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Gophers’ Daniel Faalele set to fill big hole in program’s NFL draft history

The 2022 draft will end a drought for Minnesota, when an offensive lineman is picked for the first time since 2006.

NCAA Football: Guaranteed Rate Bowl-Minnesota at West Virginia
Minnesota Golden Gophers offensive lineman Daniel Faalele against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Dec. 28, 2021, in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports
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The Minnesota Golden Gophers football program ended two droughts during the 2021 NFL draft.

Rashod Bateman became the first Minnesota player taken in the first round since Laurence Maroney in 2006, and with Benjamin St-Juste taken in third round, the U had two players selected among the top 75 picks for the first time since 1978.

The 2022 draft will end another drought for Minnesota, when an offensive lineman is picked for the first time since 2006.

Mammoth tackle Daniel Faalele will be the first Gophers lineman to hear his name called during the NFL Draft from April 28-30 in Las Vegas. Guard Blaise Andries also is expected to be picked in the three-day event.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck has said competing programs have called out Minnesota’s lack of O-line draft picks on the recruiting trail, and Fleck is eager to have this lull come to an end after 15 years.

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Faalale, Andries and 12 other former Gophers players are scheduled to participate in the U’s Pro Day at the Larson Football Performance Center on Wednesday morning.

NFL: Scouting Combine
Minnesota offensive lineman Daniel Faalele during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2022, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports

At the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, Faalele did the bench press but no other on-field workouts; Andries ran the 40-yard dash and participated in other on-field workouts, but did not bench. Representatives for NFL teams will be eager to see what they can do at Pro Day in those categories left unfilled at the combine.

Faalale’s place in mock drafts varies. CBS Sports has him going 26th overall to the Buffalo Bills, while The Athletic has him going in the second round to Baltimore (where he would team up with Bateman) and NFL.com’s Chat Reuter has him coming off the board in the third round.

Gophers defensive end Boye Mafe also has been projected as anywhere from a first- to a third-round pick. At the combine in Indianapolis, the 261-pound Mafe ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, which ranks in the top 20 times among 1,355 defensive ends since 1987, according to analytics tracker Kent Lee Platte.

Mafe also had a 38-inch vertical and 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump, which is in the top five among defensive ends in the 2022 class.

Faalele measured in at 6-foot-8 and 384 pounds at the combine, down from the 428 pounds he weighed when he enrolled at Minnesota in 2018.Faalele said he would like to get down to 375 by the time he joins his new NFL team.

Faalele said lowering his pad level and taking better angles for second-level blocks are the primary things he’s working on in his transition from all-Big Ten first-team player in 2021 to NFL rookie in ’22.

“Being able to dominate somebody — legally — is something that’s definitely fun,” Faalele said at the combine. “Always love getting pancakes and making someone’s day worse.”

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Briefly

Other Gophers participating in the Pro Day are tight end Ko Kieft; linebacker Jack Gibbens; offensive lineman Sam Schlueter; defensive linemen Nyles Pinckney, Micah Dew-Treadway and Sam Renner; and defensive backs Coney Durr, Phil Howard, Justus Harris and Bishop McDonald . … Renner is going through the pro day again after going undrafted in 2020 and having stints with the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. … Two players who transferred away from Gophers will be welcomed back for its Pro Day: defensive lineman Keonte Schad, who went to Oregon State, and defensive back Jack Leius, who settled at Division II Minnesota State Mankato. Leuis, who attended Robbinsdale Armstrong, is the son of former Twins player Scott Leius. … North Dakota defensive back Evan Holm, Minnesota Duluth running back Cazz Martin, St. Thomas defensive back Isaiah Hall and Gustavus quarterback Michael Veldman also will work out.

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