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Honest pre-combine debate about the first Hurricane selected in the 2018 NFL Draft

The NFL drafts based on potential, not college output

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The upcoming 2018 NFL Combine and Draft will be here before you know it. The Combine will be held February 27th through March 5th. The Miami Hurricanes have nine players attending the Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Combine is a place for players to show off not only their measurable physiques and skills but also their intangibles and intelligences. Per CBS Sports NFL Draft prospect rankings, the highest rated Hurricanes are defensive end Chad Thomas (68th), defensive tackle RJ McIntosh (71st), and running back Mark Walton (86th). Pre-Combine, here are the two players I see vying for the first drafted player in the Hurricanes’ lot of prospects.

2. RJ McIntosh, defensive tackle

RJ McIntosh is another Hurricane defensive linemen that thrived with the switch from Al Golden’s 3-4 defense to Mark Richt and Manny Diaz’s 4-3 defense. He also thrived under Gus Felder’s strength and conditioning program. McIntosh is 6-5 293 pounds and can play the 3-technique, or defensive tackle, in the NFL. NFL scouts will love his height and his first-step. McIntosh was downright dominant against Notre Dame but where he fell off was against the NFL-caliber offensive lines in Clemson and Wisconsin. That stark drop off will hurt his status, but also it’s really a pass rush game in the NFL.

McIntosh logged 99 tackles under Manny Diaz’s defense with 22 tackles for loss and 5 sacks over 16 games. Felder, Richt and Diaz along with Coach Kuligowski. McIntosh will need the defensive position drills, Pro Agility, and a quick 10 yard dash to impress scouts. Luckily, the Clemson defensive linemen stayed in college and aren’t in the draft or he would’ve fallen into the double-digit defensive tackles in the 2018 NFL Draft.

I think the need in the NFL for edge rushers will give Chad Thomas a better case than McIntosh for being the first Cane off the board.

1. Chad Thomas, defensive end

Chad Thomas was Miami’s last five-star prospect before Lorenzo Lingard signed with the 2018 class. Thomas is a true 4-3 formation defensive end. Thomas is 6 foot 6 and 275 pounds with a solid first step and a passion for football. He was a poor fit in a 3-4 and won’t be in one in the NFL. Once Thomas moved into Manny Diaz’s 4-3, he came alive. Over his last two years, the Booker T Washington High School alumnus logged 78 tackles with 23.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks.

At the Senior Bowl Thomas proved in the practices that he’s an elite player. His hand fighting was improved and that’s a Kuligowski signature. Per the Palm Beach Post, scouts reported he was dominant in practices against other top level seniors. Thomas has to test well in drills like the 40 yard dash (and the 10 yard timing as well) and all of his positional, explosion (vertical and broad jump) and Pro Agility drills just like McIntosh.

I think Thomas will test well, and thus will move himself ahead of RJ McIntosh as teams look for defensive ends that can defend against more athletic quarterbacks in the changing NFL landscape.