The University of Miami has grown accustomed to seeing multiple Hurricanes taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. This year’s draft, which begins on Saturday, could be uncharted waters for UM followers, as Antrel Rolle is the only ‘Cane expected to be chosen in the first 32 picks.
Rolle was projected to be a Top 10 pick before last season even started, and the cornerback did little to hurt his chances in 2004, being named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top corner. Some have argued that Rolle underachieved last season because he did not rack up as many interceptions and tackles as other top defensive backs, but that can be attributed to teams shying away from his side of the field.
Rolle is in a neck-and-neck battle with West Virginia’s Adam “Pac-Man” Jones to be the first cornerback taken in the draft. Jones is a smaller DB than Rolle, at slightly over 5’9″, but his 4.43 40-meter dash time and superb kick return skills are attractive to many teams. What gives Rolle the edge over Jones is his size (6’0″, 201 lbs.) and ability to crush wide outs with vicious hits.
In short, expect Rolle to be a Top 10 lock. Tennessee is taking a long look at Rolle with the sixth pick, and there is even talk of him moving into the Top Five if the top three running backs slip.
Besides Rolle, the Hurricanes are not garnering much attention this year. Several former UM players are projected to be gone by the conclusion of the middle rounds, including running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, tight end Kevin Everett and defensive tackle Santonio Thomas.
Gore might be hurt by the depth of this year’s running backs and his injury problems at UM. Despite tearing both of his ACLs, Gore decided to forgo his senior year to help support his mother, who needs a kidney transplant, and his son. Scouts do like his strength, blocking ability and field vision, but do not expect a team to take a chance on Gore until the third or fourth round.
Parrish surprised some people when he entered the draft, but NFL teams see plenty of potential in the diminutive receiver. Scouts are enamored with his speed, ability to change direction and return skills, but his size and durability concerns will keep him out of the first and maybe the second rounds.
Everett and Thomas are not getting much exposure in draft guides and websites, but both should be able to rest easily knowing that they will be taken on Day One. Thomas is one of the fastest rising prospects and could entice a team to risk drafting him in the third round.
Quarterback Brock Berlin and offensive lineman Chris Myers will be sweating out Day Two of the draft because neither is guaranteed to be taken at all. Not being drafted would not mean the end of their careers, however, because each would be quickly signed as a free agent after the draft.
Although UM will not be sending five or more players to the first round this year, there are still plenty of reasons Hurricane fans should tune in to this year’s draft.
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.