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Who would Minnesota protect in a College Football Expansion Draft?

With only 22 players to protect, some tough decisions will need to be made

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Illinois
Antoine Winfield Jr is being protected for sure
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night the NHL Expansion Draft results will be announced as the Vegas Golden Knights will announce their selection from the other 30 NHL teams. The other NHL teams had to place players on a protected list last weekend before letting Vegas choose from the remaining players.

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune decided to take this idea and use it to predict who the other three professional Twin Cities sports teams would protect in a theoretical expansion draft. As a good blogger, I decided “why not do this for the Gophers?” To make it fun, I wanted to try and predict who would be protected from the big three Gophers sports—Football, Men’s Basketball, and Men’s Hockey.

There is lots of strategy to think about when deciding who to protect. Do you protect the highly talented senior who you will only have for one more season, or do you take the less talented freshman or sophomore who may have the potential to be as good or even better? There is no right answer...this is meant to spur discussion. So go ahead and give your lists in the comments below, or tell us where you disagree with our lists.

So here are our predictions on who the Gopher Football Team would protect in a theoretical expansion draft.

The rules for our College Football Expansion Draft:

You are allowed to protect 22 players from the roster. No positional requirements—you can select 0 of a position or 22. You are allowed to select any player who will be an incoming freshman in the fall through a senior on the roster.

Gopherguy05’s selections:

QB: None

RB: Rodney Smith (RS Jr), Shannon Brooks (Jr)

WR: Rashad Still (Jr), Tyler Johnson (So), Chris Autman-Bell (Fr), Demetrius Douglas (Fr)

TE: Colton Beebe (RS So)

OL: Jared Weyler (RS Jr), Donnell Greene (Jr), Nick Connolly (RS So), Connor Olson (RS Fr), Blaise Andries (Fr)

DL: Steven Richardson (Sr), Winston DeLattiboudere (RS So)

LB: Jonathan Celestin (Sr), Kamal Martin (So), Carter Coughlin (So)

DB: Antoinio Shenault (Jr), Antoine Winfield Jr (So), Coney Durr (So), Ken Handy-Holly (Fr)

K: Emmit Carpenter (RS Jr)


I didn’t protect a quarterback. Why you ask? I don’t feel confident enough that one is so much better than the others that they need to be protected. The difference between QB1 and QB2 are not much.

At running back I kept both obvious ones. While the Gophers have depth behind Smith and Brooks, a lot is untested at the moment. I needed to save spots for other places.

I protect four receivers. Still has the most potential and two years to show it. Johnson still is raw and with three years left could be a huge asset. I protect two freshmen because of both the potential and position flexibility. Douglas could go to DB if I needed to (and he may in real life).

Colton Beebe is the only tight end I protect, and even that was close. The Gopher’s two most used tight ends are both seniors, but with huge injury concerns for Lingen he can’t be a protected player. Wozniak is fine, but could be replaced if necessary. Beebe has the potential once again to be moved around if necessary.

I keep five OL. Greene has really developed nicely and should fit well at left tackle for two more seasons. Weyler came on well last year and has two more years to show me something. Olson has been talked up a lot and if he can start for four seasons that’s huge. Connolly has finally grown into his body and as a right tackle could be special for a few seasons. The potential on Andries is just too much not to protect.

The fact I only protect two DL really tells you all you need to know about our defensive line depth. Steven Richardson is something special and even as a senior he has to be protected. I think DeLattiboudiere has a bit more overall potential that Devers, so I protected Winston, but I could listen to arguments otherwise. Andrew Stelter is nice, but doesn’t quite rise to the level of protected player. And the rest? Not good or complete unknowns.

I only keep three linebackers, which could be a bit of a surprise. Jon Celestin even as a senior is a guy you need to protect. Both Kamal Martin and Carter Coughlin just ooze potential, and with three years left are no brainers. I could easily see keeping Thomas Barber or even Cody Poock, but with Poock you have injury issues. Barber plays insanely hard but his size might be a slight deterrent. The snub of the group might be no Blake Cashman. He was a tough one to leave off the list, but with the LB deoth the Gophers have I will have to live if he goes.

I keep four DB. Winfield is probably the easiest selection on the entire team. A star in the making with three years left. Coney Durr has some major injury issues, but with three years to go he has the potential to be another Gopher DB star. Antonio Shenault really came into his own after being thrown into a fire last season, be I’ll be honest and say he was probably my 22nd player. If you took Cashman over him I wouldn’t have a problem at all. Ken Handy-Holly I think will be the best of the freshman DB recruits and that size just drips with big hitting safety potential.

On the special teams side, I keep Emmit Carpenter. He really was impressive last season and with two still to go could go down as the best kicker in Gopher history. Its tough not to maybe protect Santoso, but I feel confident in Grant Ryerse filling in if Santoso would be taken away.

UStreet’s selections:

QB: Demry Croft (RS So)

RB: Rodney Smith (RS Jr), Mo Ibrahim (Fr)

WR: Rashad Still (Jr), Tyler Johnson (So), Demetrius Douglas (Fr)

TE: None

OL: Blaise Andries (Fr), John-Michael Schmitz (Fr)

DL: Steven Richardson (Sr), Tai’yon Devers(So), Boye Mafe (Fr), Malcolm Robinson (Fr)

LB: Blake Cashman (Jr) Kamal Martin (So), Carter Coughlin (So), Thomas Barber (So)

DB: Antoine Winfield Jr (So), Coney Durr (So), Ken Handy-Holly (Fr), Justus Harris (Fr), Adam Beck (Fr)

K: Emmit Carpenter (RS Jr)


Quarterback has a lot of unknowns. I keep Croft because he appears to have the most potential of all of them. There is a reasonable argument for taking any of the QBs except for Rhoda.

At RB I'm leaving Brooks off this list because of injury concerns. Smith will be gone after this year, but the Gophers need production somewhere on offense. Smith can also catch passes, so he gives the Gophers another slot receiver. Ibrahim is the best RB recruit, so keep for long term potential

Our receivers are not exactly lighting the world on fire. I keep Still because he's a junior and has the size and athleticism to be a great downfield threat. Johnson flashed a lot of potential last year and Douglas is our best freshman.

OL—Man this position is a dumpster fire. Keep the best OL recruits.

DL- Richardson for one year is acceptable. I like Mafe's potential

LB- Keep all the Minnesota kids that are underclassman plus Cashman because he's a 2 year player.

DB- The best players and the freshmen

Special Teams- Emmit Carpenter: Duh

mowe0018’s selections:

QB: Seth Green (RS Fr)

RB: Rodney Smith (RS Jr)

WR: Drew Hmielewski (RS Fr), Rashad Still (Jr)

TE: Colton Beebe (RS So)

OL: John-Michael Schmitz (Fr), Sam Schlueter (RS Fr), Blaise Andries (Fr), Conner Olson (RS Fr)

DL: Steven Richardson (Sr), Tai’yon Devers (So), Winston DeLattiboudere (RS So)

LB: Blake Cashman (Jr), Carter Coughlin (So), Kamal Martin (So), Thomas Barber (So)

DB: Antoine Winfield Jr (So), Ken Handy-Holly (Fr), Coney Durr (So), Zo Craighton (RS So)

K: Emmit Carpenter (RS Jr)


My picks were a combination of positional balance (a full 22 man team can be made sans one OL), sure things (Richardson, Smith), sneaky (from a non-Gopher fan perspective) high-potential picks (Hmielewski, Green), and awesome names to enjoy (DeLattiboudere, Handy-Holly, Schmitz (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt anybody?!?!)). Also, my general thought process was protect the poeple you know that outsiders would attempt to snag (Smith, Winfield) and make sure someone who could be a huge hit doesn’t get away (Handy-Holly).

Who would you protect?

Try and pick your own group and see if you agree or differ with us. The link to the Gopher roster is here for reference.