Today’s pass happy NFL loves its wide receivers, cornerbacks and drinks of Florida schools’ speed like orange juice. Yet the first state school wide receiver likely won’t be from Florida’s Big Three. The first cornerback likely will be but probably not the second.
That’s the way of the modern world even in a year when Florida State and the University of Miami alone could have the equivalent of one-third of an NFL roster drafted. The non-Power Five schools don’t provide the same kind of buffet but have succulent sustenance for those who properly peruse the menu.
Take Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman or FAU cornerback D’Joun Smith. Some NFL teams will by the weekend.
Never mind that UCF, though sharing the American Athletic Conference title, lost to 2-10 UConn, and FAU went 3-9 in Conference USA.
“When you evaluate players, you focus on traits,” Dolphins general manger Dennis Hickey said. “Regardless of the competition, you can focus on athletic ability, feet, lateral quickness, strength, power, hands, ability to come out of cuts, all of those different things.
“You focus on the traits, and they lead you to what the player’s projection will be.”
Perriman, son of former UM and NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman, is getting more attention coming out of UCF than he did going in despite his bloodlines. That’s got to do with his measureables: height (6-2), weight (215), speed (4.25 40-yard dash on Pro Day) and distance (20.8 yards per catch in 2013, 20.9 in 2014).
That’s how a player who received offers only by UCF and FIU is now high on the board of 32 NFL teams. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock slots Perriman with Louisville’s DeVante Parker, just behind West Virginia’s Kevin White and Northwestern High graduate Amari Cooper out of Alabama.
“We were all buzzing about the 4.25,” Mayock said. “Doesn’t really matter what the time was. It was fast. Does he play to that speed? No. That’s one of the things he’ll have to learn to do is play faster.
“Most of us thought he was about a 4.5, 4.48 kind of player off the tape,” Mayock continued. “Once he learns how to use his speed to set up corners, I think his upside is as dramatic as any wide receiver in this draft. You’re talking about a guy with great height, weight and speed.”
The standard criticism of Perriman, that he’s got the bad hands associated with many deep threats, Mayock dismissed with: “My perspective, and I watched every target on tape, is that he’s got great hands, just some dumb concentration drops.
“At his Pro Day, just as importantly, and maybe more so than what he ran in the 40, he caught everything. He’s a natural hand snatcher.”
Smith’s seven interceptions and 13 pass breakups in 2013 got him in NFL scouts’ notebooks. Opposing quarterbacks took note, too. Predictably, as a senior, he saw much less action, lowering his numbers to one interception and eight breakups. Smith’s ball skills and closing speed didn’t change, however.
Hickey said when looking at players from schools outside the Power Five conferences, “You always measure things and then you measure against all-star [games], when they play at a higher level, going against that level of competition, how do they react and how do they handle that environment.”
Smith excelled at the Senior Bowl this year and at the NFL Scouting Combine, and is projected to be taken in the second round, probably after Florida State’s Ronald Darby.
If that faint familiar buzz in draftniks ears about Smith seems familiar, blame the similarity to the path of FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien two years ago: disappointing defense on a 3-9 team as a senior, shining at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Cyprien got snatched by Jacksonville with the first pick in the second round and started all 30 games he has played his first two seasons.
“You’re in the middle of one of the best recruiting bases, if not the best in all the country,” Mayock said. “So, there’s no doubt what the NFL sees with UCF.”
And FAU. And FIU. And USF.
NFL Draft at a glance
8 p.m. Thursday
Dolphins pick: 14th
7 p.m. Friday
State schools’ projected NFL Draft picks