Whereas many college football and NFL fans still might not be sure about FIU’s location, NFL scouts know the way to West Dade. Each of the past three NFL Drafts included FIU players, and the past three players selected chiseled out significant roster places for themselves.
Everybody saw Indianapolis wide receiver T.Y. Hilton explode over the past two seasons, particularly in January’s playoffs.
Jacksonville safety Johnathan Cyprien started all 15 games his rookie season last year. San Diego outside linebacker Tourek Williams, a sixth-round pick converted from defensive end, played 13 regular-season games, started six, and played both playoff games for the Chargers.
This year’s hopes of extending the streak to four years lay with defensive tackles Isame Faciane, at 6-3 1/2, 300 pounds, and Greg Hickman, at 6-0, 278.
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NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said of them there’s been “good production out of [FIU] at a high level in the NFL. I think both those defensive tackles are probably priority free agents.”
Translation: Stay tuned to the last day of the draft. If their phones don’t ring in the sixth or seventh round, they will in the hours immediately afterward as teams sign the best of the undrafted. That’s also when cornerback Sam Miller might get a call. The Giants gave FIU cornerback Junior Mertile a shot last year in that capacity, cut him, but have brought him back.
What weighs Faciane’s and Hickman’s draft prospects down isn’t so much FIU’s 1-11 disaster of a 2013 season; players get drafted off bad teams each year. Nor is it the body-type measureables that NFL scouts like to see as an ideal for positions. Several scouting reports noted Williams’ arms didn’t have the length that NFL coaches usually like in pass rushers.
Although Faciane and Hickman each had some good moments during the regular season and at FIU’s Pro Day, neither had many moments that made scouts do a double-take at the stopwatch or game film. Hickman made second-team All-Conference USA after a season with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Faciane was an honorable mention all-conference pick after getting 11 1/2 tackles for loss and blocking two passes.
Both played through significant injuries at some point over the past two seasons. To call Hickman’s injured ankle, which he sustained early in the 2013 season, “bad” would indulge in understatement.
With two games left in the season, Hickman admitted: “I think I would’ve sat down for a game or two if I had the time to waste. But this is my senior year, when every down matters. I have a dream and a goal that I want to accomplish, so being hurt isn’t an excuse.”
Faciane went through the 2012 season with one shoulder and wasn’t able to get proper treatment for it because of a class schedule that sent him across town to FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus.