The NFL Draft starts tonight with the first round, continues Friday with the second and third rounds before concluding on Saturday with rounds four through seven.
By the time it’s all done, 254 players will be selected, with perhaps a few coming from Illinois.
The Illini have had 16 players selected in the last five drafts, including five first-round picks.
A large majority of those draft picks (six) came from the Class of 2008, which was the first recruiting class after Illinois appeared in the Rose Bowl.
Coincidence? Probably not.
Here’s a glance at how highly recruited those 16 players were coming out of high school.
Whitney Mercilus — First round, 26th overall, Texans
The Class of 2008 defensive end who won the Hendricks Award in 2011 as the nation’s best defensive end and was a first-team All-American pick, was a three-star recruit out of Garfield (Ohio) High School. He picked Illinois over Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas, Michigan State, Purdue and Syracuse. Was not ranked in Rivals’ Top 100 and was listed as the 28th-best weakside defensive end.
A.J. Jenkins — First round, 30th overall, 49ers
The school’s record-holder for receiving yards in a 2011 home game against Northwestern came out of Terry Parker (Fla.) High School in the Class of 2008. Jenkins, who picked Illinois over Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, was a three-star recruit who was listed as the 53rd-best wide receiver in the class.
Jeff Allen — Second round, 44th overall, Chiefs
Only a two-star prospect in the Class of 2008 out of Chicago King, Allen blossomed during his tenure at Illinois. Besides Illinois, Allen had Football Bowl Subdivision offers from North Carolina State and Northern illinois along with offers from Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois in the Football Championship Subdivision. The guard wasn’t ranked by Rivals in his positional group.
Tavon Wilson — Second round, 48th overall, Patriots
A defensive back from H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C., the Class of 2008 recruit garnered a three-star label. Offers for Wilson aside from Illinois included Akron, Boston College, Maryland, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. He was ranked the 60th-best cornerback in the class.
Corey Liuget — First round, 18th overall, Chargers
The Miami native was a four-star pickup by Ron Zook in the Class of 2008. Liuget picked Illinois over Central Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Rutgers and South Carolina, programs Illinois currently would have a hard time winning a recruiting battle against. Liuget was the seventh-ranked defensive tackle in the class and 80th overall.
Mikel Leshoure — Second round, 57th overall, Lions
The Champaign Centennial running back who set the single-season rushing record (1,697 yards) with a breakout junior season was a three-star recruit with the Chargers. He selected his hometown school over Boston College, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. He was ranked the 28th-best running black in the Class of 2008.
Martez Wilson — Third round, 72nd overall, Saints
Highly-touted coming out of Chicago Simeon, Illinois fended off Florida, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC in pursuit of the Chicago Simeon defensive end, a five-star prospect. Playing linebacker during his time at Illinois, Wilson overcame a stabbing injury that threatened to derail his career. He was rated the 26th-best player in the Class of 2007 and the second-best weakside defensive end in his class.
Nate Bussey — Seventh round, 243rd overall, Saints
A three-star prospect from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., Bussey chose Illinois over his only other scholarship offer from Kent State. A quarterback and defensive back in high school, Bussey developed into a reliable linebacker at Illinois. He was ranked the 49th-best athlete in the Class of 2007.
Arrelious Benn — Second round, 39th overall, Buccaneers
Using then-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s ties to the Washington, D.C., area the Illini reeled in the fifth-best wide receiver in the Class of 2007. A five-star recruit, Benn picked Illinois over Florida State, Maryland, Miami and Notre Dame, and was ranked the 24th-best player in his class.
Jon Asamoah — Third round, 68th overall, Chiefs
The Rich East graduate only generated a two-star ranking prior to arriving at Illinois. He had offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati and Northern Illinois, and was nto ranked at any position along the offensive line in the Class of 2006.
Michael Hoomanawanui — Fifth round, 132nd overall, Rams
The Bloomington Central Catholic product was a three-star prospect before arriving in Champaign, who had offers from Purdue and Northern Illinois. The big-bodied tight end was rated the 43rd-best tight end in the Class of 2006.
Josh Brent — Supplemental draft, Cowboys
A teammate of Hoomanawanui’s in high school, off-the-field troubles affected his draft status. A four-star recruit in the Class of 2007, Brent picked Illinois over offers from Arizona State, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. He was rated the 11th-best defensive tackle in his class.
Vontae Davis — First round, 25th overall, Dolphins
The defensive back from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., decided on Illinois over Maryland, Michigan State and Virginia. He was a three-star recruit and ranked the 33rd-best cornerback in the Class of 2006.
Xavier Fulton — Fifth round, 155th overall, Buccaneers
The three-star recruit from Homewood-Flossmoor originally came to Illinois as a defensive tackle before making the shift to the offensive line prior to the 2007 season. Fulton committed to Illinois and coach Ron Turner over offers from Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin. He was ranked the 25th-best defensive tackle in the Class of 2004.
Will Davis — Sixth round, 204th overall, Cardinals
Only a two-star recruit from Greenbelt (Md.) High School, the athlete out of high school who wound up a superb defensive end at Illinois, didn’t garner any rankings in the Class of 2005. Aside from Illinois, Connecticut and Virginia were his only other offers.
Rashard Mendenhall — First round, 23rd overall, Steelers
The running back who ran for 1,681 yards in helping carry the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl was highly coveted coming out of Niles West High School. The ninth-best running back in the Class of 2005 and 90th-best prospect overall picked Illinois over Arizona, Arizona State and Northwestern as a four-star recruit.