As we creep closer to the draft, the Hurricanes' draft prospects have had their stocks rising, falling, or remaining relatively stagnant. We know what these guys can do...but on Saturdays. The NFL is an entirely different game. Now that we are a month after the NFL Combine and getting closer to Miami's Pro Day on April 1, I was able to speak to Mel Kiper, Jr. and gauge whether people were either heating or cooling on players. And with all this talent...
"Duke is obviously a really talented player, but he tries to play bigger than he is. And there are durability concerns with him. I see him as a situation number two (running) back early on. You need to be getting the ball to him in space outside the box and utilize his running skills. DO NOT overuse him, get him 10-12 carries a game and allow him to make an impact that way. He is not able to be a number one (running) back just yet, but will be a good accent piece. Guys his size shouldn't be running too much inside, but he shows a lot of toughness. I see him going somewhere in the 4th round."
In case you want to know what a projected fourth round pick and all-time leading rusher at Miami looks like...
"He is just a mauler, I love the way he plays with intensity. He is rugged and he finishes. Technique wise, he needs some work with his hands and his footwork, but he does bend well. He will be a right tackle in the league, and with good coaching he can be a top ten tackle in the league. But he is just a nasty player, he moves well and has decent feet. I think he will be taken somewhere in the first (round), between picks 18-32."
"Denzel is a good football player. He is not the physical prototype at linebacker but is strong and very instinctive. He does play faster than he ran at the combine. Needs to run a good time at his pro day. To me, he needs to be protected by the lineman. He doesn't have the physical prowess to be taking on 330 pound guards for his entire career. He'll probably be a second round pick."
"Here is a guy that didn't test well but had a decent senior week, got a lot of praise down there. He is actually a guy that can be a number two corner in the league. He is a big and physical guy, someone teams are really looking for. I love the way he runs and turns, and has good ball skills. Based on the combine, I can see him going somewhere between rounds four and six."
"He is a hard-working guy and a good motor but he needs more moves. He tested well at the combine and has good bloodlines. Projects as a rotational, blue collar-type guy at the next level, probably going in rounds four or five."
Jon Feliciano/Shane McDermott
"This kid has a chance to make something of himself. He and (Shane) McDermott have a chance. Feliciano could start on the right team. He is an overachiever and has excellent versatility. He can play either guard and has worked plenty at tackle. That will serve him well and he will be very valuable because he is so versatile. McDermott will have to perform well at the Miami Pro Day. Will be drafted in the late rounds or signed in free agency. Both will definitely play in the NFL."
"There isn't much not to like about him. He would probably be compared best to T.Y. Hilton in terms of size. He's been playing a lot more consistent and tested very well at the combine. He's a great kid, great character, hard worker, and well respected. There is definitely late first round consideration for Dorsett, it would honestly be a shocker for me if he leaves the first round. Will probably be taken somewhere between picks 30-45."
"Clive presents a nice target for his quarterback - has great physical tools. He can produce deep and over the middle for you and is a willing blocker. Also really good after the catch. He is another case where he plays better than he tested and is one of the most, if not the most complete tight end in the draft. Probably will be no worse than a third round pick."
"There isn't too much on him right now. Has a chance to get drafted is he performs well at Miami's Pro Day. In the seventh round-undrafted free agent range."
And of course, I had to take this opportunity to ask Mel if he could open up and throw more salt in this old, unforgiving wound.
With so much potential NFL talent that was on this roster, how exactly did a team like this finish with a 6-7 record?
"Well Miami was a little set back with a freshman QB, but he is going to be an outstanding player. That (Tallahassee team) game killed them. If they had one that game, they wouldn't have lost the remaining games on the schedule. That game just ruined the rest of their season. I'm not too sure if it was a leadership issue with the team or not, but personally, I wouldn't buy that because of the guys Miami had. After the loss, guys may have been thinking of the Draft early. The wheels just came off with a freshman QB and guys probably going pro. Just to see the way they finished was disappointing because the talent was there. Everyone (every prospect) was going to the NFL, the whole team is filled with NFL players. At one point it looked like they could have three potential first rounders in the upcoming Draft, now its looking like there will be one taken in the first round and a couple in the second round."
What type of NFL futures do you see in returning players?
"I haven't done too much scouting for next year's draft, I'll get to that sometime after this draft and will focus on more kids in July or August. But I do like what I've seen from Kaaya. He's a good kid, I like his arm and I like the way he goes about his business."
After reviewing the interview and looking at what Mel had to say, it was all fairly accurate and reasonable, bias aside. Yes, we all think Duke Johnson is more worthy of a fourth round pick, and maybe Dorsett being drafted in the first may be a bit of a reach...ok, a lot of a reach...but this is actually what teams around the league feel about some of these players. Whichever team drafts Duke after the second round is getting a steal. In Perryman's and Walford's case, a second or third round grade seems reasonable, especially after disappointing 40 times at the combine. However, Kiper, Jr. did acknowledge how many of these players play better than they test. They also will have something to prove at their Pro Day. This draft class for the Canes is one of the best in the last decade. Almost all of these young men will be playing on Sundays and even have important roles for whoever picks them. Despite underachieving for the better part of a decade, Miami still continues to be a portal to the NFL. There's a reason why they all still call it "NFLU." And with all this talent...
The Canes will hold their Pro Day at 10:30 a.m. at the Greentree Practice Fields. The NFL Draft will take place in Chicago at the Auditorium Theater from April 30 to May 2. Below is a list of all players participating in the Pro Day:
TE Raphael Akpejiori
LB Thurston Armbrister
DE Anthony Chickillo
DB Hugo Delapenha
WR Phillip Dorsett
OL Jon Feliciano
S Nantambu-Akil Fentress
OL Ereck Flowers
DB Ladarius Gunter
QB Jake Heaps
RB Duke Johnson
OL Shane McDermott
LB Denzel Perryman
DL Olsen Pierre
TE Clive Walford
QB Ryan Williams