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WVU's Braun '50-50' on NFL draft chances

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, left, throws to a receiver as he is protected by offensive lineman Jeff Braun Sept. 17, 2011, in College Park.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, left, throws to a receiver as he is protected by offensive lineman Jeff Braun Sept. 17, 2011, in College Park.(AP FILE PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Versatility helped Jeff Braun carve out a successful football career at West Virginia University, and now the big man is hoping it carries over to the NFL.

Braun said he feels good about his situation with the NFL draft beginning Thursday. The Winters Mill graduate and three-year starter for West Virginia showcased his skills at the Mountaineers' pro day event a month ago, and by putting up solid numbers, Braun said he bolstered his draft chances.

He didn't get an invitation to participate in the NFL's annual combine, so Braun focused his energy on showing off at his school's pro day. Representatives from 29 of the league's 32 teams were on hand, he said, including Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, to watch the likes of speedy receiver Tavon Austin, quarterback Geno Smith, and Braun, an offensive lineman who played four different positions throughout his college career.

Braun measured in at 6 feet, 4 inches, and 309 pounds. He did 29 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, the most of any player at the event. He felt as if he held his own running the 40-yard dash andin shuttle drills, and performing vertical and standing broad jumps.

Then he looked up last year's draft, zoning in on the 21 guards picked by pro teams and analyzing their numbers.

The 23-year-old liked what he saw.

"One of the knocks on me was overall athleticism," Braun said. "I was always the strong guy, the smart guy, played the game pretty well, but people questioned my athleticism. I saw all those numbers, and actually hit a personal record on every event on pro day. I was right there in the mix."

The website nfldraftscout.com has Braun ranked 56th out of 171 guards eligible for the draft.

Braun said he received phone calls from interested teams over the last few weeks, and he has his pro day efforts to thank. Being part of an offense that averaged 39.5 points per game, ninth in the country last season, didn't hurt either.

Braun said he handled his nerves pretty well on pro day. What lies ahead this weekend might be a bit different.

"Right now I'm 50-50 on whether I'll be drafted or not. I have no idea," he said. "I've been told by a few teams that I'm a late round-type guy. I had one team tell me middle to late rounds. It all depends."

Braun said if his name doesn't get called before the draft ends, he'll explore free agency. Braun said he and his agent, Rob Roche, expect to hear from a team either way and be joining a training camp in the near future.

There were some who didn't think Braun was ready for big-time college football when he left Winters Mill, let alone start for three years at West Virginia. But he saw time at right guard (12 starts), left guard (13 starts), right tackle (13), and center (one) for the Mountaineers along the way.

Braun earned All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2012 and helped WVU play in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse.

In January 2012, Braun and the Mountaineers beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl, a BCS record for points.

He seems to have proved many doubters wrong, but Braun said he's not finished just yet.

"I have a lot of people supporting me and in my corner," Braun said. "I know my expectations for myself, and that's all I need to meet. I have more goals to set that I want to achieve.

"Right now it's all about getting into a training camp. Once I get into a training camp it's on me to prove my worth, to show them that I can be part of their 52-man roster."

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