University of Miami

Five Miami Hurricanes finally drafted on last day, but highest rated Cane is snubbed

Recapping the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft

Catch up on the top ten picks from the first round of the NFL Draft.
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Catch up on the top ten picks from the first round of the NFL Draft.

It likely was an excruciating couple of days for several Miami Hurricanes waiting to hear their names called in the NFL Draft.

But finally, on the last day of the three-day extravaganza headquartered in Nashville, five University of Miami football players realized their lifelong dreams when they were chosen by the teams for which they hope to compete in 2019.

One Hurricane, however, highly touted defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, was shockingly not chosen.

The first off the board at about 1 p.m.: 6-0, 196-pound safety Sheldrick Redwine, the Miami Killian High School alum who was selected by the Cleveland Browns 119th overall, the 17th player taken in the fourth round. Redwine, who grew into an excellent defensive back on what turned out to be the nation’s No. 4 overall defense and No. 1 pass defense in 2018, became the sixth Miami Hurricane on the Browns’ roster.

“The versatility of Sheldrick Redwine fits today’s NFL perfectly,’’ said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. when Redwine was picked.

But the biggest Canes’ shocker: Star defensive tackle Willis, who was projected to go as high as the second round, ended up being taken as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens. Willis is the man whom the Miami Hurricanes supported through some dark, trying times and came out of them a well-loved, seemingly model citizen who transformed into a terror on the football field.

“Baltimore Ravens Let’s Go, I appreciate the Opportunity. #RealSavage,’’ Willis posted on Twitter shortly after the draft concluded.

Here are the Hurricanes who got that momentous phone call from the teams that wanted them:

Redwine, followed by cornerback Michael Jackson (fifth round, 119th overall) to the Dallas Cowboys; defensive end Joe Jackson (fifth round, 165th overall) to the Dallas Cowboys; safety Jaquan Johnson (sixth round, 181st overall) to the Buffalo Bills; and running back Travis Homer (sixth round, 204th overall) to the Seattle Seahawks.

“You go back to the North Carolina game, Florida State, Virginia Tech, [Boston College] and Wisconsin. He really played well,’’ Kiper said of Redwine. “He’s a tackler. He had three sacks, three interceptions. He balances it out going against the run and in coverage. Ran a 4.44 (40-yard dash) at the combine vertical [leaped] almost 40 inches.”

The two Jacksons now find themselves as teammates headed to Dallas.

Joe Jackson, a Miami Gulliver Prep alumn, was one of three Hurricanes who declared for the draft as an underclassman. He was projected to go as high as the second round.

“He’s got tremendous power,’’ NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Jackson. “He’s got a nifty, little dip move coming off the edge — flashes some speed. He’s a bully, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.’’

Graduate transfer guard Venzell Bouleware, who still had a year of eligibility remaining but entered the draft as an underclassman because he already earned his degree, went undrafted.

The other early Canes departure was by underclassman Homer, the last Cane drafted.

“What I really like best about him, especially here in the sixth round, is he’s a fighter,’’ ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “This guy is scrappy. He loves the game, and he’s going to come in and he’s going to find a role on that 53-man roster by battling on special teams. He hates going down. I thought he was going to come off the board a little earlier.’’

Regarding Willis, his name and photo constantly were displayed on ESPN as the “next best available’’ player.

“I don’t get that one,’’ Kiper said of Willis still not being picked as the sixth round was coming to a close. Kiper said earlier in the week that no way Willis would fall past the third round, and that wherever he goes, the team could “pencil him in and put him in the starting lineup.’’

The specific reason for Willis’ surprising plunge is not yet clear. Based on his exemplary behavior and great senior season at Miami, Willis was expected to be an early-round pick. A pair of injuries in the pre-draft process, plus previous off-the-field issues, might have scared teams away. Willis was dismissed from Florida after his freshman season in 2014. He had to spend three days waiting on a phone call that never came.

Recently, UM coach Manny Diaz said he’d be paying attention to his players in the draft, but that “more than anything you’re really rooting for them to find a home where they really fit in, where they can excel...We’ve had non-drafted free agents make a team. Trent Harris last year, he’s got a Super Bowl ring.

“It’s fun in recruiting to talk about the first-rounders that you’ve coached. But when you get the guy that makes the league as a non-drafted free agent that maybe you helped him get to that position...that’s really rewarding.’’

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.