Duke in the NFL: Three former Blue Devils hear names called, others sign undrafted contracts

<p>OL Graham Barton was the highest-picked Blue Devil in this year's NFL draft, selected in the No. 26 slot.&nbsp;</p>

OL Graham Barton was the highest-picked Blue Devil in this year's NFL draft, selected in the No. 26 slot. 

Three former Blue Devils heard their names called during the NFL draft in Detroit last weekend. The Blue Zone is here to recap the selections, along with some of the undrafted Duke players who were picked up:

Graham Barton, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Over the course of his career as a Blue Devil, Graham Barton cemented himself as the team’s best offensive line prospect in nearly a decade. The Brentwood, Tenn., native was a First Team All-ACC selection in 2022 and 2023 as a left tackle, but earned playing time as a center during his freshman season. Thanks to his pedigree and impressive pro day, Barton was drafted 26th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he is projected to play center. His selection marked Duke’s first first-round selection since 2019, when star quarterback Daniel Jones was taken sixth overall by the New York Giants.

Barton fills an immediate need for the Buccaneers, who have been attempting to fill the center position following the retirement of longtime starter Ryan Jensen at the conclusion of the 2023 season. Tampa Bay is expected to contend for its fourth straight NFC South title following an unexpected 9-8 season and wild-card victory in 2023. Barton will be expected to protect quarterback Baker Mayfield while also providing much needed-support for a run game that ranked last place in yards per carry. Simply put, the Buccaneers notched a strong, versatile prospect in Barton, and he should have an immediate impact. 

DeWayne Carter, DT, Buffalo Bills

For nearly his entire collegiate career at Duke, defensive tackle DeWayne Carter represented the heart and soul of the Blue Devils’ defense, which ranked near the top of Division I football by his redshirt senior season in 2023. “Mr. Duke” earned three straight All-ACC team nods, finishing his college career with 12 sacks, 126 tackles and seven forced fumbles. As such, the Pickerington, Ohio, native was drafted 95th overall in the third round of the draft by the Buffalo Bills. 

Carter provides strong depth for the Bills on the interior of their defensive line. With DaQuan Jones and Ed Oliver ahead of the depth chart over Carter, he may not earn a starting role immediately, but he should still receive quality rotational snaps. The Bills know the importance of the interior D-line as well as any team — in their 2022 playoff match versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones’ absence led to 172 rushing yards allowed in a disastrous loss. Carter can help shore up the defensive line in Buffalo for many seasons to come.

Jacob Monk, OL, Green Bay Packers

“Versatility wins again.” Those were the words of Packers superfan Tom Grossi following the selection of offensive lineman Jacob Monk in the fifth round, 163rd overall by Green Bay. He certainly has a point — Monk played as a guard, tackle and center during his five-year collegiate career at Duke. The Clayton, N.C., native earned a Second Team All-ACC nod at the guard position, and alongside Barton, he led an offensive line that graded as one of the best in the country. Monk may be asked to play a variety of positions on the offensive line, but the star pass protector will have the primary task of protecting quarterback Jordan Love, who completed an impressive — and relatively sack-averse — first season as a starter in 2023. In any case, Monk’s selection was the last from Duke, and marked the first time the Blue Devils saw a player selected in the draft every day since the three-round format was introduced in 2010. 

Undrafted signings

While Duke only saw three selections in the draft, several former, undrafted Blue Devils signed with various NFL teams. Cornerback Al Blades Jr. signed with the New York Jets, joining fellow former Blue Devil Michael Carter II in the secondary. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Perhaps the most notable free agent out of Durham was wideout and return specialist Jalon Calhoun, who signed with the Detroit Lions. Calhoun, who earned a Third Team All-ACC selection in 2022, ranks fourth all-time for the Blue Devils in receiving yards. The Greenville, S.C., native will likely have to fight for a roster spot thanks to a solid wide receiver room in Detroit, but he could see time on special teams for a Lions group looking to contend for the Super Bowl this year. 


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