Former Bison linebacker DeLuca ready for NFL Draft weekend
FARGO — The process started a day after the Division I FCS national title game in early January. At some point this weekend, Nick DeLuca will find out what city he hopes to make his next home.
The former North Dakota State University linebacker has been slotted anywhere from a middle- to late-round NFL draft pick to a free agent signing. CBS Sports, for example, has him ranked the 15th-best available inside linebacker.
But mock drafts are just that: educated guesses. The three-day NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 26, with the first round and lasts through Saturday, April 28.
“It’s definitely a long process,” DeLuca said on WDAY-AM radio. “I’m excited to see how it all pans out, how it all unfolds. I’m definitely anxious. There are a lot of emotions this week, but I’m excited to see where I’ll end up.”
He’s one of a few former Bison players who are expected to end up in an NFL training camp somewhere. Safety Tre Dempsey, long snapper James Fisher and offensive lineman Austin Kuhnert are generally considered the best bets to get a free agent deal, which usually happens in the subsequent hours after the draft is completed on Saturday.
The last Bison players to get drafted, of course, came in 2016 when quarterback Carson Wentz was the second overall pick in the first round by Philadelphia and offensive lineman Joe Haeg was picked in the fifth round by Indianapolis.
Defensive end Kyle Emanuel was a fifth-round pick by San Diego in 2015. DeLuca has reached out to all three players at some point since the end of the Bison season.
“Those guys have been great resources,” he said. “When I was training in California, to be able to see Kyle a couple of times and just to pick his brain on what it was like for him was good. All those guys came through the program, and they know exactly what it takes.”
DeLuca plans to be at his home in Omaha, Neb., during draft weekend.
“Pretty low key,” he said. “Anybody that knows me knows I’m a pretty laid back guy.”
He did his homework. DeLuca signed with Rep 1 Sports in Irvine, Calif., the same agency that represents Wentz. He played in the Senior Bowl all-star game in Mobile, Ala., at the end of January, participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis at the beginning of March and also participated in NDSU’s Pro Day later in March.
Sandwiched in between were numerous talks with various teams and at least one private workout with the Eagles in Fargo.
“You get a feel from teams,” DeLuca said. “You talk to them, and they give you feedback. It’s a little bit similar to recruiting in a way, only you’re the one wanting to play for them. It’s just kind of a unique dynamic, but you get feedback from some teams more than others.”
DeLuca is one of a few players from the Missouri Valley Football Conference hoping to hear their name called. The leader is South Dakota State University tight end Dallas Goedert, who is getting mentioned as a possible late first-round pick. University of Northern Iowa receiver Daurice Fountain, SDSU wide receiver Jake Wieneke, UNI safety Elijah Campbell and Illinois State University cornerback Davontae Harris are projected as possible third-day picks.
Fountain had as good a pro day as any FCS player with a vertical jump of 42.5 inches and a 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds. He was also the most valuable player in the East-West Shrine Game.
DeLuca will be aiming to join several former Bison players in the NFL. Besides Wentz, Haeg and Emanuel, offensive lineman Billy Turner and cornerback CJ Smith are with Denver, cornerback Marcus Williams just signed with Arizona, linebacker Ramon Humber will return for his 10th season in the league with Buffalo and running back John Crockett is with Baltimore.
“It’s just a weird place right now, being a little bit of limbo,” DeLuca said. “You don’t know where you’re going, but I’m definitely excited to see what happens here.”