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Duke in the NFL: Draft edition

<p>Michael Carter II, the second Blue Devil taken in the draft, could use his considerable speed to contribute to the New York Jets.</p>

Michael Carter II, the second Blue Devil taken in the draft, could use his considerable speed to contribute to the New York Jets.

After all was said and done, four Blue Devils were taken in the 2021 NFL Draft and three more were signed as undrafted free agents. Now, the Blue Zone takes a look at where they ended up and what the future could hold. 

Chris Rumph II, OLB/DE, Los Angeles Chargers

Rumph was the first Blue Devil to come off the board this weekend, as the Los Angeles Chargers selected the savvy pass rusher with their first Day Three pick. Interestingly, yet relatively unsurprisingly, Rumph was listed as an outside linebacker rather than defensive end, the position at which he excelled in a Duke uniform. All signs in the draft process foreshadowed this possibility, as Rumph’s lack of size might make him a better fit as an off-ball player in the second level. New defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill’s traditional defense only reaffirms this, but there is certainly room for the Chargers to get creative with a talented disruptor like Rumph, especially with Joey Bosa drawing the attention of opposing offenses.

By all accounts, the Chargers had a successful draft: the front office addressed a few glaring needs early on and filled in the gaps in later rounds. Pass rush wasn’t necessarily a need per se, but the defensive line was nothing special in 2020, and Rumph is talented enough to make a difference there from the very start.

Michael Carter II, S, New York Jets

In one of the more bizarre stories of the draft, New York snagged not one but two Michael Carters, one from each side of the Tobacco Road rivalry. The second was the fifth round selection of Duke defensive back Michael Carter II. Moving forward, it looks like Carter could make use of his blazing speed—he posted a 4.30 40-yd dash time on Pro Day—to make up for a slightly undersized frame and earn a spot on the inside in the NFL. He will have his work cut out for him, but he will no doubt see plenty of opportunities as part of a Jets organization in the midst of a rebuild.

Noah Gray, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

That’s what I’m talking about! If Gray landing with the two-time defending AFC Champions after getting taken with their first fifth-round pick doesn’t excite you, it should: he will get to work behind one of the game’s very best in Travis Kelce, and his blocking, a developing skill, won’t be exposed early on within head coach Andy Reid’s system. If nothing else, it is an intriguing landing spot for Duke’s all-time leader in receptions at the tight end position, and it is especially exciting for Duke fans who will get to see a longtime favorite of theirs work with Patrick Mahomes, one of the best passers in the league, while contributing to a title contender.

Victor Dimukeje, DE, Arizona Cardinals

It took a little longer than expected, but Dimukeje was taken in the sixth round by the Cardinals Sunday. Like Rumph, his size muddies the waters as to his actual position, but his undeniable strength means that he could at least see reps as a rotational edge rusher, opportunity permitting. Arizona is more talented on defense than their underlying metrics would seem to indicate, so the former four-year man could struggle to find the field in year one. On the bright side, Dimukeje will be surrounded by a defense and organization on the rise, and, in time, he should get the opportunities he needs to succeed.

Undrafted Blue Devils find homes across the NFL

A trio of undrafted Blue Devils all found homes, too: running back Deon Jackson with the Indianapolis Colts, cornerback Mark Gilbert with the Pittsburgh Steelers and offensive tackle Devery Hamilton with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jackson seemed a possible seventh rounder, but running backs fell out of favor in the later rounds, and Duke’s sixth-ranked rusher in program history found himself undrafted. Still, Jackson—who certainly has the size and speed to succeed—will get an opportunity in Indianapolis.

Gilbert was likely going the undrafted route all along thanks to his long and troublesome injury history, so the 2017 first team All-ACC selection will take this opportunity in stride. He is both quick enough and technical enough to make it work with the Steelers, if his body holds up.

Hamilton, who spent his graduate year of eligibility in Durham after an oft-injured tenure at Stanford, was also a draft longshot, but Las Vegas is a logical destination for the versatile lineman. The Raiders’ front five received quite the makeover this offseason, making Hamilton’s ability to play across the line all the more valuable.

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