Thanks to Jonathan Marshall, the University of Arkansas’ streak of NFL Draft picks is still alive.
A team captain in Razorbacks’ Coach Sam Pittman’s first season at Arkansas, Marshall was drafted by the New York Jets in the sixth round with the No. 207 overall pick on Saturday. The Razorbacks have now had at least one player selected in 26 consecutive drafts.
His selection also marks the third consecutive draft in which Arkansas has had a defensive lineman taken.
“You’ve earned this moment, not just because of your play on the field but for who you are off the field as well,” Pittman said in a video posted to his Twitter account. “You were a great Hog, and I know you will be a great Hog in the NFL.” Marshall, who had 37 tackles in his first three college seasons, emerged last fall to lead Arkansas’ defensive line with 35 tackles, 4 hurries and 6.5 tackles for loss, which tied for second most on the team. He had a season-high six tackles and one sack in a 30-28 loss at Auburn.Gallery: 2021 NFL draft, final day
In the midst of the Razorbacks’ SEC-only schedule in 2020, Marshall had at least one tackle for loss in six consecutive games, including 1.5 at Florida.
“Explosiveness at the snap isn’t bad,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on the television broadcast. “Hand placement isn’t good enough right now. I think that’s the issue with him. He shows ability to get in the opponent’s backfield on occasion with power and some athleticism. As a pass rusher, he lacks polish to be anything more than a hit or miss in this facet of his game.
“There’s something to work with there, but I didn’t see enough dominant production at Arkansas to give you anything better than a late-round priority, free-agent type of grade.” The Jets, which finished the 2020-21 season at 2-14 overall, are coached by Robert Saleh, who was hired to lead the team Jan. 19. He spent 2017-20 as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.
“He doesn’t know what he’s in for being coached by Robert Saleh and the way in which they coach defensive linemen,” ESPN draft analyst Louis Riddick said. “They’re going to coach these guys hard. This guy has a ton of ability, but they’re going to ask him to do things from an effort standpoint that he’s never done.
“He will find out just how good he can be quickly with this team.” Marshall was Arkansas’ lone draft pick, and the Razorbacks finished tied with Vanderbilt for fewest players selected in this year’s draft among SEC teams. Alabama and Georgia led the way with 10 and nine, respectively.
Four former Razorbacks signed undrafted free agent deals on Saturday.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks, who transferred to Arkansas after three seasons at Florida, signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Franks threw 17 touchdowns against four interceptions in 2020.
From 2017-19, he threw for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with the Gators, leading Florida to a 10-3 record and No. 6 final ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll in 2018.
Running back Rakeem Boyd and defensive back Jerry Jacobs, two players who eventually opted out during the 2020 season, signed with the Detroit Lions.
After totaling 734 yards and a pair of scores on the ground in 2018, Boyd broke out as a junior and became the first Arkansas back since Rawleigh Williams in 2016 to gain 1,000 yards in a season.
The former Independence (Kan.) Community College standout rushed for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 starts. He ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 27th nationally averaging 94.4 rushing yards per game.
Boyd, who had rotator cuff and labrum injuries earlier in his career, elected to return to Arkansas as a senior to play for the Razorbacks’ new coaching staff. He rushed for 309 yards and 3 touchdowns over 6 starts in 2020 as he was hampered by injury.
Jacobs recorded 17 tackles in four games before leaving the team to prepare for the draft.
Also, defensive tackle Xavier Kelly signed a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Kelly played the 2020 season with the Razorbacks after transferring from Clemson.