Way-too-early Miami Hurricanes projections for 2019 NFL Draft

Miami Hurricanes defensive back Sheldrick Redwine (22) recovers a fumble by Toledo Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside as defensive end Joe Jackson (99) chases at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 23, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Later this month, a dozen former Hurricanes will suit up for NFL teams in offseason workouts. Six Miami players were drafted, six were not, but all will face stiff competition as they try to win jobs.

Projecting the next wave of Pro Canes — the NFL Draft class of 2019 — is an imprecise activity. The first games of 2018 are four months away. An early first-round projection is no guarantee of a Day 1 selection.

However, a few UM players could help NFL teams solve their most glaring needs.

Cornerback Michael Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson, both of whom considered entering the draft as juniors, will return as seniors. Each had four interceptions last year, sharing the team lead. Jackson has the requisite size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and speed to be a high-round pick. Johnson’s playmaking ability and stout tackling against the run might assuage teams worried about his size (5-10, 190).

At least two underclassmen stand out as potential early selections: defensive end Joe Jackson and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, both juniors.

Jackson, a 6-5, 260-pound edge player, registered 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. Richards (6-1, 195), coming off an injury-riddled sophomore season (439 yards and three touchdowns on 24 catches), was a freshman All-American and set a UM first-year receiving record (934 yards) in 2016.

Several 2019 mock drafts project the two Jacksons (who are not related) and Richards in the first round, with Johnson sneaking into at least one lookahead.

CBS Sports is the highest on any Miami player, slotting Richards 10th overall. It also has Joe Jackson as the 29th player taken. Two outlets have three Hurricanes in the first round. USA Today has Michael Jackson (18th) and Richards (19th) going back-to-back, and Joe Jackson (30th) near the end of Day 1.  Bleacher Report listed Joe Jackson 16th, Michael Jackson 18th and Richards 26th.

Miami last produced three first-rounders in a single year in 2007, when Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason and Greg Olsen were chosen with picks 24, 25 and 31. The Hurricanes hit a first-round trifecta six times, including 2004, when a record six players (Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey and Vince Wilfork) were selected.

Other 2019 first-round mock drafts with a Miami flavor: WalterFootball.com had Richards 17th and Joe Jackson 19th. SB Nation saw Michael Jackson (19th) and Johnson (20th) getting calls in order. The Big Lead projected Michael Jackson 12th.

NFL scouts coming to Miami practices this fall will likely assess the pro-readiness of numerous other players, including:

* Junior linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, two of the ACC’s top inside linebackers since they were freshmen.

* Fellow junior Zach McCloud, coming off a wrist injury, has to show he’s both healthy and a better option than the safety-sized linebackers UM used in his place this spring.

* Junior running back Travis Homer, who quietly produced a 966-yard, eight-touchdown season despite averaging 6.25 carries in his first four games. He averaged 16.1 over the final nine.

* Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Gerald Willis, a talented interior lineman who hasn’t put much on tape.

* Quarterback Malik Rosier, if he fixes his accuracy issues, will keep his starting job as a senior and improve his stock as a potential pro.

* This is a prove-it season for several other seniors, like safety Sheldrick Redwine (6-1, 195), a reliable performer last year after converting from cornerback, receivers Dayall Harris and Darrell Langham, offensive linemen Tyler Gauthier and Tyree St. Louis, and cornerback Jhavonte Dean.

* Redshirt senior defensive end Demetrius Jackson and redshirt junior wide receiver Lawrence Cager, their careers hampered by knee injuries, could open eyes with big 2018 seasons.

But it appears the top of Miami’s draft class, barring any surprises, will include two seniors and two underclassmen. No guarantee the latter will leave school early — neither Richards nor Joe Jackson has spoken publicly about it — though nearly every major-college player wants to play in the league, most as soon as possible.

Miami lost running back Mark Walton (fourth round) and starting defensive tackles R.J. McIntosh (fifth) and Kendrick Norton (seventh) to this year’s draft, a year after losing underclassman tight end David Njoku (first), quarterback Brad Kaaya (seventh) and running back Joe Yearby (undrafted and unsigned).

Johnson said last December, amid a string of three season-ending losses, he wasn’t listening to those in his circle who told him he should turn pro.

“I could sort of sense it in people’s voice, that they wanted me to just leave, but I make my own decisions,” he said. “My dad taught me that. My mom taught me that. They tell me to make my own decisions. I knew I would do four years as soon as I came here and I’m going to get my degree and play for a national championship.”

2018 Miami draft class
Round (Pick ) — Player — Team

3 (67) — DE Chad Thomas — Cleveland Browns
4 (107) — TE Chris Herndon — New York Jets
4 (112) — RB Mark Walton* — Cincinnati Bengals
5 (139) — DE R.J. McIntosh* — New York Giants
6 (210) — WR Braxton Berrios — New England Patriots
7 (242) — DT Kendrick Norton* — Carolina Panthers

Undrafted free agents
Player — Team

K Michael Badgley — Indianapolis Colts
OG Kc McDermott — Jacksonville Jaguars
DE/LB Trent Harris — New England Patriots
CB Dee Delaney — Jacksonville Jaguars
DT Anthony Moten — Miami Dolphins
OG Trevor Darling — Cleveland Browns (tryout)

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