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2021 NFL Draft Should Put the Canes Back On the Clock

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Although previous NFL drafts have been anti-climactic for Hurricanes prospects, 2021’s crop of Canes should pique the interest of NFL Teams

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Miami Hurricanes football program has routinely produced some of the top NFL talent and continues to leave its mark in the NFL on an annual basis when alumnus hear their name at the NFL Draft. Notably, in the past few decades, it has become the norm to spot a slew of Canes alumnus competing on Sundays. In their proverbial rite of passage into the NFL, many of the NFL Canes were viewed as the cream of the crop at the college level and were drafted in the first round.

The NFL Canes presence remains evident as there are currently 47 Miami Hurricanes alumni on a team roster as of May 9, 2020, including seasoned veterans like Frank Gore, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, and Calais Campbell. However, in the past decade, there has been a significant decline in NFL General Managers’ willingness to utilize their First Round Draft Capital on a Cane. In particular, after 2008 there have only been four Hurricanes total drafted in the first round.

To provide a direct juxtaposition, the Hurricanes still hold the all-time record for most consecutive years of having a player drafted in the first round when the program witnessed at least one alumni go in the First Round for 14 years, spanning from 1995-2008. To date, that includes 30 first round Canes drafted since 2000, trailing only Alabama and Ohio State who have 31 first round draftees in the same time frame. In addition, the Canes had a whopping 19 first rounders from Miami between 2001 to 2004 – including a record six picks that went in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. While there is no perfect correlation to first round-picks and touchdowns scored on Sundays, the success continued in the actual games as the Miami Hurricanes’ alumni set an astounding record of 149 consecutive weeks of scoring a touchdown in an NFL game from 2002 to 2011.

Fast forward to present date where the reality of the Hurricanes recent struggles on Saturday has been reflected in the past three NFL Drafts. In the 2018 through 2020 drafts, there has not been a Miami player drafted until the third round. The humility was on full display in this year’s draft when Shaquille Quarterman was selected 140th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the first Hurricane drafted, which came AFTER UFlorida, FSU, UCF, FIU, and FAU all had players selected.

Needless to say, the first night of the past decade of NFL Draft’s has been a disappointing and downright non-existent experience for those alumni hoping to have their name called. And even though the NFL Draft is still 11 months away and mock drafts are often subject to significant turbulence as the draft process progresses, there is plenty to look forward to for the crop of Canes eligible to declare for the draft, which includes several prospects that could hear their name heard not only on the opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft, but within the top 10 picks. These include DE Greg Rousseau, TE Brevin Jordan, QB D’Eriq King, and DE Quincy Roche, and a number of dark horses that have the potential to move up the big board as the arduous draft process unfolds.

Defensive End Greg Rousseau:

The favorite of the Canes prospects to have their name heard first is the sack machine, Greg Rousseau. In many of the way too early 2021 NFL Drafts, the Redshirt Sophomore is projected to be selected in the top 10 and could definitely be scooped up in the top 3 selections. The pass rush specialist finished the 2019 campaign with 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. The Canes defense lost much of its front seven, including NFL draftees Quarterman and Jonathan Garvin, as well as defensive lineman Trevon Hill. However, Rousseau should benefit from a transfer addition on the opposite end of the line who could also hear his name on the draft’s opening night, Quincy Roche.

Tight End Brevin Jordan:

The Miami Hurricanes have produced some of best quality at the tight end position to the NFL and Jordan is no exception. Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow II, Bubba Franks, David Njoku, and Chris Herndon were all exciting prospects entering the NFL and Jordan should indubitably continue that tradition. Listed at 6’3” and 235 pounds, Jordan is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top pass-catching tight ends. This year, Jordan should standout as a result of a strong tight end duo that includes Junior, Will Mallory.

Quarterback D’Eriq King:

Head Coach Manny Diaz has been a frequent operator of the transfer portal and that is no different this year with the addition of Houston’s D’Eriq King. King has largely benefited from comparisons to the 2019 first overall pick and Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Kyler Murray, based on his small stature, as well as his unmatched ability to navigate a pocket, good arm strength, and top notch decision-making ability. Miami quarterbacks have struggled in recent years, but a bolstered offensive line including freshmen Issiah Walker and Jalen Rivers should assist King in lifting his draft stock. According to odds sources, King is listed as the fourth most likely prospect to be picked first overall in the 2021 draft at +1600, and also is an odds favorite to compete for the Heisman trophy.

Defensive End Quincy Roche:

Another transfer, Roche, also has the potential to be picked in the upper echelon of the 2021 NFL Draft. Similar to how Jonathan Greenard transferred from Louisville to Florida and helped present an imposing defensive line with Jabari Zuniga last year in Gainesville, Roche should be able to come in right away and offer Miami one of the most stout pass rushes in the nation alongside Rousseau.

Best of the Rest:

DE Jaelan Philips: Phillips was widely regarded as one of the top prospects coming out of high school and ultimately enrolled at UCLA. However, Phillips’ production has been limited as a result of injuries. If he can stay healthy, his draft stock could catapult. Rousseau and Roche would certainly welcome his prowess to an already potent defensive line.

LB Zach McCloud: McCloud’s production could also skyrocket as a result of Miami’s imposing front seven.

OL Corey Gaynor or Navaughn Donaldson: The offensive line has been a weak spot in recent years. But, with additions across the line, these two players could see their name called earlier than currently expected in the 2021 Draft.

NFL scouts and draft analysts alike will undoubtedly be watching the Canes closely over the next eleven months as the top tier talents hope to hear Roger Gooddell say their name next April. With any luck, there will be multiple selections out of the U. And, with any luck, the Canes can start another long streak of landing alumni in the first round of this next decades’ drafts. Regardless, it appears the Miami Hurricanes presence in the NFL will continue, and the 2021 draftees could be a sparkplug to keeping it that way for many years to come.