University of Miami

As the NFL Draft approaches, one analyst believes this Hurricane could ‘shock us all’

University of Miami Hurricane's running back Mark Walton (1) runs drills during Miami's Pro Day at the Dolphins' practice facility in Davie on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
University of Miami Hurricane's running back Mark Walton (1) runs drills during Miami's Pro Day at the Dolphins' practice facility in Davie on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. mocner@miamiherald.com

Add the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah to the list of Mark Walton believers.

The analyst had high praise for the former Miami Hurricanes running back on his latest Move the Sticks podcast, which came out Friday morning.

Jeremiah made the bold prediction that Walton could hear his name called as early as the second round when the NFL Draft begins at the end of the month.

“Not a first-round pick. That coffee’s a little too rich. He’ll be a top 50 pick and will be picked ahead of a lot of big-name backs we’ve talked about in this run up to the draft,” Jeremiah said. “We know the top five, six backs, but Mark Walton will sneak around a couple of them. … He’s a guy we’ve been talking about in that fourth-round range, but maybe he’ll shock us all and make it in the top 50.”

Heading into the season, that projection would have likely been fairly reasonable. Walton entered the 2017 season as a preseason All-ACC selection and was looking to follow up on a breakout sophomore year in which he ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns.

But four games into the season, Walton was carted off the field during Miami’s win against Florida State with a season-ending ankle injury.

“I think it just made me love the game more,” Walton said last week at Miami’s Pro Day, “because something I really love was taken away from me for a moment.”

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projects Walton to be a fourth-round pick, saying the Hurricanes’ former lead back “has the ability to become a solid backup who can handle a heavier touch load over smaller stretches if needed.” Among running backs, NFL.com has Walton ranked 10th in a draft class headlined by names such as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, among others.

Walton has worked over the last month to prove he can do more than that.

He showed he was healthy and ready to make a statement both at the NFL Combine and at the Hurricanes’ Pro Day at the Dolphins practice facility in Davie.

And Walton said at Miami’s Pro Day last week that the emotions will be flowing when his name does get called — whenever that this.

“I’m gonna cry,” Walton said. “It’s going to feel great, but some tears are going to be shed.”

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