Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's next following impressive draft haul

With a program-record five players drafted and three others heading into NFL training camps, it's been a rather productive few days for the UConn football program.

The question now is what are the draft prospects for UConn in 2014?

At first glance the answer is that it will be nowhere like it was this year.

Dwayne Gratz, Sio Moore, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Trevardo Williams and Ryan Griffin came into their seniors seasons as known commodities since they have been making plays since they were freshmen or sophomores. It's not a huge shock that they caught the eyes of NFL scouts. Nick Williams, Michael Smith and Ryan Wirth, who are heading into training camps as undrafted signees, all had the talent and enough impactful moments to get invites from NFL teams.

Looking at the current group of UConn football seniors and it seems to be a different story.

Many of the seniors in line to start next season would be players like Taylor Mack, Tim Willman and Ryan Donohue who have been role players in the past. The most experienced seniors are defensive end Jesse Joseph and offensive linemen Jimmy Bennett, Kevin Friend and Steve Greene.

I took a look at the www.nfldraftscout.com site's 2014 NFL draft database and the players at the top of the positional rankings are Greene (the No. 61 rated offensive guard) and Cole Wagner (the 24th rated punter) which would make both of them free agents at best. Defensive end Tim Willman, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, offensive linemen Friend and Tyler Bullock and running back Martin Hyppolite also are in the database. Obviously there's plenty of time for the UConn players to create waves but I would have to think that if the Huskies have a year similar to the one they just had that not too many scouts will be pursuing the veteran offensive linemen. However, if they turn the corner and emerge into a dominant offensive line, that will only help their chances to getting into NFL camps in 2014.

Recent history has shown that UConn's best showings in the NFL draft have come in odd numbered years with four players taken in both the 2009 and 2011 drafts and the five taken this season. That trend could be continuing in 2015.

I would have to think that linebacker Yawin Smallwood will be a sought after prospect with NFL prototype size. Defensive backs Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones and receivers Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips could also emerge into NFL prospects.

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