The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Pro Cougs looking to take NFL by storm in 2023

A look at the former Cougs repping the crimson and grey in the pros
Quarterback Gardner Minshew II smiles for photos after fans storm the field following the Cougars victory over Oregon on Oct. 20 at Martin Stadium.

A common measuring stick of a school’s success in a sport is the number of professionals they produce. Let’s take a look at the former Cougs who made it past cut-day 2023 in the NFL.

Frankie Luvu – Edge rusher, Carolina Panthers

After a dominant senior year in 2017, where Luvu recorded 12 tackles for loss (TFLs), 48 tackles and 6.5 sacks, Luvu still had not done enough to get drafted, signing as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets.

After going on and off the practice squad for a few years, Luvu signed with the Panthers in 2021. Luvu had a career year but still did not quite break out. 

That was until last year, when Luvu blossomed, recording a career-high seven sacks, 19 TFLs, 111 combined tackles and his first career interception, which was a pick-six. Kevin Patra of also named Luvu as his potential first-time pro bowler for the Panthers this year.

Heading into a contract year, Luvu is looking to reach new heights and secure the bag.

Jalen Thompson – Safety, Arizona Cardinals

In his final season at WSU, Thompson recorded two interceptions and a whopping 10 passes defended, and unlike Luvu, got NFL scouts’ attention. The Cardinals selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, a pick paying off to this day.

At 25 years old going into his fifth NFL season, Thompson continues to earn his role, starting all 17 regular season games for the Cardinals last season. He also recorded a career-high eight passes defended while registering 110 combined tackles.

Thompson got his payday this offseason, inking a three-year, $36 million contract with over $20 million guaranteed. Thompson is now the 12th highest-paid safety in the NFL yearly, just two spots behind Seahawks Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs. Now Thompson gets to go prove why this season.

Gardner Minshew – Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

The legacy of Minshew Mania at WSU speaks for itself, but the NFL pedigree is there as well. As a sixth-round pick in 2019, Minshew threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns as a rookie, but following a shortened 2020 season for Minshew, he was replaced by first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

Now, after two years as the backup in Philadelphia, Minshew has taken his talents to Indianapolis, where he’ll start as the backup to 2023 fourth-overall pick Anthony Richardson. He may be a backup, but with Richardson being a rookie, his name could be called at any moment. 

Jaylen Watson – Cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs

As a seventh-round pick in 2022, Watson quickly became an internet sensation, returning a 99-yard pick-six on Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Watson quickly outdid himself not only by recording the game-clinching interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs but also by intercepting Joe Burrow in the AFC Championship game the next week. 

After a year full of highlights, Watson looks to solidify himself in the Chiefs defense for years to come.

Abraham Lucas – Tackle, Seattle Seahawks

This one’s close to home. After being taken in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Seahawks, Lucas started all 17 games at right tackle for Seattle last year. He also earned a 68.4 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, good for the top 40 at the position.

Going into year two, Lucas is a staple for the Hawks offensive line. And with another full offseason under his belt, edge rushers beware.

Potential Breakouts?

There are other Cougs looking to break out this year that deserve some love as well. 

Offensive tackle Andre Dillard was a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019 but unfortunately has only made nine starts in his career so far. However, the 27-year-old signed a three-year, $29 million deal with the Tennessee Titans to start at left tackle this season.

An undrafted free agent in 2019, wide receiver River Cracraft got his big break in 2022, catching his first two NFL touchdowns, and playing in a career-high 11 games. After cracking the active roster again in 2023, he looks to continue to build his resume.

After going undrafted in 2018, defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale made multiple trips before finding a home in New England in 2021. He has recorded back-to-back two-sack seasons for the Patriots and looks to continue building in 2023.

The last of the veterans, wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. finds himself currently on the Seahawks practice squad following a strong preseason. Going into year four, Winston still has great upside as a returner and could get a shot with a Seattle team with no true punt returners on the active roster.

Washington State also has two alums breaking into the NFL as rookies in 2023: linebacker Daiyan Henley with the Chargers and cornerback Armani Marsh with the Titans. For more on Henley and Marsh, see managing editor Sam Taylor’s article coming out next week.

It may not be the longest list, but the Cougs still show out on the pro stage year in and year out. Be on the lookout in 2023, because pro Cougs are coming to a screen near you.

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About the Contributor
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.