We’re just days away from the next batch of Hurricanes graduating to the NFL. The 2019 NFL Draft is set to begin Thursday, with the league using the capital of country — Nashville, Tennessee — as the backdrop. While the debate over the billboard merits of Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road continue, the projection for Miami’s draft class remains in question. Will Joe Jackson be a day one or day two selection? What’s the ceiling for Gerald Willis III? What round will UM’s pair of safeties find themselves selected in? I don’t have all the answers, so I turned to a pair of gentlemen who could help.
On Monday, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay held their final conference call ahead of the draft. The duo fielded questions from multiple media outlets over the course of the hour-and-a-half call.
Let’s start with what Mel Kiper Jr. had to say about the Hurricanes. In his most recent three-round mock draft, the pundit had Gerald Willis III being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round. Kiper raved about Willis’ as a prospect.
“You just pencil him in and put him in a starting line up. That’s what he’s going to be a starting, I don’t know about pro bowl caliber.He’s right there with the second tier of defensive tackles, who’ll go in the second round of the draft at worst the early third. I love his leverage, I love his technique [I love the way] he can get down the line, I love his hands. I think he’s a guy who could be a little bit underrated, when you look 3 or 4 years from now he may be an underrated prospect coming out of this draft.”
Todd McShay backed the superlatives, stating that he has Willis as a late first to early second round talent. However, because a bulk of Willis’ production occured in his senior season at Miami, teams are approaching the player with caution. As mentioned in a previous article, the support by Miami’s coaching staff has helped ease any concerns regarding Willis’ character.
“He had the issues off the field, but you talk to the people at Miami and they kinda swear by his maturity and how much he’s grown. And if you’re just studying the tape, physically he’s a late first, early second-round talent. Now he may get to the third based on concerns with one big year, but I would absolutely agree that he’s their best talent among Miami prospects this year.”
The next name that both analysts are high on is DE Joe Jackson. McShay currently has Joe Jackson as his 19th best defender, placing a third round grade on Miami’s 2018 sack leader. McShay continued, stating that although Jackson is a good player within this edge rushing class, there are other players who are just as good, if not better at the position available. Jackson’s third-round projection will surely be met with criticism by UM fans who believe that most of their players should be pegged as first round talent .
“I think he’s going to be a mid-round pick, third [or] fourth round range. Good player. solid player. He’s not up there with the elite guys in this class, and obviously it is a very deep class. Anytime you have a third round grade on Joe Jackson and he’s the 19th best defensive lineman, you know it’s a good group.”
Kiper also believes that Jackson will be a day two selection draft weekend, remarking “Joe Jackson has the chance to be a third rounder coming off the edge.”
The surprise of Miami’s draft class has to be Michael Jackson Sr. With a blazing 4.45 second time in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, Jackson caught McShay off-guard.
“I didn’t think he was going to run as fast as he did. That was a good time. 6’1” almost 200 pounds, he ran a 4.45 and he’s a good player. I think he’s gonna [end] up being a fourth or fifth round draft pick.”
In recent weeks, MJ’s name has come up during the conference as a player teams could be angling for in the middle rounds. For his part, McShay projects Jackson as a 4th or 5th round selection.
Taking a break from the defense, they also talked about a certain running back. Travis Homer received some praise when his name came up. Kiper likes Homer’s potential, applauding his performance at the scouting combine along with his attributes like catching the ball out of the backfield. A more blunt McShay considers Homer a third-tier running back that could go in the 5th or 6th round.
Finally, we come to the safety duo that helped secure the back half of Miami’s defense the past two seasons. Both Kiper and McShay echoed similar opinions on Jaquan Johnson: A player who has great film, yet underwhelms in terms of measurables. Sheldrick Redwine continues to be praised regarding his versatility. Kiper noted that Redwine “Got some versatility, I think he in the right system could be a day three pick as well.” Todd McShay sees Redwine as a prospect that has excelled throughout the draft process.
“A little bit bigger [than Jaquan Johnson] and worked out better. On tape I thought Johnson was the better football player, but from a workout standpoint, Redwine at 6’0 196 lbs. running a 4.44 it’s going to be a little bit more intriguing to a defensive back coach trying to develop guys.”
Some teams see Redwine as a corner or safety, which helps to elevate his draft stock. The safety pair are considered to be day three picks by both analysts.
It was an informative and interesting call to say the least. The praise and respect for talent from Miami remains. In the aftermath of Sports Illustrated’s glowing article about Miami’s record-setting ‘04 draft, it’s impossible for the 2019 class to emerge from the shadows of history. What this class lacks in early round projections, it makes up for in potential. While not getting the most out of talent potential in the sport of football will get coaches and front office personnel fired, for prospective player, it could be the ticket to achieving a lifelong dream. Considering their contributions to such a proud program, you can understand why Hurricanes fans want to see some of their own rewarded for their work and sacrifice.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!