EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - It's a big night for football fans and NFL hopefuls as the 2018 NFL Draft kicks. Several East Texans are in the running to get picked up by professional teams.
The draft begins tonight in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium.
Although it's unexpected that any of the potentials could go in the first round, chances are high that the former high school standouts could get selected by a team in later rounds.
Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell, Zaycoven Henderson, John Franklin and Travis Howard all bring something special to the table.
Coutee, a Lufkin native, is a force on the field. Coutee earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2017. The wide receiver ranked fourth in the FBS with 1,429 receiving yards on 93 catches. Coutee also ranked sixth in the nation with 10 touchdowns. After11-reception, 187-yard, one-score effort against South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl, Coutee announced he was going to leave Texas Tech early and head to the pro ranks.
The Texas Tech wide receiver was one of the best in college football this past season. He is a little small but what he lacks in height he makes up for in speed and quick hands.
"That doesn't measure my heart. That doesn't measure what is on the inside. I play like I am 6 foot. I have a big heart. I am not afraid of anyone," Coutee said.
He would be just the latest former Panther to go to the league that includes Reggie Mcneal, Jorvorskie Land and Dez Bryant.
Also on the board is Coutee's college teammate Cantrell and Longview natives Howard and Henderson.
Cantrell is a former Whitehouse and Texas Tech playmaker who stood out during the NFL Combine. He impressed the scouts, ranking among the top receivers to grade out. Some sources have said his SPARQ rating was the best of all the receivers in the draft, and he led all receivers in several drills, like the 20-yard shuffle.
Then there is SFA defensive end Franklin. Franklin went under-recruited out of high school. In four years of Friday night ball in Greenville, his teams went 0 and 40. Franklin however, stood out in college and impressed at the combine.
"I just want an opportunity," he said. "I know when I get it I will make the most of it. I can't say I want to go anywhere because I don't know what they are like. I only know Texas since I live here. I just want that opportunity and to make the most of it."
Rounding out the group of NFL hopefuls from East Texas is former Longview High School Lobo Travin Howard. Howard recently joined APEC in Fort Worth to prepare for the NFL and 2018 Draft.
A former linebacker for TCU, Howard led the team in tackles the past three seasons, which is a new program record. Howard racked up 345 tackles from 2015 to 2017, which is also the most ever under head coach Gary Patterson.
As far as Texas teams are concerned, the Dallas Cowboys will have 19th pick and the Houston Texas aren't expected to have a pick until Round 3 after trading their first two picks.
The NFL Draft will air on ESPN, the NFL Network and FOX.