Thirty-three players from the Pac-12 were selected in the 2019 NFL draft. Sounds like a lot, right?
It depends on how you look at it.
On the one hand, the Pac-12’s showing would have put them behind the SEC, which had 64 players drafted, and the Big Ten (40 players), but it puts them ahead of the ACC (28) and the Big 12 (26).
Instead, it’s the quality that’s been down, as the Pac-12 had only three players drafted in the first round, which is the conference’s worst showing since expanding from 10 to 12 teams, says Eric Edholm, lead NFL draft analyst for Yahoo Sports. Of that total, none of those players were among the top 20 picks.
And of the Power-5 conferences, the Pac-12 outpaces only the Big 12 in the number of first-round selections, Edholm points out.
So who are the candidates to go in the first round this year?
Topping the list is Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who’s seen his stock ebb and flow this season but is still regarded as a first-rounder. The 6-foot-6, 237 pound senior has thrown for 2,329 yards, 24 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
After that, the picture becomes less clear.
Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault (6-2, 220; 37-530-3), Washington quarterback Jacob Eason (6-6, 227; 2,297-20-5), and offensive tackles Trey Adams of Washington (6-8, 314) and Walker Little of Stanford (6-7, 309) are all possibilities to go in the first round, but all have injury histories that could knock them down draft boards and out of the first round. Little is out for the year (knee surgery), while Adams (torn ACL, back surgery) missed 16 games the past two years. Shenault has been banged up all year, and Eason suffered a knee injury in the first game of his sophomore year – then with Georgia – that caused him to lose his starting job to then-freshman Jake Fromm.
Another darkhorse candidate for the first round is USC junior offensive tackle Austin Jackson (6-6, 310), who was featured recently by ESPN and is now the No. 23 prospect overall by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.
Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo and Oregon linebacker Troy Dye were also mentioned as first-round possibilities early in the draft season but are now considered more of a Day 2 talent.
In fact, the quality and quantity this year may come on the second day of the draft for the Pac-12. Second-round possibilities include:
Two more Pac-12 players to watch as the draft season unfolds: California linebacker Evan Weaver and Washington’s other offensive tackle, Jared Hilbers. Weaver (6-3, 235) leads the nation with 127 tackles and Hilbers (6-7, 315) has had a solid season after replacing Kaleb McGary, who was picked in the first round by the Washington Redskins in 2019.