It was a very busy, successful, and joyous weekend for some former Illinois football stalwarts. Safety Kerby Joseph, offensive tackle Vederian Lowe and center Doug Kramer were each selected during this week’s NFL Draft in Las Vegas.
Coincidentally, all three were drafted by franchises within the NFC North.
Joseph was the first former Illini off the board, selected in the third round (97th overall) by the Detroit Lions on Friday night.
The Detroit Lions pick Illinois Safety Kerby Joseph at No. 97 overall.— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 30, 2022
90.8 PF grade since 2020 (2nd highest among Power Five Safeties) pic.twitter.com/8Jqswf0kHs
Joseph was voted Second Team All-Big Ten by the league’s coaches and First Team All-Big Ten by the media. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior safety finished with 57 tackes and was the only player in the nation with 5+ interceptions and 3+ fumble recoveries during the regular season.
He was also the highest-graded defensive back in the country this season by Pro Football Focus.
The Minnesota Vikings beefed up their offensive line by drafting Lowe in the sixth round (184th overall). The Rockford native returned to the Fighting Illini for his super-senior season and finished the year as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection.
From Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft scouting report:
“Lowe has excellent arm length that he uses to establish first meaningful contact on defenders ... He excels in pass protection using a stiff, firm punch to deliver jolt on contact, and his strong latch in the run game enables him to control, steer and open up alleys on frontside kick-out/angle-drive blocks.”
Lowe started all 12 games at left tackle and finished his career as Illinois’ program co-leader in starts with 52 — teammate Alex Palczewski will break that record in 2022.
His ability to process as a zone blocker and execute his assignments stand out when watching him on film.
The Fighting Illini utilized him on the move a lot, and his footwork as a down blocker and burst to the second level are impressive. He packs a nice punch at the point of attack, has a solid anchor as a run blocker, and his grip strength...allows him to seal off running lanes for his teammates.
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Kramer was a five-year starter for Illinois and was voted Second Team All-Big Ten by the league’s coaches this past season.
Several other Illini signed as free agents following the draft — linebacker Khalan Tolson (Carolina Panthers), QB Brandon Peters (Los Angeles Chargers) & kicker James McCourt (Chargers) and defensive back Tony Adams (New York Jets). Finally, linebacker Jake Hansen will reunite with former coach Lovie Smith after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans.
More signings could be coming in he next few days, most notably All-Big Ten punter Blake Hayes. The Bears had a golden opportunity to select Hayes, opting to instead draft NC State punter Trenton Gill with their final selection in the seventh round (255th overall).
Congrats to all of our former Illini as they embark on their pro careers. Go get ‘em, boys!