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The 2021 NFL Draft Puts Miami Back On The Clock. That Trend Needs to Continue.

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In Recent Years, the Draft has been relatively disappointing... Can the 2021 Draft Success Serve as a Sparkplug in Rejuvenating NFL Placement and for the Program in General?

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Gregory Rousseau Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In all likelihood, the Miami Hurricanes will have five players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, or, at the least, picked up as a priority undrafted free agent. Better yet, two Canes, Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips, should have their name called during the first round; the third EDGE defender, Quincy Roche, could be taken as early as day two; another, Brevin Jordan, could be one of the first tight ends taken; and the kicker, Jose Borregales, should be the first specialist selected. All of this signals positive cultural changes for the direction of the U - but that must continue in the coming years to get the U “back”.

Data compiled using Pro-Football-Reference.com, created by Manny Navarro of The Athletic
Manny Navarro, The Athletic
Data compiled using Pro-Football-Reference.com, created by Manny Navarro, The Athletic
Manny Navarro, The Athletic
GRAPHS: Data compiled using Pro-Football-Reference.com, created by Manny Navarro, The Athletic, indicates how Draft Day success has slowed since 1979.

It is no secret the Miami Hurricanes’ history of success at the NFL level is plentiful: the program still holds the all-time record for most consecutive years of having a player drafted in the first round - at least one alumni was selected in the First Round for 14 years, spanning from 1995-2008. Further, 30 first round Canes have been 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.

However, to provide a direct juxtaposition, the reality of the Hurricanes recent struggles on Saturdays has been reflected in the past three NFL Drafts. In the 2018 through 2020 drafts, no Cane was drafted until the third round. The rock bottom of the realities of Miami on draft day was on full display in the 2020 draft when Shaquille Quarterman was selected 140th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars - the first Hurricane drafted, which came AFTER University of Florida, FSU, UCF, FIU, and FAU all had players selected. Further, after 2008, there have only been four Hurricanes drafted in the first round.

In spite of the recent lull, the 2021 NFL Draft has, and will, put the Miami Hurricanes back on the clock. As the Miami program continues to rebuild and reload, many student-athletes will look at how many of their predecessors make the NFL when making their final decision. That is, seeing recent NFL success from Canes’ alum should help create the product on Saturdays (and, vice versa, the product on Saturday leads to NFL success).

This year’s class is highlighted by the tenacious trio of EDGE defenders - a position that includes a rich history of names such as Calais Campbell, Olivier Vernon, Danny Stubbs, Jerome McDougle, Allen Bailey, and more recent draftees who have had varying degrees of success so far at the NFL level such as Anthony Chickillo, Chad Thomas, and Joe Jackson. The class also includes Brevin Jordan who carries the torch of at TEU, arguably its most deep all-time position as it includes names like Chris Herndon, David Njoku, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Bubba Franks, etc. Lastly, Borregales seeks to be the first kicker selected out of the U since Carlos Huerta in 1992, but Miami has a nice lineage of specialists, namely punters, to succeed at the pro level such as Justin Vogel, Pat O’Donnell, Matt Bosher, and Jeff Feagles.

A number of the names that have succeeded at the NFL level outta the U played before many of the recruits and current Canes were even born. Thus, while the 2021 NFL Draft should assist with putting the Canes back on the clock, which, in turn, should aid in putting the program back on the map on the recruiting trail and on the field on Saturdays, sustained consistency on the final weekend of April will pay immense dividends. In other words, the Canes need a string of success in the coming years on draft day.

One year of successful placement of Canes in the draft will not magically place the Canes into the College Football Playoff picture. Two first round draft picks in 2021 will not heal some of the wounds that are still fresh from recent year losses - both in the recruiting process and being on the wrong end of tough Saturday losses. And just because Borregales will be connecting field goals and Brevin will be scoring touchdowns on Sunday, that does not mean the U is “back”.

However, the 2021 NFL Draft class could serve as a sparkplug to motivate the current players on the roster to get to the top of mock draft boards. For example, last summer, Phillips was not even a starter on Miami’s depth chart and now he is projected as early as top ten. That could be the case as players try to breakout this season to not only help the U win games, but also increase their draft stock. Individual player success inevitably leads to team success, which inevitably attracts more talent. This is especially true if recent coaching staffs played a part in the draftees’ path to the NFL, as opposed to coaches from 20+ years ago.

There is a direct causal link to NFL placement and a program’s success. There is a reason Manny Diaz stood on the proverbial table after his athletes’ Pro Day in Coral Gables last week. He knows that the more Canes’ who hear their name read by Roger Gooddell on the last weekend of April, the better.

Will names such as King (rhymes with Ming), Bubba, Zion, Harley, Gaynor, McCloud, Rambo, Jarrid, Deandre, Rambo, Cam’Ron, and Hedley have their name heard by Gooddell in 2022? Will the trend continue with the likes of Van Dyke, Mallory, Redding III, Keyshawn, Chantz, Jahfari, Avantae, etc. as the program hopes to climb back to greatness?

It may be too early to tell as it relates to the particulars of the names listed above, but recruits, transfers, and players pay attention to draft night and schools associated with it. With any luck, 2021 could help the Canes start another long streak of landing alumni in the first round of this next decades’ drafts. And, with any luck, that success will also translate to the display on Saturdays.