The draft is over and the media experts, evaluators, coaches, general managers, scouts, and analysts can exhale. Most importantly, the 20 to 25 year old prospects who have been working out and interviewing can breathe a sigh of relief - although that will be a temporary one as they are just one step closer to making their respective NFL roster and playing on Sundays.
And for the Miami Hurricanes’ five draft prospects, Jaelan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau, Brevin Jordan, Quincy Roche, and Jose Borregales, the expectations varied going into draft weekend. Similarly, the results of the weekend ended up varying. On Thursday night, Phillips and Rousseau impressed as they were the first defensive end duo since Mario Williams and Manny Lawson in 2006 (NC State) that was drafted in the first round (all four prospects were coached in some capacity by Todd Stroud and Manny Diaz).
Jordan and Roche ended up having to wait longer than expected as they were drafted on day three. And Borregales ended up going undrafted as just one kicker was drafted, but Saturday ended well as he signed as a priority free agent.
As draft weekend ends, and we look forward to next year, below I have put together draft recaps for each new ProCane, a grade of the fit for their new franchise, and projections/predictions for their rookie season.
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE:
18th Overall (1st Round), Miami Dolphins (EDGE1)
Grading the Fit: A
After months of questions about his medical history, Phillips was the first defensive lineman to have his name called on Thursday night. And even though he had just finished moving his stuff out of Coral Gables as he prepared to move back to California temporarily, he is staying in the South Florida area for the foreseeable future.
Phillips will have the opportunity to work closely with defensive guru and Miami head coach, Brian Flores, which should be a quality match. It will also ease the adjustment to the NFL level to play home games in Hard Rock Stadium, the same field he played this past season.
Phillips will have the opportunity to play on a defensive line featuring other young pass rushers, Christian Wilkins, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Benardrick McKinney. The Dolphins also have two ProCanes in WR Allen Hurns (2014) and OL Tyler Gauthier (2018).
Rookie Year Projection: A year after another EDGE defender won rookie of the year, JP15 has the makeup to be one of the most talented defensive players in this rookie class. However, due to the fact that he just played his first full season at the collegiate level in 2020 and based on his medical history, it would be wiser for the Fins to ease him in at the NFL level, and let him thrive on high probability passing downs. With that being said, the team has had key defensive departures this offseason, which may force Flores’ hand.
2021 Prediction: 350 Snaps, 20 tackles, 3.5 Sacks
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE:
30th Overall (1st Round), Buffalo Bills (EDGE4)
Grading the Fit: B
Rousseau ended up sneaking into the first round after some concerns about the lengthy pass rusher’s sample size at the collegiate level. At the backend of the first round, he was picked up by another AFC East team, so will square off against Phillips twice a year. His new franchise also has a variety of Miami Hurricanes’ ties.
First, one of the people who was heavily involved in Rousseau’s evaluation is Buffalo’s director of player personnel and Miami legend, Dan Morgan. Morgan, who will be interviewing with the Carolina Panthers for their assistant GM job, was a standout LB on the Canes and is at the helm for important personnel decisions in Buffalo.
Morgan is also a part of a strong Canes’ contingent in upstate New York as the Bills feature former Miami QB, Ken Dorsey, as the QBs coach, and also have OL, Jon Feliciano, and S, Jaquan Johnson, on the current roster.
After a visit to the AFC Championship in 2020, Buffalo could use some help on the front line. They drafted another long EDGE guy last year in Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, but the depth is not quite there. They also drafted Wake Forest EDGE rusher, Carlos Basham, just a round after GR15. Buffalo currently features veteran defensive ends Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes who have a combined 22 years of experience. This is certainly a decent group for Rousseau to be surrounded by as he continues to improve upon his raw skillset.
Rookie Year Projection: Rousseau will and should be given some time to develop as he only started seven games in college. Also, by the time the 2021 season rolls around, it will mark over 600 days since he has played live football. Despite his very capable frame, a slower assimilation into NFL-tempo play would be a more appropriate introduction to the league.
2021 Prediction: 150 Snaps, 10 tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 4 passes deflected
Brevin Jordan, TE:
147th Overall (5th Round), Houston Texans (TE10)
Grading the Fit: C+
Jordan had to wait much longer than expected as he was the tenth tight end selected and was picked just two spots before the only kicker was drafted. Regardless, despite being deemed undersized for tight end, Jordan is a natural playmaker with the ball in his hands and has been provided more motivation to prove the doubters wrong in the NFL.
The Texans are admittedly in a less-than-ideal situation. That being said, the new head coach, David Culley, has specialized in the passing game before his appointment to takeover Houston. He previously was wide receivers and passing game coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, and has also coached many pass catchers at the NFL level during stints in Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay. Thus, Jordan should be in good hands with Culley at the helm.
As it relates to the roster, it is unclear who Jordan will be catching passes from. Deshaun Watson’s legal situation becomes more and more murky by the day and the backups consist of Tyrod Taylor, who has been injury prone, rookie Davis Mills, and Ryan Finley, who features a 54.3 career passer rating.
That being said, Jordan has an opportunity to get immediate repetitions at tight end in a lackluster room consisting of Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Ryan Izzo, and Kahale Warring. Last year, those four combined for 67 receptions, 703 receiving yards, and 3 TDs. For reference, in 2020, four tight ends singlehandedly had 67 or more receptions, five had more than 700 receiving yards, and a whopping 33 had at least 3 TDs. The passing game also features speed with Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee, and rookie Nico Collins.
Rookie Year Projection: Again, it is unclear what the status is of the Houston Texans franchise overall. In all likelihood, they will be passing for most games. In all likelihood, Jordan has a chance to be featured at a difficult-to-learn tight end position from day one. And, in all likelihood, Jordan is hungry to prove the doubters wrong. Thus, his efforts may not pay dividends in the win column right away, but he may he able to get acquainted to the stat sheets and fantasy box scores early and often on Sundays.
2021 Prediction: 20 receptions, 250 yards, 3 TDs
Quincy Roche, DE/LB:
216th Overall (6th Round), Pittsburgh Steelers (EDGE24)
Grading the Fit: B+
After being completely slept on, Roche has the opportunity to wake the league up. And I absolutely love this pairing as Roche will have the opportunity to work in a 3-4 base defensive alignment with head coach, Mike Tomlin. He will also be able to work with defensive coordinator, Keith Butler, who prides himself on putting out a gritty, hard-nose product on Sundays for the Steelers.
Of note, last year, the Steelers drafted Charlotte’s Alex Smith, who has a similar frame to Roche. And, similar to Roche, Highsmith was often lined up on the defensive line in college and has since made the seamless transition to hybrid EDGE/LB defender. Smith even had an INT in coverage his rookie year and was often utilized on special teams.
Rookie Year Projection: Roche should occupy a similar role to Highsmith, but may begin his career similar to the Green Bay Packers’ Jonathan Garvin. Garvin, as a rookie last season, was predominantly featured on special teams as he makes the switch from defensive lineman to linebacker. Due to Roche’s size, he may be given opportunities in coverage and on sure passing downs to see how his nation-best 93.0 pass-rushing grade translates at the NFL level.
2021 Prediction: Mostly Special Teams experience and Rotational Player.
Steelers’ 6th-round pick Quincy Roche, Miami ED— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
Highest career pass-rushing grade in the 2021 Draft class (93.0) pic.twitter.com/PG8kUIA2J9
Jose Borregales, K:
Priority Undrafted Free Agent, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Grading the Fit: B
ESPN Draft Analyst, Todd McShay, said he was “shocked” when Florida’s Evan McPherson was the first kicker drafted instead of Borregales. McShay was likely even more shocked when Borregales went the whole weekend without having his name called.
In fact, this is the second draft in a row where the Lou Groza Award winner, given to the best kicker in the nation, has gone undrafted. Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia, also went undrafted last year, but ended signing with the Indianapolis Colts shortly after the draft and won the starting placekicking duties on his way to a strong rookie season.
As expected, Borregales did not have to wait long until after the draft to be picked up as a priority free agent as he was signed by the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Super Bowl champs currently have 2009 Mr. Irrelevant (last pick of NFL Draft), Ryan Succop, who was a reliable option last year. However, Succop had knee surgery in 2019 and was subsequently released by the Titans, so Borregales is a steady insurance option and can learn from a veteran kicker who just signed a three-year extension. Also, based on players currently under NFL contracts, Succop is the 4th oldest kicker in the league. Thus, it may not be too long of a wait for Borregales to get his chance.
Even though Tampa is known to feature head coach, Bruce Arians, and GOAT QB, Tom Brady, there is a throwback Canes’ connection that Borregales will have the opportunity to work closely with. Bucs Special Teams Coach, Keith Armstrong, was an assistant defensive backs & special teams coach for Miami in 1988. Armstrong had previously coached with Arians in 1987 when he was a graduate assistant at Temple and Arians was the Owls’ head coach. Now, Borregales will have the opportunity to learn from a coach with Miami ties.
Rookie Year Projection: Being a specialist in the NFL is tough. Teams often do not want to use a roster spot on you, and when given the opportunity you must prove you can connect under pressure. For Borregales, he is competing with a kicker who has been extremely steady when healthy and just signed an extension. If he cannot carve out a spot on the Bucs roster, there will certainly be a team that can use his services.
2021 Prediction: Bucs Practice Squad or Waived and becomes a Starter elsewhere.