Mountain West Football: First Look At 2020 NFL Draft Prospects
It’s never too early to look ahead and figure out who might emerge from the Mountain West and entice the NFL.
Who can be the next men up?
The 2019 NFL Draft is now firmly in the rear view mirror, which means that prognosticators have already turned their attention to next April, when Las Vegas will host what is certain to be an interesting class with several elite talents.
Could the Mountain West be a part of that mix? At a minimum, it has done pretty well for itself recently: Since 2014, the first year of the conference’s current iteration, a total of 62 players have been selected. With that in mind, it’s never too early for thinking about who might turn some heads by this time next week. Who’s most likely to be drafted first from each team?
Right off the bat, a tricky call to make. The Falcons don’t often hear names called in the NFL Draft and a long snapper just became their first such selection this century, but I get the sense that teams would be mildly intrigued by someone like Mosese Fifita. His size is rare for the Academy and he’s proven that he knows how to be part of an efficient run defense, so he might be fit for a niche role like fellow alumni Ben Garland and Garrett Griffin.
This one is easy: Curtis Weaver. As it happens, other people believe this to be the case already, too, so if he can string together a third straight standout season, it’d be a slam dunk for him to leave early and declare.
In the mix: Ezra Cleveland, offensive tackle; John Hightower, wide receiver; Garrett Larson, center; David Moa, defensive tackle; John Molchon, guard; Kekoa Nawahine, safety
It seems like the Mountain West has at least one surprise selection every year and, at least from here, I can see where a defender like Braylin Scott could make himself into a Day Three pick if he seizes a starting role for good and performs well. He’ll also need to ensure that some serious off-field issues are firmly behind him, too.
In the mix: Jamal Hicks, safety
Next year’s tight end class may not have the same high-end talent as this one just had, but that should be good news for someone like Jared Rice. He showed a bit of catch-and-run ability last fall and will be counted upon as an experienced hand within an offense breaking in a lot of new playmakers.
In the mix: Jaron Bryant, cornerback; Juju Hughes, safety; Mykal Walker, linebacker
John Ursua’s production carried over quite nicely to a fuller implementation of the run-and-shoot, which seems to bode well for someone like Cedric Byrd. Like Ursua, his role may be somewhat limited by his size, but he possesses the same kind of explosiveness and had the best catch rate among Hawaii’s top pass catchers.
In the mix: Rojesterman Ferris II, cornerback
This could be a big year for wide receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange. Unlike his pass catching peers in Reno, O’Leary-Orange’s size and presence in the red zone could catch a lot of NFL eyes, but he’ll need to avoid the bad breaks like the injury that sidelined him for a time last fall.
In the mix: Gabe Sewell, linebacker
You might remember Aaron Blackwell from his weight room exploits last fall, but the 6-foot-3, 288-pound defensive tackle is one of the Lobos’ few proven commodities on defense and could put that physical intensity to good use in the trenches all year long. If he can prove himself to be a more consistent disruption, NFL teams might be willing to take a late flyer.
San Diego State
Kyahva Tezino had a breakout season as a pass rusher last fall and could tantalize NFL teams if he can do it again. There may be a chance his size qualifies him as a “tweener”, as it may have with Nevada’s Malik Reed in this class, but underestimate Tezino at your own risk.
In the mix: Daishawn Dixon, guard; Juwan Washington, running back
San Jose State
The Spartans defense struggled a lot last season, but the linebacker unit had moments where it frustrated opponents and no one did more of that than Jesse Osuna. If he can refine his skill set as a pass rusher, he could project as a role player at the next level.
A team looking for a physical presence on the interior of their offensive line might do well to take a closer look at guard Justin Polu. The senior member of the Rebels line has 36 career starts under his belt and has been busy opening holes for the runners behind him, and a 6-foot-4, 330-pound frame is something you can’t teach.
In the mix: Sid Acosta, center; Jericho Flowers, cornerback; Javin White, linebacker
It always seems that one NFL team or another wants to address special teams in the draft, which makes kicker Dominik Eberle an intriguing prospect. If he can improve upon his range (9-of-12 from 40+ yards in 2018) and touchback percentage (63.9%) just a touch, he could easily put himself on the shortlist of specialists who get the call.
In the mix: Jordan Love, quarterback; D.J. Williams, cornerback; David Woodward, linebacker
The obvious answer here is linebacker Logan Wilson. A tackling machine from the moment he stepped into the starting lineup, he’s shown enough of all the tools you need from someone in the middle that it’s hard not to imagine him rising up some boards in his senior year.