Several Eastern Kentucky University football players could hear their names called during the 2016 National Football League Draft that begins Thursday in Chicago.

The three-day draft begins with the first round on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will be held on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The final four rounds are scheduled to get underway on Saturday at noon. The entire 2016 NFL Draft will air live on ESPN.

Noah Spence is likely to be a first round selection. Other Colonels that could hear their name called include Dy’Shawn Mobley, Ben Madon and Stanley Absanon.

Since 1951, 32 EKU football players have been drafted by NFL teams. The most recent was Antwaun Molden, a third round choice by the Houston Texans in 2008. If Spence is drafted in the first round, he will become the third Colonel to go in the opening round. Defensive end Aaron Jones was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 18th pick in the 1988 draft. Wally Chambers, Eastern’s highest draft pick, was taken by the Chicago Bears with the eighth pick in 1973.

The highest drafted player in Ohio Valley Conference history is Phil Simms, the seventh pick in the 1979 draft. The last OVC player to be taken in the first round was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, picked 16th overall in 2008.

Spence has been projected as high as No. 4 in this year’s draft. He ended his junior season at EKU by being chosen as an All-American by the Associated Press, STATS, Walter Camp Foundation and College Sporting News. He was also chosen as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Defensive Performer of the Year by College Football Performance Awards.

Spence announced in December that he would forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the draft. In January, Spence had an outstanding performance at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

The 6-foot-3 defensive end finished the season ranked fourth nationally in tackles for a loss (2.0/game) and fifth in sacks (1.05/game). Overall the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native had 22.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, the fourth-most in EKU single-season history.

Mobley, a running back from Powell, Tennessee, was a Sports Network All-America selection and the OVC Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 after rushing for 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns. Injuries limited him to nine games and 110 carries in 2015, but he looked healthy during an impressive work out at EKU’s Pro Day in March.

Madon, a tight end from Pineville, Kentucky, was a first team All-OVC selection this past season. He caught 34 passes for a team-best 456 yards in 2015. He also had three touchdown catches. Madon’s 40-yard dash time at EKU’s Pro Day was better than several tight ends invited to the NFL Draft Combine in February.

Absanon, a defensive back from Auburndale, Florida, was a preseason All-OVC choice prior to his senior season in 2015. He had three interceptions, seven pass break-ups and 22 tackles last year. As a kick returner, he averaged 26.2 yards on kickoffs and 9.8 yards on punts. Absanon returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against Valparaiso. In 2014, he was chosen as the FCS Defensive Player of the Week picking off two passes in Eastern’s upset victory over FBS Miami (Ohio).

EKU’s NFL Draft Picks
2008 Antwaun Molden CB 3rd round (79), Houston Texans
2004 Larry Turner C 7th round (238), St. Louis Rams
2003 Yeremiah Bell DB 6th round (213), Miami Dolphins
2001 Alex Bannister WR 5th round (140), Seattle Seahawks
1999 Tyrone Hopson OG 5th round (161), San Francisco 49ers
Rondel Menendez WR 7th round (247), Atlanta Falcons
1997 Tony McCombs LB 6th Round (188), Arizona Cardinals
1996 Jason Dunn TE 2nd round (54), Philadelphia Eagles
1994 Chad Bratzke DE 5th round (155), New York Giants
1992 Tim Lester RB 10th round (255), Los Angeles Rams
1989 Jessie Small LB 2nd round (49), Philadelphia Eagles
Elroy Harris RB 3rd round (71), Seattle Seahawks
Myron Guyton DB 8th round (218), New York Giants
Mike Cadore RB 12th round (327), New Orleans Saints
1988 Aaron Jones DE 1st round (18), Pittsburgh Steelers
Danny Copeland DB 9th round (244), Cleveland Browns
John Jackson OT 10th round (252), Pittsburgh Steelers
1986 Joe Mauntel LB 8th round (219), Los Angeles Raiders
1984 Tron Armstrong WR 5th round (122), New York Jets
1983 Steve Bird WR 5th round (130), St. Louis Cardinals
1982 George Floyd DB 4th round (107), New York Jets
1977 Elmo Boyd WR 3rd round (65), San Francisco 49ers
Roosevelt Kelly C 9th round (244), Pittsburgh Steelers
1976 Junior Hardin NG 10th round (269), New Orleans Saints
1973 Wally Chambers DE 1st round (8), Chicago Bears
1968 Aaron Marsh WR 3rd round (60), Boston Patriots
1957 Tom Schulte DE 22nd round (263), Detroit Lions
1956 John Sebest DE 19th round (229), Detroit Lions
1955 Don Daly RB 17th round (204), Detroit Lions
Bob Mueller FB 19th round (228), Detroit Lions
Karl Bays T 23rd round (266), Chicago Cardinals
1951 Ray Pelfrey WR 17th round (197), Green Bay Packers