2018 NFL Draft: Miami Hurricanes RB Mark Walton shows toughness, health

Mark Walton made it through setbacks on and off the field to put himself on the verge of being drafted. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been a good start to the NFL Combine for Mark Walton, and the teams he’s been meeting with here seem drawn to the grit that got him through unimaginable heartache to reach this point.

Walton left the University of Miami after an injury-hampered junior year and is here to prove that wasn’t a mistake. As he tries to push his way up draft boards, he’s getting a lot of questions about losing both parents, including the death of his mother a year ago Friday.

Those tragedies have scarred him, but they’ve also molded him into a man who’s tough enough to handle anything that awaits him.

Read more of our story on Walton over on the Daily Dolphin blog.

Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya insists NFL Draft possibility is not a distraction

Brad Kaaya #15 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates with fans after defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 29-24 on November 27, 2015 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Brad Kaaya #15 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates with fans after defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 29-24 on November 27, 2015 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Brad Kaaya has plenty to be excited about.

The Hurricanes quarterback is tabbed as a potential top-five pick in some early 2017 NFL mock drafts. Kaaya, who will be a junior this fall and thus eligible to declare for the 2017 draft, is No. 2 overall in Todd McShay’s latest mock draft for ESPN. Continue reading “Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya insists NFL Draft possibility is not a distraction”

2016 NFL Draft: Miami Hurricanes rookie salaries by the numbers

This group of Hurricanes rookies is set to earn more than $2.34 million in guaranteed money this season — 99.3 percent of it by drafted players.

Rashawn Scott (left) and Deon Bush competed at the NFL Combine. (Getty Images)
Rashawn Scott (left) and Deon Bush competed at the NFL Combine. (Getty Images)

According to projections by Spotrac.com, Pittsburgh first-rounder Artie Burns (25th overall) will make $1.744 million cash on a three-year, $9.591 million deal. The top cornerback in the draft, Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey (fifth overall, Jacksonville) pulled down 2.43 times that in guaranteed money ($4.247 million; he signed a deal worth $23.351 million).

Chicago fourth-rounder Deon Bush — whose profile increased greatly after the Bears cut ex-UM safety Antrel Rolle on Sunday, the day after drafting Bush — was handed a check for $581,554. His three-year deal is worth $2.821 million.

Of course, players don’t take home that amount. Finance-wise, Burns and Bush are probably thankful they weren’t picked by a team in a high-tax state like California.

Now, what about the undrafted guys?

The standard contract for an undrafted free agent is for three years and between $1.62 million and $1.64 million. The 445 UDFA rookies in Spotrac’s database as of Monday morning had an average salary between $546,667 and $540,000 (with a handful of outliers on two-year deals).

The guaranteed money, again, is where things differ. The top cash-earner among UDFAs was San Diego State guard Darrell Greene ($105,000 from Philadelphia). By comparison, the last player drafted — Southern Mississippi cornerback Kalan Reed — is set to take home $464,635 off the top.

Cornerback Tracy Howard ($9,000 from Cleveland) and linebacker Tyriq McCord ($7,000 from Pittsburgh) will have something coming whether or not they are cut from rookie camp.

No guaranteed money is listed for wide receiver Rashawn Scott (Miami) and Herb Waters (Green Bay) or defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou (Denver).  Defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu (Houston) has yet to sign.

Spotrac noted Miami’s total draft pick contract value of $12,412,199 ranked 28th among colleges. Ohio State, which had 13 players drafted and five first-rounders, claimed a combined draft pick value of more than $117 million — more than double the next-best school’s total (Notre Dame, $51 million).

2016 NFL Draft: Miami Hurricanes UDFA tracker

The Hurricanes’ senior class of 2015 produced two draft picks — first-rounder Artie Burns and fourth-rounder Deon Bush — and a host of undrafted free agents who will get their shot to make an NFL roster in rookie camp.

Hurricanes cornerback Tracy Howard after an Aug. 2014 practice. (instagram.com/mattyports)
Hurricanes cornerback Tracy Howard after an Aug. 2014 practice. (instagram.com/mattyports)

Shortly after the draft ended, cornerback Tracy Howard said via text message he was heading to the Cleveland Browns. Howard (5-11, 183) was a five-star signee in 2012 who didn’t have a standout college career; once rated as the No. 1 cornerback recruit in high school, he finished with five career interceptions. Howard looked significantly faster and smoother in his Pro Day workout, however, so that bodes well for him. He’ll reunite with Duke Johnson in Cleveland.

Ufomba Kamalu has an opportunity with the Houston Texans, and fellow defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou is heading to the Denver Broncos. Both of those transactions were reported by Jacksonville beat writer Mike Kaye.

RELATED: A list of Hurricanes players on NFL rosters (updated pre-draft)

Wide receiver Herb Waters said via text message he is heading to the Green Bay Packers. In camp, he will likely practice against former Hurricanes quarterbacks Sam Shields and Ladarius Gunter and may catch passes from ex-UM quarterback Ryan Williams. 

The agent for linebacker Tyriq McCord said in a text McCord will join the Pittsburgh Steelers (where Burns became a first-round draft pick on Thursday and ex-teammate Anthony Chickillo is in his second year). The National Football Post reported McCord earned a $7,000 signing bonus.

Wide receiver Rashawn Scott will stay local, signing with the Miami Dolphins. Scott is from Melbourne.

Remaining Miami undrafted free agents include linebacker Raphael Kirby and running back Dallas Crawford. 

Miami’s total of two draftees ties 2013, 1998, 1996 and 1994 as the second-lowest total in UM’s NCAA-best 42-year streak of producing at least one pick. UM sent one player to the draft in 2009 and 1980.

Former Hurricanes receiver Allen Hurns, now one of the top young pass-catchers in the league, had a post-draft message for all his fellow non-draftees:

 

Speaking after he attended UM’s Pro Day, Hurns said he was proud to be an example to those who didn’t hear their names called on the big stage.

“It feels good, just being able to be in this position to motivate those guys,” he said. “It’s very humbling. The main thing I tell them is to stay patient and always keep your faith up. Things may happen and you may get frustrated, but things are going to turn out. Always have that faith that things are going to get better. No matter the situation, never let anybody limit you.

“As far as me, my situation itself I think speaks volumes to those guys. I went undrafted. I started making plays from day 1. They see the work that I put in and keeping that faith that I can play this game and nobody can tell me any different.”

Miami’s Deon Bush selected by Chicago Bears in 4th round of draft

When Deon Bush woke up Saturday morning, he was almost certain he would be drafted. He also had a feeling where he might go. So he rolled out of bed and put on a Chicago Bears T-shirt, navy blue with a “C” logo in the middle and “CHICAGO” across the top.

After 1:30 p.m., with friends and family shouting and dancing around him, it was confirmed: he was perfectly dressed for the occasion.

The Bears drafted Bush, a safety from UM, with the 124th overall pick in the fourth round. He joins teammate Artie Burns (25th overall, Pittsburgh Steelers) as the Hurricanes’ 2015 draftees (so far) and will reunite with one of his mentors, Bears safety Antrel Rolle, in Chicago.

“It’s feeling so good, man,” Bush said by phone, as his family buzzed around him in their West Perrine home. “The anxiety of waiting, not knowing what’s going to happen … that’s all over. I’m just so thankful, so happy.”

So why did Bush choose that particular attire? He happened to grab the shirt at the NFL combine, at which teams offered the participants some take-home gear. He just liked it because it was navy blue.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Bush said. “I put it in my bag. When I got to the hotel I looked and saw it was a Chicago Bears shirt.”

Since he had a good feeling about it Saturday morning – the Bears told him going in that if he was there when they needed a safety, they would pick him, and they didn’t take a safety in the first three rounds – he decided to wear it. If they didn’t take him, he could change quickly. No matter, though. When the phone call came, “I just looked at my family and tapped my shirt,” Bush said. “They saw me and started screaming.”

“I’m just so thankful for the opportunity. Chicago, man,” he said. “I’m not going to let them down. They told me they liked me as a player and they feel they can round me up and help me become the player they know I can be. I know I’ve got a lot to improve. I’m just going to hit the ground running and work hard.”

In addition to his excitement over learning from Rolle (former UM punter Pat O’Donnell also plays there), Bush said he was enamored with Chicago’s tradition of defense – “they produce guys like Brian Urlacher that we grew up watching, the tops at their positions” – and the city itself. “It’s a great city. The Windy City,” he said.

Once he gets there, he’ll buy some new winter clothing. Until then, he’s got a new favorite T-shirt.

DEON BUSH
MIAMI
6-foot-1, 202 pounds, S

Deon Bush. (Getty Images)
Deon Bush. (Getty Images)

Deon Bush was the 26th pick in the fourth round (No. 124 overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.

Bio:

Bush, a West Perrine native who played at Miami-Columbus High, had a productive career, registering 168 tackles (10 for loss, five sacks) in 45 career games (32 starts). He also forced nine fumbles, recovered three, broke up 14 passes and intercepted four. Like teammate Artie Burns, he is driven to help his family (he told the Post recently his father is doing well).

Scouting report:

Bush struggled early in his career with injuries due in part to a combination of aggressive play and subpar technique, but developed into a solid, healthy contributor as a senior. He liked the big hit, which led to a targeting penalty and subsequent half-game suspension in October. Scouts regard him as a good athlete who lacks elite speed but strikes well. NFL.com, which projected him to be drafted in Rounds 5-6, considers him a special-teamer and backup at best. CBS Sports believed he would be a Round 6 selection.

NFL Combine results:

40-yard-dash: 4.64 seconds
20-yard shuffle: DNP
3-cone-drill: 6.91 seconds (at UM Pro Day)
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches (at UM Pro Day)
Standing long jump: 10 feet, four inches
225-pound bench press: 17 reps

Quote of note:

“Put some horrific tape together this year. His Florida State game was a disaster. I expect him to put some numbers up at the combine that get him drafted earlier than he should be. I think he’s a mid-rounder with very good special teams value but will need to be a backup box safety-­type of player early in his career.” ­– AFC North scout

Career highlights:

2016 NFL Draft: Five things to know about Artie Burns and the Steelers

The Hurricanes extended their NFL Draft streak — 42 years and counting — and produced another first-rounder when Artie Burns was taken 25th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday.

A few tidbits about Burns and his new team:

Artie Burns poses for a photo with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, left, and President Arthur J. Rooney II as he holds a team jersey after a news conference where he was introduced as the first-round pick of the team and 25th overall in the NFL football draft, Friday, April 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh. (AP)
Artie Burns poses for a photo with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, left, and President Arthur J. Rooney II as he holds a team jersey after a news conference where he was introduced as the first-round pick of the team and 25th overall in the NFL football draft, Friday, April 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

Secondary concerns: Burns will fit well in his new home. Pittsburgh, which finished 30th in pass defense last season and lost Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin to free agency, needed a cornerback badly. The Steelers, who hadn’t taken a corner in the first round since Chad Scott in 1997, snatched Burns to help defend big-time AFC North receivers like Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. “I try to be the most physical I can be,” Burns said. “Most cornerbacks are stereotyped as being soft, and I don’t like the word ‘soft.’”

Steel City success: In two career games at Heinz Field playing for the Hurricanes, Burns has won twice. He also has two interceptions. He returned one three yards in UM’s win there in 2013, and returned another 19 yards in the final regular-season game of 2015. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who was sold on Burns after attending UM’s Pro Day, noticed him then, too. “He is good at the ball down the field,” Tomlin said. “He has elite speed. We are really excited about him in general. He is a good piece of clay to work with and to mold to get going here in 2016.”

Return on deck: South Florida won’t have to wait long to welcome back Burns. The Steelers visit the Dolphins on Oct. 16. The Hurricanes host North Carolina the day before in the structure formerly known as Sun Life Stadium.

Heinz homies: Burns will reunite with former Miami teammate Anthony Chickillo, a second-year linebacker who played in seven games last year and finished with six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Chickillo, a sixth-round pick in 2015, spent the first month of the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster. Burns won’t have to wait that long. Burns also knows wide receiver Eli Rogers (they were teammates at Miami Northwestern High) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (South Florida Express 7-on-7 squad). He faced Rogers (Louisville) and several other Steelers in ACC play. Star receiver Antonio Brown is seven years older, but Burns probably knows who he is; Brown starred at Miami Norland.

He’ll also face off against several former teammates in divisional play, including Cleveland running back Duke Johnson:

https://twitter.com/DukeJohnson_8/status/725881668070981632

Money man: The maximum amount Burns will get in his four-year rookie deal is $9,590,983, which includes a signing bonus of no more than $5,175,260 according to Joel Corry, a former sports agent who write about NFL contracts for CBS Sports and the National Football Post.

* * *

Day 3 watch: No Hurricanes were chosen Friday in the second or third rounds of the draft, but at least one — safety Deon Bush — should hear his name called Saturday. Bush is projected to be taken in Rounds 4-6. In no particular order, defensive tackles Ufomba Kamalu and Calvin Heurtelou, wide receivers Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott, linebackers Raphael Kirby and Tyriq McCord and cornerback Tracy Howard could be late-round picks or sign free agent contracts soon after the draft concludes.

Miami’s Artie Burns selected by Pittsburgh in first round of 2016 NFL Draft

ARTIE BURNS
MIAMI
6-foot, 193 pounds, CB

Artie Burns participates in the 2016 NFL combine in Indianapolis. (AP)
Artie Burns participates in the 2016 NFL combine in Indianapolis. (AP)

Artie Burns was the 25th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bio:

Burns, a North Miami native who played at Miami Northwestern High, was the ACC’s interceptions leader (six) last season, his junior year at UM. In two years as a starter, he made 76 tackles (2.5 for loss), broke up 11 passes, intercepted six, and recovered one fumble. Burns, who has custody of his two younger brothers after the tragic death of their mother last fall, decided to leave UM in large part to provide for his family.

Scouting report:

Burns is considered by many analysts to be a raw prospect, but a clear-cut starter with some development. His size, speed and athleticism – a former track star, he holds a U.S. junior record in hurdles – presents an intriguing package. A “premium athlete,” NFL.com wrote. He played both zone and man-to-man in UM’s 3-4 scheme. Though at least one notable projection slotted him in the first round, most had Burns in the second.

NFL Combine results:

40-yard-dash: 4.46 seconds
20-yard shuffle: 4.3 seconds (at UM Pro Day)
3-cone-drill: 6.96 seconds (at UM Pro Day)
Vertical jump: 31.5 inches
Standing long jump: 10 feet, four inches (at UM Pro Day)
225-pound bench press: seven reps (at UM Pro Day)

Quote of note:

“Tape is just average. Betting on the combine with him and he’ll test off the charts. He’s got the traits, but he’s not ready yet. He’s a good kid who has so much to deal with now that his mom has passed.” — NFL personnel executive.

Career highlights:

 

Tyriq McCord thanks Hurricanes fans, City of Miami in heartfelt note

Tyriq McCord has had a long and winding Hurricanes career.

He arrived in 2012 as a 6-foot-3, 220-pound pass-rushing specialist from Tampa. By his senior year, he was a 239-pound outside linebacker. He produced some bright moments (the 2013 Florida game; this hit; a career with 110 tackles, 21.5 for loss, 14 sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions). He saw some dark days (playing too early as a freshman on UM’s record-worst defense of 2012, the 6-7 season of 2014, a coaching change).

Senior Tyriq McCord, playing in his final home game as a Hurricane, celebrates a third-quarter sack against Georgia Tech. (Getty Images)
Senior Tyriq McCord, playing in his final home game as a Hurricane, celebrates a third-quarter sack against Georgia Tech. (Getty Images)

McCord, nicknamed “The Freak,” was one of the Hurricanes’ more unique personalities. He was usually a very interesting interview. He also had an affinity for posting cat memes on his Twitter (and got into trouble on social media for other reasons). Before the NFL draft began, McCord was in a reflective mood about his career and the city he feels welcomed him, so he wrote a thank-you note:

Here’s what he wrote (lightly edited):

Beautiful 305,

You’re such a temptation…but damn, you were so good to me.

You welcomed me as if I was your own and it’s been love ever since. We had our ups, we had our downs. But even with the negativity you never gave up on me. You stayed loyal in my corner. You criticized me only to make me stronger, and praised me when I was high. But you always reminded me there was someone out there trying to stop my shine. Miami thank you for every single little thing you have done, from fans at the games or even at the store when I got groceries, and even to the time I was refused access to a bar because of my ethnicity, everything made me stronger and the man I am today standing here before you.

You blessed me with the opportunity to remresent you at so many different cities. You granted me the chance to make a name for myself. You also allowed me to mature and grow from [an] immature boy to [a] mature young man. Thank you Miami for everything. There is no other city like you that’s why I know I will be just fine. I will always love you from the bottom of my heart and that’s real.

To my college coaches, thank you for sharing your wisdom of the game and seeing something I did not see in myself (playing linebacker).

To my teammates, I love y’all boys man and pray nothing but success for y’all boys, go get them rings man sky is the limit!!!

And to everyone, stay blessed man ’cause God works in mysterious ways man! I have seen and lived the blessings he has shared.

2 things I want y’all to always remember man…

#Godislove and #FreeGuwop.

Yours Truly,

The Freak

McCord, who is widely projected to go undrafted, is likely to sign as a rookie free agent. When he was interviewed on UM’s pro day on March 31, he said he wasn’t sweating it. “I’m prepared for whatever situation comes,” he said, adding that would watch the draft at home in Tampa.

“I hate to say it but my time down in Miami has come to an end, unless I get picked up by Miami,” he said. “Of course I’m going to be back. Gotta be back. I love this team. The young guys need to know we’re a part of this team. I can’t say away from them for long. It’s been tremendous.”

Artie Burns’ agent fires back at TMZ story saying he went on a jewelry run

A TMZ story posted early Thursday morning said former Hurricanes cornerback Artie Burns dropped $41,000 on jewelry in a New York City store this week, hoping to look fresh for the NFL Draft.

Those close to Burns say:

“That’s [expletive].”

Those were the words of Melvin Bratton, Burns’ agent and a former Hurricanes running back. He said the celebrity jeweler who spoke to TMZ about Burns’ alleged run, Joe Avianne, had several key details wrong and was looking to capitalize on a marketing opportunity.

TMZ
TMZ

Bratton said Burns, who is shown in a TMZ photo posing with Avianne, did purchase jewelry from him. However, he said Burns did not spend anywhere near the $41,000 total TMZ reported. Avianne told TMZ that Burns “picked up a 2-tone Rolex ($19k), a diamond cross ($3k) and a diamond tennis chain ($19k).”

Bratton didn’t have receipts handy, but said the watch Burns purchased was a used model worth “maybe $5,000.”

Bratton also said Burns made his purchases Feb. 19, not this week.

“That guy’s trying to do some marketing. This time of year people prey on kids,” said Bratton, a longtime NFL personnel man and scout before he earned his agent certification three years ago. “Look at the timing. Every year something like this happens. People try to capitalize.”

In an interview with the Post earlier this month for a story about Burns, Bratton commented how impressed he was that Burns didn’t act recklessly, as some pros-in-waiting do.

“For a kid at 20, he didn’t buy a car,” Bratton said in that interview. “Some potential draftees, they’ll go spend on everything, like a dream, within a four-month period. For a guy who could really use a car, he didn’t get one. He didn’t take out a big line of credit, just enough to maintain. That’s very, very rare.”

Speaking after he learned of the TMZ story:

“He doesn’t have $41,000,” Bratton said. “He doesn’t even have a car.”

Bratton expressed similar disdain when he was informed of comments made by a 247Sports reporter that seemed to insinuate that Burns used money donated by well-wishers to buy jewelry. After Burns’ mother, Dana Smith, died suddenly last October, UM set up a GoFundMe account for fans to donate to help pay for funeral and related expenses. The account swelled past $40,000 in six hours before UM was forced to close it.

On Thursday a reporter for recruiting website 247Sports, Josh Newberg, tweeted a link to the TMZ story and commented that it was, “Odd considering Miami set up a gofundme account that raised 40K for his mothers funeral just 6 months ago.” Newberg continued to tweet with people about the story, many of whom were Hurricanes fans irritated with the perceived insinuation. In several different conversations, Newberg maintained that he might “feel weird” if he donated money to Burns and then saw the TMZ story.

“That’s a dumb-[expletive] comment,” Bratton said, using another choice word to describe Newberg.

Bratton said that account still has some $20,000 left in it – and Burns doesn’t have access to it. UM controls the access.

Newberg later deleted his original post.

“We’re not worried about all this,” Bratton said.

Bratton said Burns will have a small gathering at a family member’s home to celebrate the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. Thursday with first-round coverage. An ESPN camera crew will be there, the Miami Herald reported. Burns is considered by many analysts to be a second-round pick, but could sneak into the first round.

 

2016 NFL Draft: Where will Miami Hurricanes players be drafted?

While the Hurricanes may not see one of their own go in the first round — cornerback Artie Burns is the only player with that potential — he and several late-round picks could join the 270 Hurricanes drafted by NFL teams.

A view of the NFL Draft stage in Chicago in 2015. (Getty Images)
A view of the NFL Draft stage in Chicago in 2015. (Getty Images)

Other than Burns, safety Deon Bush has the best shot of landing somewhere in the draft, according to several projections, while  linebackers Tyriq McCord and Raphael Kirby, defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu, cornerback Tracy Howard and receivers Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters are considered pro-level players and potential free agent signees.

But maybe they’ll hear their names called on TV.

The first round of the NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday in Chicago. It continues at 7 p.m. Friday with the second and third rounds. The final four rounds begin at noon Saturday.

We scanned six high-profile mock drafts that predict all seven rounds to get a better sense of where Miami’s players stand heading into the important weekend. We used:

Only Burns and Bush were widely projected to be drafted. In fact, only one other Hurricanes player — Kamalu — appeared in any of the mock drafts. WalterFootball.com slotted him in the sixth round, 214th overall, to the New England Patriots.

The projections:

 Artie Burns: 

Deon Bush: 

Wherever they land, this year’s Hurricanes draft haul is guaranteed to be smaller than last year, when UM produced seven draft picks and six free agent signees. Miami, which went 6-7 (3-5 ACC) in 2014, became the 12th losing team in the draft’s 80-year history to produce two first-round picks (Ereck Flowers, Phillip Dorsett). The 2015 Hurricanes (8-5, 5-3) return a greater concentration of talent, including quarterback Brad Kaaya, a potential first-round pick in 2017 (if he declares early) or 2018.