— The Sports Xchange —
The decisions of two quarterbacks — USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen — to leave school early were the biggest NFL draft news of Wednesday, but two top junior cornerbacks also declared.
Auburn’s Carlton Davis, rated as a late-first round prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, and Iowa’s Josh Jackson announced their decisions on social media. NFLDraftScout.com projects Jackson as a potential second-rounder.
Davis (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) broke up a team-high 11 passes and held Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk to 62 yards on eight catches. He also limited Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley to three receptions for 34 yards. Both of those receivers are probable first-round picks.
NFLDraftScout.com wrote: “Long and athletic, Davis is at his best up close in man-to-man coverage, showing the aggressive hands to latch onto receivers and disrupt their timing, as well as the smooth hip turn, acceleration and quick throttle-down to blanket in coverage. These cover skills, along with a penchant for big hits and reliable open-field tackling likely will result in a first-round selection.”
Jackson had one of the highlight plays of the college football season, making a leaping, one-handed grab at the goal line in Iowa’s big win over Ohio State. A week later, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Wisconsin.
Jackson (6-1, 192) made eight interceptions and broke up 18 passes.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, “While scouts will understandably be concerned with the fact that Jackson is essentially a one-year wonder with only 14 career starts, his 2017 tape is undeniable. He possesses an ideal blend of size, route anticipation and ball-skills that project very well to the next level, especially in a press-heavy scheme.”
Also declaring for the draft Wednesday was Oklahoma redshirt junior left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
Brown, the son of former NFL offensive tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown, started at Oklahoma at left tackle since his redshirt freshman season in 2015.
The 6-foot-8, 345-pound Brown is considered a potential first-round pick in April. He was a unanimous first-team All-America pick and a finalist for the Outland Trophy this year as the blind-side blocker for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.
NFLDraftScout.com wrote: “Brown’s massive frame and nearly 7-foot wingspan give him a significant advantage in pass protection as defenders have to run a very wide arc just to get by him. Generally speaking, when Brown gets his hands on opponents — whether in the pass protection or run blocking — it is game over.”
More declarations Wednesday: Florida State tight end Ryan Izzo, Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway and Tennessee cornerback Rashaan Gaulden.
Izzo, a redshirt junior, reeled in 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games this season. Pettway, a 235-pound back who led the SEC with 124.8 yards per game in 2016, was limited to five games and 305 yards this season due to suspension and then injury. Gaulden had 65 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception in 2017.
Michigan received good news when defensive end Chase Winovich announced he would stay for his redshirt senior season. He made 77 tackles, including 18 for loss and eight sacks this season.