed Cody Brown, still third all-time at UConn in tackles for loss. Injuries stunted his pro career that sadly never  got off the ground. In the 2009 preseason he hurt his wrist and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. The next offseason Arizona released him, and after stints with the Jets and Lions he found his way to the CFL, without having played in a regular season NFL game.

Only USC had more selections inside the first two rounds (five) than UConn's four in 2009.

 

Kendall Reyes (2012): The 2011 team MVP that followed an All-Big East career, the defensive lineman Reyes was a second-round pick of the Chargers, going 49th overall in 2012. Though he only started four games as a rookie he compiled 5.5 sacks and led the team in pressures. Over the next three years he played in and started 48 of a possible 50 games, including the playoffs, compiling 14.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in his Chargers career. He spent 10 games with Kansas City in 2017 before being released, two more with Washington that same season before calling it quits and joining the coaching ranks at New Hampshire last season.

Dwayne Gratz (2013): The first of three third-rounders to come out of Connecticut in 2013, Gratz was the 64th overall pick by the Jaguars following a pair of All-AAC seasons in 2011 and 2012. Over his first three NFL seasons he started 25 games for Jacksonville, picking off three passes, including a pick-six. Early in the 2016 season he was released by the Jags, briefly signed with the Rams and was cut after appearing in three games. He signed a contract with the Eagles that December, but didn't appear in a game for Philadelphia.

Sio Moore (2013): Two picks after Gratz went to Jacksonville, the Raiders grabbed the linebacker Moore. A first-team All-Big East selection in 2012, Moore started 22 games for Oakland over his first two NFL seasons, combining for 140 tackles, 15 for loss and 7.5 sacks. In September 2015 he was traded from Oakland to Indianapolis. A year after that the Colts released him, and after brief stints with the Chiefs and Cardinals, spent part of the 2017 offseason with Houston.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson (2013): Though he's mostly a reserve, Wreh-Wilson is still in the league, with only Anthony Sherman (a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion) having a longer active NFL tenure. A 2012 All-Big East second-teamer, the cornerback went 70th overall to the Titans. A special teams player as a rookie, he moved into the starting lineup in 2013, picking off a lone pass. He's been with the Falcons since 2016, appearing in 26 games and starting three. On a string of one-year contracts, he's still hanging on in Atlanta, having signed another one-year deal in March to partake in what will be his eighth pro season.

Obi Melifonwu (2017): Another player who saw his combine and Pro Day performances raise his stock, Melifonwu wound up being a second-round pick for the Raiders. He picked up a pair of injuries as a rookie, limiting him to just five games. The next offseason he was placed on the waived/injured list by Oakland, and was outright released soon thereafter. In November 2018 he joined the Patriots and was a reserve player in what eventually became a Super Bowl-winning season. A practice squad player in New England last year, Melifonwu was released by the Pats on Monday.