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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


NFL Draft: A crystal ball for April

It’s Senior Bowl week and that means one thing: The NFL Draft is getting closer.

Although there are no Arizona players participating in this weekend’s Senior Bowl, there are still plenty of Wildcats that will hear their names called at the end of April, and a few more that might get a shot in the NFL as free agents.

Let’s take a quick look at some Arizona players and where they stand in terms of the NFL.

The lock

Rob Gronkowski, TE

Gronkowski is the only underclassmen leaving the program early for the draft, and his decision has been controversial from the moment he declared. Did he leave too early? Was it the right decision? We won’t know for a while, but the fact is that he is leaving and NFL scouts will notice.

In terms of skill set, Gronkowski might be the best tight end in this year’s draft crop. He’s huge, he’s a very good blocker, and he’s a great receiver. He’s currently projected as a second-rounder, but only because he didn’t play last season. If he can blow up at the combine and prove that he is injury-free, you might see Gronkowski sneak into the lower first round.

The dark horse

Earl Mitchell, DT

It’s only a matter of time before Mitchell shoots up the draft boards. He has everything NFL teams want in a player: He’s a leader, he works hard, and he produces on the field. Mitchell recorded 44 tackles and six sacks this past season — both very high numbers for a defensive tackle.

The only thing that will keep Mitchell in the mid-lower rounds of the draft is that not many NFL scouts know what position he’ll play. He’s a bit undersized for a defensive tackle at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, and if he were to stay at defensive tackle he would likely need to play a traditional DT in a 4-3 scheme. Since the NFL has been moving toward 3-4 defenses over the years, Mitchell might be too small to play a traditional nose tackle spot in those schemes.

Will he stay at defensive tackle? Will he move to the defensive end? He’ll probably go wherever he’s asked. Don’t forget — Mitchell came into Arizona as a running back before getting moved to the defensive line. That team-first attitude will go a long way towards a roster spot in the NFL.

Might get drafted

Devin Ross, CB

Ross has ideal size for an NFL cornerback. At 5-foot-11 he’s tall enough to avoid glaring mismatches, and he’s very compact and well-built, which allows him to be an above-average tackler from the cornerback position. Ross had 79 tackles this season, a high number for a corner.

What he has in size, though, he lacked in production in 2009. At the beginning of the season, Ross could have been selected in the first three or four rounds, but he struggled in coverage at times this year. Regardless, he earned a chance to play in the NFL over the course of his career as a Wildcat.

Chris Gronkowski, H-back

The elder Gronkowski doesn’t wow you with his measurables or his numbers, but he is a solid football player. He said in a press conference that scouts told him he could go as high as the fourth round or as low as undrafted, but regardless of where or if he gets picked, Gronkowski will find his way onto an NFL roster. He’s projected as a blocking fullback and a gritty special teams player, and any coach will tell you that you can’t have enough of those guys.

Outside looking in

Cam Nelson, FS

Nelson will go down as one of the most vital components of Arizona football’s turnaround, but unfortunately there’s no category for that on a scouting report. Nelson was a three-year starter in the Arizona secondary but recorded just one career interception. The NFL has become fascinated with the ball-hawking safety-types, and unfortunately Nelson didn’t show that he had those kinds of skills during his career.

What he does have, though, is a winning attitude. Nelson is the quintessential “”gamer.”” The defense looked to him as its leader and he shone in the season’s biggest games against Oregon and USC. Nelson can react to plays as quickly as anyone and was very aggressive at the line of scrimmage, showing above-average run support.

Vuna Tuihalamaka, MLB

Tuihalamaka has decent size at 6-foot-2, 230 lbs. and he plays extremely fast. He only played at Arizona for two seasons, though, which means that NFL scouts probably don’t have enough film on him to take a chance in the draft.

Terrell Turner, WR

Turner had an incredible sophomore season but unfortunately was never able to top it. He is tall enough to fit the NFL mold, but he doesn’t have the explosiveness to get drafted. He’ll go down as one of the best wide receivers in Arizona history, but in order to do the same in the NFL he’ll have to start as an undrafted free agent.

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