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2018 Rookie ProCanes: How They Fit Into Their New Squads

The newest Hurricanes to enter the NFL should make noise despite their unheralded arrival

Miami v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With the draft season hoopla wrapped up for another year the Canes football factory has once again proven itself. Draft weekend saw six Hurricanes go pro, good enough to tie Miami for fourth among all schools. And while Miami lacked any prospects being taken in the first two rounds of the draft, those who were selected in day three figure to make important contributions to the teams lucky enough to have them. Here’s how some of the newest ProCanes figure to fit on their respective rosters.

Chad Thomas, Cleveland Browns

Getty Images photo/ Mike Meredith - State of the U Illustration

The Browns surpassing Bradley Chubb at pick four was one of the bigger surprises of the first round but finding Thomas early in the third round certainly helps alleviate some of the pressure of adding to that pass rush. Cleveland is lacking the necessary depth to have a solid rotation of edge players who can come in and keep their starters fresh while also being effective. Thomas should be able to find a role very quickly on a Cleveland team that needs depth everywhere they can get it. He’s not going to be a big-time sack producer but his versatility and expertise in sealing the edge should make him a fast favorite with the Cleveland faithful.

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

Finding a capable tight end on the Jets’ roster last year was like finding a needle in a haystack. And with the burden of having a new face of the franchise in Sam Darnold, grabbing Herndon as a safety blanket who also has big-play potential should help the Jets greatly. For Herndon, he’ll be in a situation where he’ll compete with other young tight ends to grab the starting job, a situation that should bring out the best in him provided he’s healthy for training camp. While still needing improvement as a blocker, Herndon’s ability as a “move” tight end, who can function just as well in the slot as on the line, figures to give the Jets’ offense a boost.

Mark Walton, Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon better watch his back. While the Bengal’s second round pick last year was good enough in his rookie season, he was somewhat uninspiring. Enter Walton, who should immediately push Mixon and, if the competition is fair and like Herndon he returns well from injury, Walton could see time as the starter. In his three years at Coral Gables, Walton displayed all the necessary traits for a number one back; vision, speed, agility, power and receiving ability. On the field, Walton is going to have to continue improving his pass blocking technique and be a little more patient when working north-south. As long as he recovers from that broken ankle, the Bengals will have found themselves a steal in the fourth round.

R.J. McIntosh, New York Giants

A year ago, in the Giants’ 4-3 scheme, this might have been an even better fit. But switching to a base 3-4 could mean that the athletic but anchor-lacking McIntosh probably won’t get on the field in base sets right away. However, he could make a name for himself on third downs and in nickel and dime defenses. The Giants don’t have a pass-rushing threat on the interior and with the trio of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie B.J. Hill, they could use McIntosh’s juice on obvious passing situations. McIntosh’s athletic ability should get him on the field sooner rather than later but if he’s going to have a permanent spot on the Giants’ interior rotation, he’s going to have to continue getting better with using his hands to counter offensive lineman and get to the quarterback.

Braxton Berrios, New England Patriots

Braxton Berrios

The Patriots drafted Berrios because of course they did. They can’t get enough of their white slot receivers up in Foxborough. Berrios might have the best situation of any of the day three Canes; he gets to learn from Tom Brady and Julian Edelman and will likely be the heir apparent in the all-important slot position for the Pats. Berrios’ toughness and special teams acumen should immediately appeal to former-special teams coach Bill Belichick in Berrios’ drive to both learn a new offense and earn playing time. While Berrios is limited to a slot role, his unquestioned ability in that role should allow him to have a lengthy NFL career as a chains-mover.

Kendrick Norton, Carolina Panthers

Kendrick Norton

Last but not least, Norton finds himself on a Panther’s roster that needs depth at the 1-tech spot in their 4-3 defense. Norton will be in competition with former first round pick Vernon Butler, who has thus far failed to live up to his early-round selection. While Norton has the anchor and athletic ability to be a real contributor in the Carolina rotation, fighting a former first rounder for playing time won’t be easy. Like it or not, teams will be inclined to lean with their higher drafted players even if Norton has the better showing in training camp and preseason. Norton may not beat out Butler as a rookie but his progression down the line could very well lead to him replacing the Louisiana Tech product in 2019.

Good luck to the newest ProCanes!