Colorado might be the Pac-12's DB-U, until the Huskies catch up to them, says Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner
With the NFL draft now behind us, here’s a Pac-12-focused stock report.
Let’s review: Two teams in the College Football Playoff … two teams in the title game … eight teams in the NCAA tournament … 10 first-round picks Thursday night .. and 53 totals picks, tops among all conferences for the umpteenth consecutive year.
It’s not the Conference of Champions, perhaps, but it does okay in the sport that matters most.
Finished fourth behind the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in total selections but exceeded the Big Ten on the picks-per-team ledger:
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The Pac-12 produced 2.5 selections per school, while the B1G had just 2.3. (It can blame Michigan and Michigan State, which combined for just three picks, for that.)
Worth noting: The Pac-12’s modest number of first-round selections (four) matched the ’16 figure but is not the lowest total of the 12-school era. It had just three first-rounders in the ’14 draft.
The top end? The conference did a spot-on impression of the SEC in the spring of ’15, with nine first rounders.
Not coincidentally, that followed one of its most successful regular seasons, with two teams in the New Year’s Six, one team in the playoff (Oregon), a 6-3 bowl record, an 8-3 regular-season mark against other Power Five and six teams with 9+ wins.
Rising: Group of Five.
The bottom half of the FBS, in a manner of speaking, produced five first-round picks thanks to Wyoming, San Diego State, Boise State, UTSA and UCF.
Isaiah Oliver went in the third round (to Atlanta), giving the Buffs four defensive backfield selections in the past two drafts.
There are worse things than being the Pac-12’s version of DB U.
(Granted, the Buffs will have a difficult time holding that monicker when Washington’s young cornerbacks and safeties become draft-eligible.)
Rising: UCLA OT Kolton Miller.
It has been can’t-remember-how-many years since a Pac-12 lineman climbed the draft board as quickly as Miller, who played three years for the Bruins but tested off the charts at the combine to secure his first-round position.
If the draft is judge and jury, then Josh Rosen and Miller form one of the top quarterback-left tackle combinations in conerence history.
Rising: USC OLB Uchenna Nwosu.
For my money, Nwosu was the top defensive player in the conference last season not named Vea or Mata’afa.
Now, the Carson native will spend next season playing … in Carson.
The Chargers, who play at the StubHub Center, grabbed Nwosu in the second round.
Five players picked, all of them 4- or 5-star recruits …
Sorry, check that. None of them were 4- or 5-star recruits, adding to the mountainous evidence that Chris Petersen and his staff identify talent others fail to spot and develop their personnel with remarkably consistency.
The total number of picks (30) marked the conference’s lowest output since 2013 — it was nine fewer than the high-water 2015 draft and six fewer than last year.
Bottom lines: Talent equates to winning, and the conference must improve its recruiting in order to compete with the SEC and ACC on the national stage.
Falling: Big 12.
Produced the No. 1 overall pick (Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield) and then only 19 more, another disappointing year for the conference.
The raw number isn’t quite as bad as it looks given that there are only 10 teams. But the American, which is stocked with schools with limited football resources, managed 18 selections.
The Trojans have produced more draft picks than any other school, ever. But they totaled just four this year, the same as Louisville and Mississippi State — and three fewer than N.C. State
That said, I’ll call my shot here and now:
The Trojans will have at least six selections next year; they’re loaded with upperclassmen.
The Bruins are in their own category
Falling: Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby.
The Hotline expected Crosby to go in the second or third round, yet he dropped to the fifth.
The plunge couldn’t have been his 2017 film; he played at a high level all season and was impressive in the Senior Bowl.
But I wonder if Crosby was quietly red-flagged in medical exams (perhaps resulting from the previously-broken foot).
Yes, safety Dane Cruikshank was selected in the fifth round, but he was the Wildcats’ only selection and marked just their third pick in the past four drafts.
Teams with more selections than Arizona in that span: Temple, San Diego State and Memphis.
Falling: Washington State DL Hercules Mata’afa.
As a 250-pound interior defensive lineman who must transition to linebacker but has no proven coverage ability, Mata’afa was a candidate to slide.
But down and out? That’s not something we expected. Here’s guessing he makes the Vikings’ roster and plays many years in the NFL.