Since the college football season ended for the Miami Hurricanes in heartbreaking fashion, six players have gone from showcase games to the NFL Combine and pro days in hopes of seeing their NFL dreams recognized during the course of the NFL Draft.
This list of prospects include three secondary pieces (Michael Jackson, Sheldrick Redwine, Jaquan Johnson) that helped turn the Hurricanes defensive backfield into one of the nation’s best, two defensive linemen (Joe Jackson and Gerald Willis III) who combined for 32.5 tackles for loss and Travis Homer, one of the conference’s best running backs over his two years of starting experience.
Before the NFL Draft, Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller put out his final 7-round mock draft of the year, which saw five of these six players picked beginning in round three.
Round 3, Pick 81: Minnesota Vikings select EDGE Joe Jackson
Playing alongside Willis on the Hurricanes defensive line that caused terrors for opposing defenses, Joe Jackson declared early as a junior after compiling nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
Ranked 12th among EDGE rushers, Matt Miller gave Jackson a round three grade in his NFL Draft 400 scouting reports, comparing him to Calvin Pace, who spent most of his career with the New York Jets. Miller also said that Jackson best projects as a 4-3 defensive end, which is expected.
Mike Zimmer employs a base 4-3 defense in Minnesota and Jackson, as Miller projects, best projects as an end with his hand in the dirt. Personnel-wise, the Vikings lack rotational rushers behind Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen and Jackson would provide exactly that for the Vikings, especially as a power rusher on passing downs.
Round 4, Pick 116: Miami Dolphins select DT Gerald Willis III
A transfer from Florida, Gerald Willis transformed the Hurricanes defense to one of the nation’s best and most dominant. Over the course of the season, Willis led the ‘Canes with 18 tackles for loss while adding four sacks.
In his NFL Draft 400 scouting reports, Miller had Willis listed as a mid-round prospect and compared him to current Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who has 10.5 sacks in his six-year career that began with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“As a 3-technique prospect, he’s intriguing as a middle-round prospect who could hit and become a starter of at least contribute as a rotational pass-rusher,” Miller said about Willis’ NFL potential.
The Dolphins are a perfect place for Willis. After firing Adam Gase for former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, the Dolphins will likely play a lot of both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes. In the 4 defensive linemen scheme, Willis will have a chance to start alongside Davon Godchaux on the rebuilding Miami Dolphins defensive line.
Round 5, Pick 139: Arizona Cardinals select CB Michael Jackson
Over the last two seasons, Michael Jackson turned into a shutdown cornerback capable of shutting down almost any wide receiver in college football. This transformation helped Jackson climb draft boards and after a Shrine Game invite during the NFL Draft process, Jackson has the chance to compete in the NFL.
Despite a strong combine that saw Jackson run a 4.45 40-yard dash, Miller says his lack of awareness and coverage skills could hurt his stock among NFL teams. Miller gave Jackson a round 5 and backup grade.
If Jackson goes to Arizona, the lengthy cornerback would provide depth for a defense that might lose one of the league’s best in Patrick Peterson. If Peterson isn’t traded, Jackson will provide quality depth behind Peterson and the recently signed Robert Alford, who will likely start alongside Peterson on the boundaries.
Round 5, Pick 144: Cleveland Browns select S Jaquan Johnson
Over the course of his college career, Jaquan Johnson was a leader of the Hurricanes secondary. In 2018, Johnson finished the season with 92 total tackles and two interceptions and earned All-ACC Second Team honors.
Miller ranked Johnson as the 12th best safety, comparing him to current Detroit Lion Quandre Diggs, who has six interceptions over the course of his NFL career that began in 2015.. Miller projects Johnson as a quality backup and gave him a fourth round grade.
Even though Miller projects Johnson as a backup, Johnson probably has the best ceiling compared to any of the Hurricanes defensive backs going to the NFL Draft because of his ability to play special teams at a high level.
After the Browns traded safety Jabrill Peppers to the New York, Johnson would get a strong chance to compete for immediate playing time for a secondary room that lacks quality depth behind Morgan Burnett and Demarious Randle.
Johnson would also join a Cleveland Browns football team that already has former Hurricanes like Chad Thomas (DE), David Njoku, Duke Johnson and Oliver Vernon on their active roster.
Round 6, Pick 188: Tennessee Titans select CB Sheldrick Redwine
Even though Redwine played most of his college career as a safety, Redwine’s best shot to make it is as an NFL player is at cornerback.
Miller cites that Redwine has the athleticism and frame to go back to cornerback, which is likely a more natural position for Redwine. As a cornerback, Redwine is ranked 20th by Miller with a fourth round and quality backup grade.
While Tennessee is already deep at safety with Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro, the cornerbacks look like they could use rotational pieces like Redwine. Redwine would get a chance to earn one of the main backup spots behind Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson.
UNDRAFTED: RB Travis Homer
After Mark Walton went down in 2017 with an injury, Travis Homer stepped in and showed out. In 2017, Homer ran for 966 yards and eight touchdowns while adding another 212 yards through the air. In 2018, Homer took a step back but still helped improve his NFL stock despite a small frame.
At the NFL level, Homer is likely a backup running back who will get snaps early because of his ability to pass protect and his special teams prowess. Miller compared Homer to Minnesota Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah, who has made an impressive career out of being a backup.
Homer is a surprise in this mock draft. After a strong NFL Combine that saw Homer post a relative athletic score of 8.37, Homer will likely get late day 3 consideration and will more than likely get drafted to a team that is looking for depth in the backfield.