Don’t count on a 2019 version of Phillip Lindsay. Don’t expect an undrafted Pac-12 player to make an NFL roster, a starting lineup and the Pro Bowl.
But former Colorado running back Lindsay’s remarkable rise last season for the Denver Broncos is relevant this week — a reminder that NFL draft position and success on Sundays don’t always correlate.
To that end, the Hotline has produced its ranking of the top Pac-12 prospects available when the draft begins Thursday.
We’re not projecting where the players are headed, or in which round.
We’re not projecting their rookie-year impacts.
We’re ranking the players based on longer-term potential.
In five years, who will be considered the best players from the Pac-12 draft class of 2019?
The ranking is based partly on observed talent and playmaking, but also on the role injuries and/or coaching played in performance and the value of the position in the NFL.
Here’s the list:
Also considered (in no particular order): Utah S Marquise Blair, Stanford LB Bobby Okereke, Washington LB Ben Burr-Kirven, Arizona State DL Renell Wren, Cal LB Jordan Kunaszyk, Washington TE Drew Sample, Stanford TE Kaden Smith, Utah LB Cody Barton, Washington State QB Gardner Minshew, USC LB Cameron Smith, Oregon WR Dillon Mitchell, Washington DT Greg Gaines, Stanford TB Bryce Love, USC CB Iman Marshall and UCLA TE Caleb Wilson.
10. Stanford WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside: The size advantage that allowed him to dominate cornerbacks on fade routes will be cut in half at the next level. But Arcega-Whiteside’s strength and body control should make him a threat in the red zone — and on third down — for years to come.
9. Washington S Taylor Rapp: One of the best Pac-12 safeties this decade, not because of his flash but rather his steady impact. Not sure Rapp has the athleticism to reach the top level for his position, but he will be in constant demand among teams in need of smart safeties who excel in run support.
8. Oregon DE Jalen Jelks: As noted above, position value was part of our calculation, and there are few positions more valuable than the edge (ends or outside linebackers). Jelks must land with a team that will make best use of his length and mobility and not cram him into the system.
7. USC S Marvell Tell: So fluid, so athletic … and yet Tell seemed to become less of an impact player with each passing season for the Trojans. We’re expecting the NFL to bring out the best in him. Far less than Troy Polamalu, far more than Taylor Mays. And different than both in style and physique.)
6. Washington OL Kaleb McGary: The UW offensive tackle not named Trey Adams was a dominate force in the Pac-12 and will (health permitting) spend a decade in the NFL — although he may not do it as a tackle. McGary’s future could well be as a dynamite pulling guard.
5. Washington CB Byron Murphy: One of the best cornerbacks in the draft, Murphy doesn’t have off-the-charts speed. (Give him another half-step, and he would be a top-10 pick.) But his coverage instincts are first class, and his knack for the ball is superb. All Pro potential, for sure.
4. Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry: Helped his case at the Combine with a 4.53 time in the 40. There are no issues with hands, strength, body control or competitiveness. But some scouts wonder about his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and his top-end speed. We don’t share those concerns. Harry will be an elite possession receiver for many years.
3. Oregon OLB Justin Hollins: Pegged as a late-Day Two/early-Day Three selection, Hollins has Pro Bowl potential with his size (250 pounds) and speed (4.5) off the edge. The issue is consistency. We watched him record 14.5 tackles-for-loss last season, which isn’t a bad number. It’s just you’re left wondering why he didn’t have 18 or 20.
2. USC OL Chuma Edoga: This selection might come as a surprise to some, for Edoga is viewed as a mid-round selection. However, we’d argue that his performance at USC doesn’t reflect Edoga’s natural ability — that he underachieved like so many other Trojans, particularly on the offensive line. Coming out of high school, some might recall, Edoga was the top-rated interior lineman in the country.
1. Washington State OL Andre Dillard: So difficult to make the case for anyone else in this spot. (The Hotline tried to do just that, as part of the research process, and then gave up.) Dillard has all the skills necessary to be an All Pro at a high-value position. He ran sub-5.0 at the Combine and showed terrific mobility/footwork. Give him a year or two to get comfortable in an offense that’s not the Air Raid, and he should be a blind-side wall.
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