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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats prepped to start pro careers

The time is finally here. It’s NFL Draft week.

Several Arizona players have spent the past few months rigorously working out while taking visits and interviewing with NFL teams from across the country. Despite being just hours away from the start of the draft, none of the former Wildcats know when or where that call from a team might come.

Last year the Wildcats had two players selected in the draft — wide receiver Mike Thomas and offensive lineman Eben Britton — both going to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This year’s class appears to be much deeper, and here’s a look at the handful of players with the best chance of being drafted.

Rob Gronkowski, TE

Projected Round: 1-2

Breakdown:

Gronkowski surprised many by entering the draft early despite missing his entire junior season with a back injury, but his skill and legitimacy as a prospect surprise no one.

Chasing what he has repeatedly called a “”dream come true,”” Gronkowski’s draft projection was perhaps the most difficult of any prospect in the country. On one hand, you have a 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end that can catch, run and block as well as, if not better than, any tight end in the nation. On the other hand you have a player with a questionable injury history, leading some NFL teams to “”red flag”” him on their draft boards.

Gronkowski denies reports of spinal stenosis, saying that his back is “”100 percent.”” If he played his junior season he would be a lock in the first round, but as of right now he is looking like a second-rounder.

My prediction: I want go to with the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, but I’ll go with the New England Patriots in the second round.

Earl Mitchell, DT

Projected Round: 3-4

Breakdown:

Mitchell has been shooting up draft boards since his good showing at the NFL Combine. Teams love his leadership abilities and his character — Mitchell has never had a single sip of alcohol. His quickness from the interior of the defensive line makes him a potential starter in a 4-3 scheme.

He has done enough on and off the field throughout his college years to be drafted in the third round and perhaps even late in the second, but he will realistically get drafted in the mid-late third round because his athleticism, combined with his slightly small stature for a defensive tackle, could enable him to play elsewhere — either as a defensive end or even a blocking back on offense.

Not having a 100 percent true position might scare some teams, but that same versatility is what will make him desirable for NFL teams once he’s on a roster.

My prediction: Indianapolis Colts, third round

Devin Ross, CB

Projected Round: 6-7

Breakdown:

Ross has great size and great tackling ability for a corner, but his quickness and mobility are question marks. He does, however, have adequate straight-line speed. He will need to play in a zone-heavy defensive scheme as a cornerback since his man-to-man coverage skills were exposed at times last year. He will most likely contribute as a nickelback, where he can help in zone coverage and help defend the run.

My prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sixth round

Vuna Tuihalamaka, MLB

Projected Round: 6-undrafted

Breakdown:

Tuihalamaka has burst onto the scene of late. He was a productive player at the JuCo level and was one of the leaders of the defense during his senior season. What makes Tuihalamaka desirable is the way he plays defense: fast. Tuihalamaka flew around last season and was an inspirational leader for the Wildcats. His lack of experience will make him a project, which is why he’ll be drafted in the later rounds, if at all.

My prediction: Seattle Seahawks, seventh round

Cam Nelson, S

Projected Round: 7-undrafted

Breakdown:

Nelson was as consistent as a player could be during his time at Arizona. He has the intangibles to make it in the NFL and his tackling ability will help him get on a roster. Just one interception as a three-year starter will probably keep NFL teams from using anything higher than a seventh-round pick. He reminds me a lot of former Wildcat

safety Michael Johnson, who was drafted at the end

of the seventh round and has gone on to have a productive NFL career.

My prediction: Signs as an undrafted free agent

Chris Gronkowski, FB

Projected Round: 7-undrafted

Breakdown:

The elder Gronkowski is a hard-nosed player who will line up at fullback and contribute to special teams. He showed some pass-catching ability during his career at Arizona. Fullbacks aren’t commonly drafted, and unfortunately for Chris, he probably isn’t an exception, but he should sign a free agent contract almost immediately after the draft.

My prediction: Signs as an undrafted free agent

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