NASHVILLE—Five Miami Hurricanes are expected to be selected by the time the 2019 National Football League Draft ends in Nashville this weekend. ESPN NFL Draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both expected Gerald Willis and Joe Jackson to go as early as the third or even second round Saturday.
But as the second day of the draft ends, zero players have been selected from the school that calls itself #NFLU in admiration, far removed from the turn of the century, when from 2001-04, UM lead all schools each year in first-round selections, with 19 players drafted in Round 1 over those four years and six in 2004 alone.
Gerald Willis come off a monster senior season with 59 tackles in 2018, including 18 of those for a loss and four sacks. The defensive tackle was projected by McShay on Monday as a late first-round or second round pick and Kiper as a second or early-third round selection. But the third round has come and gone, with Willis still waiting patiently for his name to be called in Nashville’s Lower Broadway.
“I love his leverage, I love Willis’ technique,” Kiper said about Willis on a conference call on Monday. “He gets into that backfield. He can get down the line. The way he uses his hands. He’s the kind of guy that could be a little bit underrated. When you look back three, four years from now, he may be an underrated prospect coming out of this draft.”
Kiper said that Willis can be penciled into an NFL starting lineup, so a team may find a later gem on Saturday. He stands as the third highest-rated DT remaining according to the Draft Tracker on NFL.com.
Joe Jackson is also waiting for a team to choose him, as the defensive end was considered likely before the draft to be taken by this point, in addition to Willis.
While Jackson wasn’t considered a surefire Day 2 selection, it was certainly feasible for him to be on a plane to an NFL city at this moment.
Possibly Jackson and Willis are victims of a deep class at defensive line, as McShay hinted at on the Monday conference call, specifically on Jackson.
“To me he’s going to be a mid-round pick…third, fourth-round range. Good player. He’s not up there with the elite guys in this class and obviously it’s a very deep class.”
As a junior in 2018, Jackson registered 47 total tackles, including 14.5 of them for a loss, and nine sacks. He also retuned his only interception of the season for a touchdown in the Canes’ 47-10 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 27.
Jackson also recorded six tackles and two-and-a-half sacks in the regular season finale against the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 24. He is currently the fourth highest remaining DE according to the Draft Tracker. Considering that Jackson gave up his senior season in Coral Gables to go pro, he must be waiting as patient as he can be, watching pick-by-pick unfold.
Players who did return for his last year of eligibility last season included Safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, along with CB Michael Jackson.
Those three defensive backs were expected to be picked in the third day before the draft, however, so they aren’t necessarily seeing themselves fell, at least yet.
And then there is RB Travis Homer, who should get picked in the seventh round if he is drafted. Homer left UM after his junior year, possibly to avoid having to learn another scheme from the new offensive coaching staff.
Miami claims to be one college football’s premier pipelines to the pros, with catchy sayings such as #QBU or #DBU. After all, the Draft was owned the #TheU in the early 2000s. From 1995-2008, the Canes had at least one player choosen in the first round. But for fans to make bold statements about UM’s status as a football factory, players have to be selected by the time the second night of the draft ends.