I, probably like many of you, really enjoy the NFL Draft. I read mock drafts starting in about October and follow the smoke screens, workouts, combines and everything that comes with the event. As two former Gophers await their professional employers today, I wonder which names on the current roster may be hearing their name called on a future draft night.
Lists are always fun and can generate a lot of conversation and debate. Of course being a homer is going to lead me to think more highly of some current Gophers than NFL executives may feel but maybe after they read this they'll dig a bit deeper. My list is not in any particular order...here are a handful of names that I suspect will be called by the commissioner in the coming years.
(my caveat. This is not a projection of who will be drafted. Rather it is my guess at guys with the best chance to be drafted)
The Most Likely
CB - Eric Murray
Murray became a starter in 2013 and turned in an outstanding season. The Gopher coaching staff believes he is already one of the best corners in the Big Ten and he'll have two years left to continue to improve. Two more years to mature, develop and get better. If Brock Vereen is about to get drafted, I fully expect to see Murray get his name called in 2016 as well.
RB - Jeff Jones
This one is all about believing in the hype because even I recognize how silly it is to "project" a kid who isn't even enrolled at the U yet to possibly be an NFL Draft pick. But Jones has some tools that we haven't seen coming into this program in a long time and he will be featured in a way that should get him plenty of opportunities and exposure.
TE - Maxx Williams
I really think Williams will be a terrific Big Ten tight end over the next three years, earning accolades along the way. He has an NFL pedigree, good size, good athleticism and is productive. I am looking forward to his next few years in maroon and gold and then I believe he'll be playing on Sundays.
This is just too hard for me to project and I'm not going to try and pretend like I know enough about offensive linemen to project any to the NFL. But there are a few guys who I think have a chance to crack and NFL roster.
OT/OG - Josh Campion
He is just tough and durable, not to mention big, strong and effective. With most offensive linemen you (all of us but Matt) only notice them when they make a mistake; and I rarely notice Josh Campion
OG - Zac Epping
I think Epping has been on the verge of breaking through as one of the Big Ten's best interior linemen. He, and Campion, were selected by the media as honorable mention All-Big Ten last year. What I love most about Epping is his nastiness and toughness. Would anyone be surprised to see him progress in his senior season and earn himself late-round draft status?
OT - Jonah Pirsig
Highly recruited and now is pushing a 2-year starter for the RT job as a sophomore. Pirsit is huge at 6-9, 325. If there is anyone in this group with a chance to be drafted and drafted high I believe it will be Pirsig.
Others With a Chance
RB - David Cobb
Had a very productive, breakout junior season. Cobb is on the list of RBs with a chance to be drafted in 2015. If he has another 1,200 season and is featured as the main back again there is no reason he can't be getting a phone call from an NFL GM at this time next year.
MLB - Damien Wilson
He is tough, he tackles well and has good size. I think Wilson is legit and will have a big year after having a year to get properly acclimated to Gopher football.
DE - Theiran Cockran
Productive pass-rusher who earned 2nd Team All-Big Ten from the media last year as a sophomore. I like Cockran as a pass rusher, not so much as a complete DE and I don't know what his draft stock will be in 2 years. Does he have a chance? Absolutely.
RB - Berkely Edwards
Another guy who we haven't actually seen on the field, but elite speed is not a question with Edwards. NFL teams like speed and they tend to like guys with NFL blood in their veins.
OLB - De'Vondre Campbell
Freakishly large and freakishly athletic but Campbell has a few things to learn and refine. He'll have 2 years to make it happen.
What do you think? Who did I blatantly miss or who I am dramatically overvaluing? CCould Connor Mayes be snapping the ball to Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday's in four or five years? Certainly but much too difficult to project. Is Nate Wozniak going to be so good as a 6-10 TE that he'll leave early and thank GoAUpher for all the love? Probably, but I'll let GoAUpher bring it up in the comments.