Grading the ex-Illini in the NFL
Of the 27 former Illinois football players in the NFL, none will play in Sunday night’s Super Bowl. It’s the first time the most-watched sporting event won’t have an Illinois alum in the game since 2001. Matt Daniels breaks down how players who called Memorial Stadium home for their college careers fared in Roger Goodell’s favorite league this season.
Jon Asamoah, Chiefs
C Split time between the field and sidelines, but right guard (73) and fourth-year veteran was in the starting lineup for nine games.
Jeff Allen, Chiefs
B Former two-star recruit is thriving in Kansas City, starting 15 games for league’s 10th-best rushing offense.
Alan Ball, Jaguars
B Even though Jacksonville never seriously contended for a playoff spot, defensive back had career-best 47 tackles and two interceptions in 15 starts.
Michael Buchanan, Patriots
C Defensive end had scattered playing time in his rookie season, making nine tackles, including two sacks, in a reserve role for New England.
Jeff Cumberland, Jets
B Tight end made 12 starts and posted career highs in receiving yards (398) and touchdown catches (4), with his TD receptions leading the team.
Vontae Davis, Colts
B- Cornerback started all 17 games for Indianapolis, making 50 tackles and intercepting one pass.
David Diehl, Giants
C Veteran offensive lineman started 11 games for league’s 29th-ranked rushing offense in what turned out to be his final NFL season.
Glenn Foster, Saints
C+ Rookie defensive end, who signed as a free agent after not getting drafted, had seven tackles, including three sacks, in 14 games as a backup.
Michael Hoomanawanui, Patriots
C Fourth-year tight end started last four games, finishing with 15 catches for 175 yards and an impressive one-handed touchdown catch for his only score.
A.J. Jenkins, Chiefs
D Second-year wideout struggled to find field, hauling in nine catches for 157 yards, but no touchdowns, in 17 games.
Corey Liuget, Chargers
A- Third-year defensive end compiled a team-high 61/2 sacks for San Diego to go along with 52 tackles while starting all 18 games.
Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals
C+ Sixth-year veteran wasn’t spectacular, but not disappointing in first season with Arizona (687 rushing yards, eight TDs).
Whitney Mercilus, Texans
B+ Forgettable year for Houston, but not for linebacker. He had 47 tackles and seven sacks, which was second on the team behind J.J. Watt.
Tony Pashos, Raiders
C Offensive lineman started 12 games, including final seven, for league’s 12th-best rushing offense.
Akeem Spence, Buccaneers
B- Rookie defensive tackle started 14 games for Tampa Bay, finishing with 29 tackles and a sack, before getting arrested on possession of marijuana charges this offseason.
Pierre Thomas, Saints
B Veteran proved he was still useful, rushing for team-high 549 yards and two TDs and catching 77 passes for 513 yards and three scores.
Hugh Thornton, Colts
B- Rookie offensive lineman played in 16 games and made 14 starts for AFC South champions.
Steve Weatherford, Giants
B Veteran booted a career-high 91 punts this season for New York, averaging 46.9 yards per punt, which left him tied for seventh in the league.
Martez Wilson, Cowboys
D Third-year linebacker played for New Orleans, Oakland and Dallas this season, contributing four tackles and a sack on the season in nine games split among the three teams.
Tavon Wilson, Patriots
D Quite the dropoff from his rookie season (41 tackles, four INTs), second-year strong safety only had three tackles and one pick in 15 games as a backup.
Arrelious Benn, Eagles
I Wide receiver blew out knee in August after signing with Philadelphia and never played a down in 2013.
Jack Cornell, Raiders
I Offensive lineman didn’t get much of a chance to contribute, playing in one game, a 24-20 Oakland loss against the New York Giants on Nov. 10.
Justin Green, Patriots
I Spent majority of time on New England’s practice squad. The defensive back played in two games but did not record any tackles.
Kelvin Hayden, Bears
I Defensive back never had a chance to intercept any passes for Chicago in 2013 after torn hamstring in August sidelined veteran presence.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions
I Pride of Centennial only played in three games, running the ball twice for 9 yards, with both carries coming against Cleveland on Oct. 13.
Graham Pocic, Rams
I Free agent signee never suited up after shoulder issues arose for offensive lineman.
Justin Staples, Browns
I Rookie free-agent signee never played in a game for Cleveland. The defensive end was a practice-squad player all season.