BOULDER – As the NFL Draft approaches, David Bakhtiari awaits one of the most significant weekends of his life with no illusions. The offensive lineman knows he left the University of Colorado a year early to enter an uncertain, often cold and always calculating business.
His best point of reference is one of the guys with whom he’s spent the last couple of months running, lifting and nearly working himself senseless.
That would be Bakhtiari’s older brother, Eric, who since finishing his playing career at the University of San Diego in 2007 has been released by an NFL team 14 times – including twice last season by the San Francisco 49ers.
Big brother can tell little brother a thing or two about the insecure nature of pro football – and he has done so. Nonetheless, David is eager for his vigil to begin on Thursday, when the draft begins. Teams with which David Bakhtiari or his representative have spoken believe he will be a second- or third-round selection, making Friday his “D-Day.” Rounds four through seven will be on Saturday.
Bakhtiari and former CU tight end Nick Kasa appear to be CU’s best bets to receive draft calls this weekend. Among others, defensive lineman Will Pericak, safety Ray Polk and linebackers Doug Rippy and Jon Major might receive opportunities to play in the NFL through free agency.
Whatever route opens for Bakhtiari, “I’m really excited about it,” he said Monday in a telephone interview from the Thousand Oaks, Calif., area. “It’s kind of funny; I’ve been anticipating it for so long but it hasn’t hit me because I’ve been taking care of business.
“I’ve really been kind of nonchalant waiting for it to happen. But once I get the phone call it’ll all come together.”
Bakhtiari elected to leave CU after his junior season rather than return and play for a third head coach in five years. Signed in 2009 by Dan Hawkins’ staff, he redshirted as a freshman then started 11 of 12 games at right tackle in what would be Hawkins’ final season (2010). He moved to left tackle for the 2011-12 seasons under Jon Embree and was a second-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection in each season.
Rather than return as a fifth-year senior under new coach Mike MacIntyre, Bakhtiari decided to declare his eligibility for the draft – and he has no regrets about doing so. “I was comfortable with it (his decision) the day I made it,” he said. “I don’t want to live with any regret; this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and so far I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
He participated earlier this year in the NFL Combine, had maybe half a dozen workouts for teams in Colorado, made visits to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and spoke with “numerous teams” on the telephone. Being an underclassman, he believed he needed more of an introduction to NFL teams and their directors of player personnel than maybe some other prospects.
Embree and former CU O-line coach Steve Marshall – both ex-NFL coaches – helped him with his decision, offering evaluations that fell in line with what he was given elsewhere. “I was getting the same kind of feedback pretty much everywhere I went and I was comfortable with that,” Bakhtiari said.
Most pre-draft evaluations from outlets such as NFLDraftScout.com, ESPN.com and NFL.com rate the 6-41/4, 299-pound (he’s been as high as 306 when he visited Philly) Bakhtiari as a left tackle prospect who likely will find his way inside as his pro career progresses. Wherever he lands and whatever position he eventually plays suits him; the biggest step always is the first one.
NFL.com’s Mike Mayock ranked Bakhtiari No. 82 on his list of the top 100 draft picks, grading him at 70.5 among draftable offensive linemen. That’s in contrast to Alabama’s Chance Warmack, whom Mayock graded as his top O-lineman at 95.9. The 2013 draft is said to be among the deepest for offensive linemen in the past two decades.
Most of Bakhtiari’s pre-draft workouts in California were with linebackers – his brother’s position – which increased the tempo of almost everything done by the group. Included were LB brothers Clay (Green Bay) and Casey (Philadelphia) Matthews. Bakhtiari called the pace “very, very fast . . . the training went great and I felt like if I could keep up those linebackers, I’m doing pretty well.”
He plans to spend the weekend with his family and a few friends in Palm Springs, Calif., waiting on a call he hopes will help determine his future. “I think I have a good sense where I’m going to be (drafted),” he said. “But the only thing you know for certain is you don’t know.”