University of Miami

Where ESPN’s top NFL Draft analysts just projected all six of Miami’s best prospects

Hard work pays off during Hurricanes Pro Day

The Miami Hurricanes showed off their skills in front of NFL scouts inside their new practice facility. Defensive Tackle, Gerald Willis and Running Back, Trayone Gray talk about their performances during the 2019 Pro Day.
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The Miami Hurricanes showed off their skills in front of NFL scouts inside their new practice facility. Defensive Tackle, Gerald Willis and Running Back, Trayone Gray talk about their performances during the 2019 Pro Day.

The Miami Hurricanes are primed to have another nice weekend in the NFL Draft, at least according to ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

In a teleconference with writers from around the nation, Kiper and McShay, who were featured back-to-back, both gave their assessments of the 2019 Canes’ top draft prospects. The draft begins Thursday night in Nashville with the first round, followed by the second and third rounds on Friday night and fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday.

And though Kiper didn’t mention one of UM’s top defensive backs, which is bound to happen in a 90-minute teleconference, it appears all six of UM’s top guys will be drafted. In fact, McShay discussed defensive end Joe Jackson and safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine in detail, before I later asked him to elaborate on defensive tackle Gerald Willis, cornerback Michael Jackson and running back Travis Homer.

Both analysts are understandably impressed with the 6-2, 300-pound Willis, who had his disciplinary and emotional problems when he was a freshman at Florida before he was dismissed by the Gators. His problems continued for a while with UM, before he took a leave of absence from playing one season and returned his senior season in 2018 a changed man off the field, but a beast on it, leading the Canes’ vaunted defense with 18 tackles for loss.

On defensive tackle Gerald Willis:

Kiper: “He’s a guy, you look at [and] you just pencil him in and put him in the starting lineup. That’s what he’s going to be, a starting, I don’t know about Pro Bowl caliber, but he’s right there with I think the second tier of defensive tackles that will go in the second round of the draft – at worst the early third round.

“I love his leverage, I love Willis’ technique – 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.”

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McShay: “Willis is obviously the Florida transfer [and] had the issues in terms of off the field, but you talk to people at Miami and they swear by his maturity and how much he’s grown. I think if you’re just studying the tape, physically he’s a late first, early second-round talent. Now... he’ll probably get to the third because of concerns and just the one big year. But I would absolutely agree that he’s their best talent in terms of the Miami prospects this year.”

On defensive end Joe Jackson:

Kiper: “He has a chance to be a third-round pick as a pass-rusher coming off the edge.’’

McShay: “To me he’s going to be a mid-round pick — third, fourth-round range. Good player. Solid player. He’s not up there with the elite guys in this class and obviously it’s a very deep class. Anytime you have a third-round grade like I do on Joe Jackson and he’s the 19th best defensive lineman, you know it’s a good group.”

On safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine:

Kiper: “Jaquan Johnson doesn’t run great but I think plays faster. He has shown a knack for making big plays at that safety spot. I think the [4.69] 40 time [at the NFL Combine] will push him into the late rounds.

Sheldrick Redwine has got some versatility. He in the right system could be a Day Three pick as well.”

McShay: “They’re very similar grades, in that third-round range. ...Obviously, Johnson running a 4.69 in Indy didn’t help at 5-10, 191 pounds, but he’s a really good player. He’s an instinctive, tough guy who is just around the football. Redwine is a little bit bigger and worked out better.

“On tape I thought Johnson was the better football player but from a workout standpoint, Redwine at 6-foot, 196 running a 4.44, it’s going to be a little bit more intriguing to defensive back coaches that are trying to develop guys.”

On cornerback Michael Jackson:

Kiper didn’t mention him.

McShay: “Michael Jackson, I didn’t think he was going to run as fast as he did. That’s a good time. 6-1, almost 200 pounds— he ran a 4.45. He’s a good player. He’s going to wind up being probably a fourth, fifth-round draft pick. You’re talking about Redwine, Johnson, Jackson — all three of those guys are going to be somewhere in that mid-round, fourth, fifth-round type of range.”

On running back Travis Homer:

Kiper: “...I have a Day Three grade on him.”

McShay: “Homer is probably going to be fifth, sixth. This running back class isn’t great at the top. It’s not like recent years... But there’s a lot of depth in this class. Homer is going to be in that probably third tier of running backs, in terms of the third day he’s going to be there. And yes he had good workout numbers. He was a good player. I think he has room to improve. [He’s] 200 pounds, 4.48 [in the 40], I mean those are really good numbers..”

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.