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Colorado Buffaloes Football: 2017 NFL Draft grades

Setting expectations for new Buffaloes in the NFL.

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the offseason transition for the Colorado Buffaloes, eight former players signed with NFL teams. The last Buffalo drafted was in 2014 with Paul Richardson going to the Seattle Seahawks (second round).

Here's a look on how the former Buffaloes will transition to their NFL teams.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 60 overall (2nd round): Dallas Cowboys - Chidobe Awuzie

The first Colorado player off the board was at a need position for the Cowboys, who had a recent mass exodus in the secondary. Awuzie was the first of three defensive backs selected by the Cowboys in the draft. At 6'0" and 210 pounds, his size and speed was a selling point to most NFL teams looking for a boost on defense. Dallas capitalized on that with Awuzie and Michigan's defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round. Both are likely to become starters under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli with the goal of improving on a marginal secondary effort from 2016.

Awuzie joins Michigan's Jourdan Lewis and Florida State's Marquez White in Dallas' new look secondary with seasoned vets Orlando Scandrick and Nolan Carroll. The expectation for Marinelli’s "Tampa 2" could have Awuzie & Lewis interchangeable depending on the type of coverage. Awuzie has developed into a student of the game and should flourish in the league for years to come.

Grade: A

NFL: San Franciso 49ers-Rookie Minicamp Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

No. 66 overall (3rd round): San Francisco 49ers - Ahkello Witherspoon

A "diamond in the rough" pick for the 49ers could mean a payoff in the long run. Witherspoon’s a bit undersized with a lean, athletic frame despite leading the nation in pass deflections last year with teammate Tedric Thompson. How Witherspoon will fit into San Francisco's young crowded secondary with Dontae Johnson, Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser, Will Redmond and K'Waun Williams will be a interesting question to answer. He’s already started to compete early in camp and will be in the "developmental" rotation for a year or two.

Witherspoon brings speed for new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. An impressive stat for the cover corner was tallying six touchdown saves last season, including one of Colorado’s most memorable interceptions at the goal line against Oregon to preserve a 41-38 win. NFL scouts praised Witherspoon’s success in head-to-head match-ups against some of the nation’s best wide receivers like USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster and Washington's John Ross.

The approach for John Lynch in his first draft as a GM with the 49ers was a success by targeting future needs over best player(s) available. It will take time for a full turnaround in San Francisco, but unlike other NFL franchises, Lynch is going about the process the right way.

Grade: B

NCAA Football: Colorado at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

No. 111 overall (4th round): Seattle Seahawks - Tedric Thompson

Some draft analysts considered Thompson to Seattle to be a steal in the fourth round. He's an athletic, hard-hitting defensive back who fits the "Legion of Boom" profile and could be a valued asset early. One part of "The Money Gang" is the most pro ready out of CU's class and is one of the best coverage specialists in the nation. A clear advantage for Thompson is having great defensive backs like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to help mentor him at the next level.

Along with Thompson, Seattle's added depth to an already loaded defense with Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell, Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin, Michigan Safety Delano Hill and North Carolina defensive tackle Nazair Jones. . Thompson’s a stable backup and with good production he’ll slide into a full-time starting position in the next couple seasons.

Grade: A+

NCAA Football: Oregon at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

No. 246 overall (7th round): Dallas Cowboys - Jordan Carrell

The Cowboys needed help on defense and took a chance with Carrell as one of the last picks in the draft. He's had a steady two years of production at CU, but at 6'3" and 300 pounds, he remains a future project with raw talent. Carrell's biggest attribute is the ability to read the play before it develops, although he’s an average defender in many facets of the game.

This could be one of Dallas’ best draft's in recent memory. For being a playoff team, the timing couldn’t be better for Jerry Jones and Co. in Arlington.

Grade: C

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-North Practice Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent (undrafted): Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Sefo Liufau

Looking at the current offense and in particular Tampa Bay’s quarterback situation, the signing of Liufau is interesting. Jameis Winston is a dual-threat passer and while Liufau, who might have some mobility outside the pocket, is still defined under the pro-style category. In theory, the move benefits the Bucs with a different style in practice. Liufau’s a solid backup that could turn into an invaluable insurance policy if Winston goes down with an injury. He'll compete in camp with Sean Renfree and Ryan Griffin for second string behind Winston.

Grade: C-

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent (undrafted): Cleveland Browns - Kenneth Olugbode

Olugbode had a change to move up the draft board after originally being considered a late round selection before a sub-par pro day. He'll have the opportunity to make the Browns roster by contributing on special teams due to his outstanding work ethic. If his time in Boulder is any indication, Olugbode isn't afraid to start from the bottom and work his way up.

Cleveland might have more than LeBron to celebrate in about 3-5 years. In Moneyball we trust?

Grade: B-

NCAA Football: Washington State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent (undrafted): San Francisco 49ers - Jimmie Gilbert

Knowing the struggles faced by the 49ers defense last season, they'll need all the help they can get approaching the 2017 season. An advantage that Gilbert brings to the table is being an experienced four-year starter who played in every game of his collegiate career. The downside will be trying to make the roster among 12 current linebackers. Gilbert will have to prove his worth from day one. As a pure athlete he’ll turn some heads playing in a system built by his former defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt.

Grade: C+

NCAA Football: East-West Shrine Game Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent (undrafted): Cincinnati Bengals - Josh Tupou

A big risk has the potential to be a reward for the Bengals, who have a history of not shying away from troubled athletes. Tupou was an afterthought from some NFL teams following an assault charge in 2015 and the reputation that followed was something he tried to bury last season. From Cincinnati's prospective getting a mid-round talent after falling out the draft is a significant plus. With discipline and structure, Tupou could be molded into a solid defensive lineman in the NFL. He's a future project for the Bengals and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.

Grade: B+