Months ago, they were just walking through the Hecht Athletic Center, putting in work at Greentree Practice Field. This weekend, 12 University of Miami Hurricane football alumni will become certified ProCanes. Thursday serves as the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft that will take place live in Dallas, Texas. If you haven’t followed all the draft chatter and multitude of mock drafts, State of the U has you covered.
It would be a surprise at this point to hear a familiar UM’s name being called on the first day of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The only certainty in the entire draft is that, over the course of the next three days, fans, draft analysts and teams know where and when the draft will be happening, with the remainder of the weekend shrouded in mystery.
NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks describes this draft as one that will be “a very, very wild ride when it comes to Draft night, particularly the first night.” The headliner for the weekend will be what quarterbacks go where or how many are selected in the first round, and the domino effect that will have on the remainder of the draft.
A majority of UM’s draft prospects should be receiving a phone call from one of 32 NFL clubs before seeing their name scroll across TV sets and apps in the following moments.
2018 NFL Draft Prospects
Hurricanes Draft History
Since 2015, the Hurricanes have produced four first round draft picks: Ereck Flowers & Phillip Dorsett (2015), Artie Burns (2016), and David Njoku (2017). The Hurricanes also have three straight first round selections dating back to 2015 as well.
“According to ESPN’s Stats & Information research, Miami is the only school in history to have four defensive linemen taken in the top three rounds of the same draft when Cortez Kennedy was selected in the first round of the 1990 draft and Jimmie Jones, Willis Peguese and Greg Mark all went in the third round that year.”
Since Edgerrin James was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 and Willis McGahee was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2003, no Hurricane running back has been selected in the first round. The highest selection since then among running backs is 2005 when Frank Gore was selected in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cleveland Browns have drafted the more Hurricanes than any other franchise. Selecting eight players since the 2000 NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers have drafted six players
Miami Dolphins have drafted three players
Indianapolis Colts have drafted three players
Oakland Raiders have drafted five players
11 Miami tight ends have been drafted into the NFL since 2000.
Bubba Franks (2000)
Mondriel Fulcher (2000)
Jeremy Shockey (2002)
Kellen Winslow Jr. (2004)
Kevin Everett (2005)
Greg Olsen (2007)
Jimmy Graham (2010)
Dedrick Epps (2010)
Richard Gordon (2011)
Clive Walford (2015)
David Njoku (2017)
Questions Entering the Weekend
Who’s Going to Be the First Hurricane to Hear Their Name Called?
I believe the three top candidates to be drafted first among UM prospects will be RB Mark Walton, DE Chad Thomas and TE Chris Herndon. The running back group is fairly deep this year, with Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice being the two RBs likely to be selected in the first round.
In regards to Chad Thomas, here are some more thoughts from Mr. Mayock. “The edge thing is tough this year. Last year we set a record for edge guys drafted in the first three rounds. This year, the edge conversation is really kind of difficult.” Thomas has everything a team could want in a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. The only hiccup in his resume is sack production, which some teams put a heavy emphasis on in their evaluations.
Like Thomas, most of Herndon’s numbers came in his final two years at the U, not becoming a feature until his senior year. Poor quarterback play aside, analysts have started to float the idea of Herndon being a second round pick with a high ceiling for potential and a low floor in terms of being a bust. Because having an offense with a versatile tight end is now mandatory for any NFL team, let’s project Herndon to follow in the steps of David Njoku once more—not in the first round mind you, but to be the first Hurricane to come off the board this weekend.
Which player will have the best NFL career?
This question can be broken down in a few ways. If we’re talking about the career that has the most longevity, the answer could be K Michael Badgley. Kickers tend to stick around the league as long as they’re making field goals and when called upon.
In regards to a non-special team member, it’s not difficult to imagine Chad Thomas enjoying an illustrious career that spans somewhere close to a decade.
How many ’Canes will be drafted this weekend?
Of the 12 possible prospects that are University of Miami alums, there should be around eight or nine players selected in the coming days. Given the perception that this draft is low on quality edge-rushers, there is a good shot for edge-rusher Trent Harris to get a shot on day three when rounds four to seven occur.
G Trevor Darling, K Michael Badgley and DT Anthony Moten will be priority free agents once the draft has concluded. This means they’ll be free to sign with whichever teammate is interested—hopefully in a situation that offers an ideal path to making the 53-man opening day roster.
After the draft has concluded, do you think RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton will regret leaving early based on where they’re selected?
When all the names were revealed for this class, there was an honest thought that the answer should be DT RJ McIntosh. He received the highest grade of any Hurricane entering the draft, and was the Defensive MVP for Miami last season. After sitting in on a conference call with NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock, the draft prognosticator places a premium on interior pass-rushers, which falls in line with a trend of having a interior rush to combat quick strike offenses. Mayock goes on to say that teams are looking for not just edge-rushers who can collapse the pocket, but defensive tackles who can immediately get in the face of the quarterback. While Mayock describes the 2018 defensive tackle class as not great, he does insist that there are some value picks to be had. I consider McIntosh and Norton some of those value picks.
Both of Miami’s former starting defensive tackles bet on themselves by declaring for the draft after the ‘17 season. Entering the draft as a junior and not being a top 100 selection may make the decision appear regrettable, but if you’re getting paid handsomely to make a living in a game that you’ve been playing since a kid, is it really that bad? Of course, a couple more zeroes at the end of a game check never hurts. More importantly, the Hurricanes would have been absolutely loaded on the defensive interior that start with the returning duo, followed by any combination of Gerald Willis III, Jon Ford, Pat Bethal or the incoming Nesta Silvera! Yet that projected lineup was not in the cards. That said, the ultimate judgement for the law firm of McIntosh and Norton will boil down to how successful their pro careers turnout.
What are some of your best team fits for some of the ’Canes prospects?
State of the U’s own Derek Acosta wrote an excellent article that projected the future homes for most of this 2018 draft class. Fellow SOTU contributor Craig T. Smith noted his own projections along with round projections for each. There are plenty of teams that are in the market for what UM has to offer in this class. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, and Seattle Seahawks are teams looking to revamp their defensive line. And there are plenty of franchises that could use a starting or flex tight end, which is great news for Chris Herndon.
The most difficult UM prospect to project this year has been RB Mark Walton. Destinations such as the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers make sense. Noted as one of the more underrated prospect in the entire draft, the intrigue in this draft will be whether teams view Walton as a potential starter or a complimentary back. Drawing wide-ranging comparisons, from Devonta Freeman to Dion Lewis, Walton has the potential to find a role in any offense.
In what round will Bill Belichick and the Patriots select Braxton Berrios?
The Patriots have taken chances on wide receivers after the first day of the draft over the past decade. WR Julian Edelman, a player who Berrios has been compared to frequently, was a seventh round selection in the 2009 draft. While most NFL offensives put more stock in their outside receivers (e.g., Julio Jones, AJ Green, Adam Thielen), New England invests in inside/slot receivers such as Edelman, Amendola (now with the Miami Dolphins) and perhaps with Berrios.
The catch is that New England has two first round selections, two second round selections, one third and then no picks until the sixth round. If Berrios is projected to go in the third round, a reunion with fellow ProCane WR Phillip Dorsett in Foxborough, Massachusetts, may not happen. Berrios could be in play for a team on the west coast, such as the Raiders or Cardinals. The Hurricanes to be picked by Belichick’s crew were S Brandon Meriweather and DT Kareem Brown in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Before the clock starts
Going to the NFL (for most prospects) means they’ll being moving to a new location; however, it has almost become a tradition for University of Miami players to stay in-state. Whether it’s with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the team up the road in the Miami Dolphins, a few ’Canes could continue their football careers in the Sunshine State.
The Dolphins have the most ProCanes among the Sunshine State NFL Franchises with WR Malcolm Lewis, WR Rashawn Scott, CB Tracy Howard and RB Frank Gore on the roster.
What are some your guesses for the weekend? Who do you feel are some of the best fits for ’Canes prospects will be? Which player do you think will make an immediate impact, regardless of situation? As always let us know!
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!