After an NFL Draft which included six players from the University of Miami crossing over to the professional stage, the expectations for 2019 are already high for five players thanks to a successful 2017 under head coach Mark Richt and predictions already being made before a ball is snapped. Monday morning, Bleacher Report reporter Mat Miller published a list featuring the top prospects of the 2019 NFL Draft, a super early prediction of the talent that will make it, but one that awakened the Miami Hurricane community when the list featured five players from The U’s returning roster for 2018. Most of his Miami picks were from the defensive side including Shaquille Quarterman, Jaquan Johnson, Michael and Joe Jackson, Ahmmon Richards was also listed as an offensive top prospect for the Draft next year. While this may still be a prediction that protrudes to if these players can stay healthy throughout the season, it’s pretty clear that Miami will have yet another year of talent to reload with especially on defense. Listed below are what the five players have achieved in 2017 and how what skills they possess to be top NFL Draft prospects.
Jaquan Johnson (S)
There’s a reason why this turnover chain champion is being recognized as number two in Miller’s Top 10 draft prospects for Safeties. Jaquan Johnson has been a critical player on this dynamic Miami defense. Last year alone he earned 54 tackles, 4 interceptions, and two fumble recoveries, but then there are moments of athleticism in games like when he caught an interception one-handed against Virginia Tech. Even if a receiver makes a catch, Johnson is capable of stopping the play for shorter yardage.
Michael Jackson (CB)
Although it would be pretty cool to see the ghost of Michael Jackson moonwalking on the football field, this is obviously not the King of Pop rocking a U helmet. Jackson is a shutdown corner and a threat in the air if you’re a quarterback, and there’s nothing more beautifully disrespectful than him catching an interception against Florida State. With his junior year including a hefty 39 tackles and 4 interceptions, there’s a reason why this senior cornerback is recommended on Miller ’s list as #20 overall as well as number #4 in the top cornerback’s list.
Ahmmon Richards (WR)
If Richards’ deep catches don’t make him #6 on Matt’s Top Wide Receivers list, then the block against AJ Westbrook should. This reciever ’s freshman years has a plethora of highlights that comes to memory, but yet that was only a foreshadowing of how much of a threat he was last year. Ahmmon can take short catches but really shines when the ball goes deep. He’s been able to make plays in the slimmest conditions and has a healthy habit of hurdling defenders, though he had a few injuries during the season. He has the athleticism and agility to score touchdowns, but can also take a hit, his versatility is that deep. With over 400 yards and three touchdowns achieved last year Richards’ 2017 season and personal battle to play hard after injuries only lead to one that may be his last if he’s both healthy and productive on the Hurricane’s offense.
Joe Jackson (DE)
On Miller’s list is yet another talent that is literally a part of Mark Richt’s Jackson three on defense. Joe Jackson is a defensive lineman that will literally steer offensive lineman towards their QB for a sack. He also knows how to block holes for backs and also find opportunities to get closer and either cause disruption in the opposing offense or to stop a play. During the 2017 season, the defensive end averaged11.5 tackles for loss and even had a forced fumble as well, not to mention the 35 solo tackles he’s made. Jackson was listed as #3 on the Top Edge Rushers list.
Shaquille Quarterman (LB)
From Ray Lewis to Jonathan Vilma, the University of Miami has developed a plethora of linebackers that have made a major impact as NFL players. Currently, it seems like Shaquille Quarterman will be the next generation of NFL defensive talent to make the 2019 Draft if his numbers look as good as they did for the last two seasons. He is listed as the fifth best linebacker eligible next year, making him a young addition (and possibly leadership) on an NFL defense. Quarterman is mobile enough to chase down QB’s, running backs, sometimes even receivers. However, he can still make plays inside the trenches as the U’s inside linebacker, which seems to be a consistent trend in Miami ’s talent. In the 2017 season the linebacker had 46 tackles, averaged 2.5 sacks, and also had a forced fumble recovery as a member of the Hurricane defense. Quarterman has stated before that he wanted to be up there with the linebackers who once ruled the defense in yesteryears, and being recognized as a top prospect shows that he could leave be drafted like them.