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Throwback Thursday: Four Illini Taken in 2012 NFL Draft

It’s NFL Draft Day! Here’s the greatest Illini draft class in recent memory!

NFL: AFC Divisional-Houston Texans at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The First Round of the NFL Draft is one of the great sports days of the year. Why? As college football aficionados here at The Champaign Room, the day represents the transition from “amateur athletics” to professional football. It’s the segue from the college game to the pro game. It’s time to cash in and finally make that money.

Let’s flashback to the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, which took place six years ago today on April 26, 2012!

Illini Taken in the 2012 NFL Draft

First Round, No. 26 overall: DE/LB Whitney Mercilus to the Houston Texans

What: The Houston Texans were coming off of a 10-win season and an AFC South Division title. They selected defensive end Whitney Mercilus with their first-round pick.

How’s he done since: Mercilus has been a consistent, versatile athlete for the Houston Texans since he’s been in the league. Even though he missed a majority of the 2017 NFL season with a torn pectoral muscle, he’s been one of the better hybrid DEs/LBs in the league. His 2015 season was his best: he recorded 12 sacks for a team that went 9-7.

First Round, No. 30 overall: WR A.J Jenkins to the San Francisco 49ers

What: The San Francisco 49ers were 13-3 in 2011. They lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game just months before. The 49ers selected wide receiver AJ Jenkins with their late first-round pick.

How he’s done since: Jenkins has to be considered one of the bigger busts of the last six years. Slightly tilting in his favor is he wasn’t a high first-round pick. Still, Jenkins lasted just three years in the NFL and made only three starts. He had just 17 receptions in those three seasons and failed to make any impact at all as pro. This was pretty shocking considering how good AJ Jenkins was in his last year at Illinois when he had nearly 1,300 yards receiving, eight touchdown receptions and 90 catches in 2011.

Second Round, No. 44 overall: G Jeff Allen to the Kansas City Chiefs

What: The Kansas City Chiefs were 7-9 in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions in 2011. KC finished fourth in the AFC West and drafted Illini guard Jeff Allen in the second round after drafting big, big defensive tackle Dontari Poe in the first round.

How he’s done since: Jeff Allen started 36 of 44 possible games with the Kansas City Chiefs before signing a four-year, $28 million dollar deal in 2016 with the Houston Texans, $14 million of which was fully guaranteed. Allen has started 26 games in two seasons with the Texans. Jeff Allen, an under-recruited player, has gone onto have tremendous success at the professional level.

Second Round, No. 48 overall: S Tavon Wilson to the New England Patriots

What: Bill Belichick and his Super Bowl losing New England Patriots selected Illini safety Tavon Wilson in the second round. The pick originally belonged to the Oakland Raiders.

How he’s done since: Tavon Wilson was a strong personality and one of the leaders in the Illini secondary for years. Wilson had four interceptions in his rookie season with the Patriots and spent four seasons in New England before signing a two-year deal with the Detroit Lions in 2016. In two seasons in Detroit, Wilson started 23 games and has recorded three interceptions and a forced fumble. Just one month ago, Wilson signed a two-year extension to remain with the Lions. Wilson is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury he sustained in Week 12 in 2017.