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From Big Year to Big Stage: Memphis Tigers Find Spots on NFL Rosters

           In the last several years, Memphis has been quiet during Draft Season, producing only a handful of free agents that get picked up after the conclusion of the Draft. In 2006, DeAngelo Williams was scooped up by the Carolina Panthers as the 27th overall pick, then Dontari Poe was snagged by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 as the 11th overall pick. This year, Memphis produced a huge first round pick, then six other Tigers landed free agent deals after the Draft. The 2016 National Football League Draft was the biggest draft year for the Memphis Tigers, this side of the 20th Century.

Paxton Lynch scrambles away from UCLA defenders during the Tigers' 2014 game against the Bruins.
Picture: Getty Images (Harry How)


            Denver, Colorado- Round 1, Pick 26: Paxton Lynch, quarterback from the University of Memphis. “Congratulations, dude! We’re thrilled you’re gonna be a Bronco,” Denver general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback, John Elway, said over the phone to Lynch.

            “I’m ready!” responds Lynch, one hand on his iPhone, the other pulling his shirt collar up to wipe tears out of his eyes. Lynch is down in his hometown of Deltona, FL with his family and three of his closest friends from college; Memphis Tiger football players that he has lived with in a small house off campus during his run at the U of M. Lynch is the third quarterback to go, following California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. This is a remarkable position for Paxton Lynch and the Memphis Tigers. The 2016 Draft was a strong year for the quarterback, showcasing talent like Cardale Jones, Dak Prescott and Christian Hackenberg, all of which were picked after Lynch. Although Paxton Lynch received all of the media attention for Memphis, six more Tigers signed with NFL teams as free agents.

Alan Cross running the ball down the field during the Tigers' 2015 matchup against Ole Miss.
Picture: (Joe Murphy)

            Tight end Alan Cross (40) signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Offensive lineman Taylor Fallin (77) also signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Offensive lineman Ryan Mack (74) signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Linebacker Leonard Pegues (53) signed with the New Orleans Saints. Wide receiver Tevin Jones (87) signed with the Houston Texans. Wide receiver Mose Frazier (5) gets to rejoin the weapons roster for Paxton Lynch, as he signed with the Denver Broncos. Lynch will also be featured on one of this week’s Sports Illustrated cover.

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