UPDATE: Akeem Spence was picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round (100th pick overall) on Saturday morning.
A glance at five Illini who could hear their name called by an NFL team before the weekend ends. Next up ...
Spence’s career at Illinois: One of the few bright spots on defense during a forgettable 2012 season, Spence increased his tackle totals in each of his three seasons, topping out his junior season with 72 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Wound up with 186 tackles and 16 1/2 TFLs before declaring for draft four weeks after season ended with loss at Northwestern. Ended his season strong even after Illinois was eliminated from bowl eligibility with nine tackles in each of his final three games.
In his own words: “In one of my pre-draft interviews, I was sitting there with John Elway. I see him on TV. I never thought I’d meet him in person, but it’s been great just meeting new people.”
Our projection: Broncos, fifth round, 161st overall
Reasoning: Spence will now get the chance to possibly see Elway on a regular basis. And get a chance to say hello to former News-Gazette men’s basketball beat writer Paul Klee by heading west. Florida native walks into an ideal situation with a veteran squad. Broncos finished third against the run last year, Spence’s focal point, and rookie could find himself contributing if he impresses during training camp.