Just a short time after the UCLA Bruins' Spring Showcase at the Rose Bowl wrapped up the Bruins' first spring football session under Jim Mora without Brett Hundley, Eric Kendricks, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Anthony Jefferson, Jordon James and Ellis McCarthy, the future of those players will take it's next step this weekend.
The NFL Draft is one of the strangest sports weekends there is. Baseball season is closing on the first month of the regular season, basketball and hockey are both finishing up the first round of their playoffs, soccer is headed towards the UEFA Champions league final (you are allowed to love both football and futbol, despite what narrative might lead you to believe). It is a busy time of year for sports fans.
Despite all those things, it is likely the highest ratings will likely be that of the process of NFL teams selecting college players to fill out around 10% of their roster for the upcoming season.
I am well aware of the absolute absurdity of people watching athletes pretend as though they enjoy hugging Roger Goodell despite the fact he is willingly compliant in the corrupt nature of NCAA football serving as a minor leagues for his league without any of the talent receiving compensation for the billions they make for countless rich men in suits.
At the same time, I will also be a hypocrite and likely watch multiple hours of this madness because I am an unapologetic junkie of this ridiculous sport.
Thursday night will be the first round, you can watch it on ESPN, NFL Network, or just follow Jay Glazer on Twitter and find out what will happen 5 minutes before you would on TV.
After that the 2nd and 3rd rounds will take place on Friday and the draft will conclude with the 4th through 7th rounds on Saturday, May 2nd.
As intriguing as alleged rapist, confirmed thief and probable scumbag Jameis Winston's future is, and as much as you may root for your favorite NFL franchise to be arbitrarily graded as draft "winners" despite the fact that no player will have played a down until September. anyone reading this article will probably be focused on the future of UCLA's entrants into the draft.
Let's take a quick look at each:
QB Brett Hundley
There will be an unhealthy amount of talk about Marcus Mariota (who I hope for his sake avoids the QB development cesspool that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise) and the aforementioned thief and alleged rapist from Florida State. After those two are gone, likely after the first two picks, nobody is really sure where the rest of the QBs will go. Grades for the group behind those two QBs are all over the place. The best case scenario (in my opinion, at least) is for Hundley to be selected by a team with a firmly entrenched veteran QB where he can comfortably sit and learn how to function at the NFL level.
Projection: Late 1st round - Mid-2nd round. 25% possibility of sliding into Day 3.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
If Owa did not have multiple hip surgeries in his time as a Bruin, he would be a top 15 selection. His tape is phenomenal, his frame and physical build are phenomenal. His athleticism is 95% phenomenal outside of his inability to bend around the edge (hip surgeries will do that).
He is a stud and will likely be in the league for a decade or so if his body allows it. I will feel so validated if he goes in the 1st round for ringing the bell for him all offseason in 2014. Always remember: tape don't lie.
Projection: Mid-1st Round - Early-2nd round.
LB Eric Kendricks
The only reason that Kendricks might not be taken in the 1st round is due to the reduced value of non-pass rushing linebackers in the current setup of NFL. He's a 3-down LB with sound technique and a track record of finding the ball frequently.
Despite his testing being off the charts compared to his peers as LBs in this class, he is viewed as a non-elite athlete for some reason. He is undersized but that has not affected his brother in the NFL too much over the years. Hopefully, scouts don't look at him that way. He will be in the NFL a very long time if he is healthy.
Projection: Late-1st round - mid-2nd round. I see one of those smart teams (like the Packers) taking EK in the 1st round.
DT Ellis McCarthy
I would be lying if I said I had any clue of how NFL teams will view McCarthy as a prospect. The talent is there, the size is there, and, if you watch tape closely enough without looking at the stat sheet (or number of starts, which are listed as though they matter in a 3-4 defense), the 5* performance is there.
The issue is how often all of that shows up.
I believe in Ellis and see him being an anchor in the middle of a defense as a gap-plugging DT for many years. He has all the ability in the world to do so.
Would it be tough for you to convince me that Ellis made a mistake declaring for the draft and won't be in the NFL in three years? No, not particularly.
Projection: Day 3 selection. The round won't particularly matter, but I do feel as though he will be selected. If not, he'll be a highly coveted UDFA with a great shot at making a roster if healthy.
DB Anthony Jefferson and OL Malcolm Bunche
Longer shots for both of these players, along with Jordon James to a lesser level, to be drafted this weekend.
I was optimistic about Jefferson, but it is so tough to guess with the late rounds. Jefferson was the model of consistency once he got on the field at UCLA. I had more confidence in him at DB (either safety or corner) than anyone else in the secondary. Is he fluid enough of an athlete to hang with NFL talent? I don't know. Would I be willing to take a shot at him as a NFL GM with a pick in the 200's? Yes, I would. Even if he doesn't get drafted, he will be given a chance to make a team.
Projection: 6th round - UDFA
Bunche looks like an NFL lineman but I rarely saw him play like one at UCLA (which I would say of almost every UCLA offensive lineman over the course of the Mora era). I could see a team taking a flier on him in the 7th round, but more likely to be a UDFA or camp invite. He'll get a chance though because he is a behemoth that NFL coaches would love to try to figure out.
Projection: 7th round - UDFA
That's it for me today, hopefully the NFL finds a way to sneak three Bruins into the first round and makes Thursday a celebratory affair for the UCLA family.
Until then, Go Bruins!