Early look: Gophers' Hageman top 10 talent, first-round pick

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Calling the Minnesota Gophers football program a factory of pro talent would undoubtedly be an overstatement.

Heck, even giving the maroon and gold gridiron gang marginal credit for sending players to the NFL might be a bit much.

Since 2007, the U has had just three players selected in the seven-round NFL Draft, with just two first-round selections (Laurence Maroney, Willie Middlebrooks) in the last 22 years.

To give you a bit of context, the University of Wisconsin had three players selected in the draft last year alone, and has had 25 draft picks in the same period as Minnesota's three.

These depressing facts lead us to a beacon of light, a silver lining in the clouds, a force to be reckoned when the first-round opens on May 8, 2014 from Radio City Music Hall, Gopher defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman.

The redshirt senior stands a whopping 6'6", weighing in at 311 lbs. Combine that with his athleticism, 11 tackles for loss, and two blocked kicks this year, and reviews are overwhelmingly positive across the board

Here's where a few of the major draft outlets think Hageman will be taken when the speculation ends and the selections begin.

ESPN: No. 28 overall. ""Hageman had a monster season for Minnesota in 2013, and I think he is one of those guys who will go on to be a better pro than he was a college player. He is tall, long and well-built with good mobility, and he can take on blocks against the run and is an effective bull rusher against the pass."

FOX SPORTS: No. 23 overall."He's a versatile big guy who can play inside or outside and has good athleticism seeing how he came to Minnesota as a tight end."

NFL DRAFT COUNTDOWN: No. 17 overall, No. 6 overall talent."An explosive athlete and one of this year’s most freakish physical specimens, Hageman could project to either end or tackle depending on the scheme. Hageman is already one of the hottest names in the scouting community and should only continue to climb up draft boards if he works out as well as expected."

SB NATION: No. 12 overall."Ra'shede Hageman could rise into the top 10 by the time May rolls around. He's a disruptive interior defensive lineman who could fit in nicely at end in a 3-4 scheme."

NFL.com also called Hageman a top 10 talent, while NFL Draft Countdown makes the point that Hageman's stock is likely only headed in one direction since his workout numbers will likely be off the charts at the NFL Scouting Combine.

It's still early and the Gophers still have work to do on the field, but it appears Hageman's football journey will stretch far beyond the Texas Bowl Dec. 27.

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