The Pac 12 has had an excellent run in the last two years of the NFL draft, having two players taken in the top seven in 2015 and 2016, including two top two picks in Marcus Mariota and Jared Goff. With the exit of players like Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff, Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler over the last two drafts, the conference is going through a major reset period at the most important position in football. Despite a lot of youth (and lack of draft eligibility) at the quarterback position, the Pac 12 still has some incredible talents who will likely enter the draft in 2017.
Anu Solomon, Arizona
As stated earlier, the Pac 12 does not have a lot of established talent among draft eligible quarterbacks, but that does not mean there is no upside. Arizona Quarterback Anu Solomon has been putting up numbers for the Wildcats since he started as a freshman. He is a good decision maker with good intermediate accuracy and athletic ability to threaten outside of the pocket and extend plays. However, Solomon has a slight frame, barely hitting 200 pounds at 6-2 and that lack of bulk shows up in his arm. Solomon is a full body thrower, meaning he needs a perfect and unaffected base to throw or his throw power dwindles tremendously. His need to put so much force on his throws also hurts his ability to accurately work down the field. Solomon has been a focal point of the Arizona offense and he is certainly talented, but he will need to prove he can put on weight and increase his arm strength if he wants a legit shot at being an NFL quarterback.
Second Team: Luke Falk
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
What is there to be said about Christian McCaffrey that has not already been said? The Heisman Runner Up is easily the most versatile offensive weapon in college football and one of the most exciting players, period. McCaffrey posted over 2000 rushing yards, nearly 650 receiving yards and 1200 yards in returns in 2015, collecting a touchdown as a rusher, receiver, punt returner and kick returner... Those are video game statistics, but after all, McCaffrey moves in the open field like he is playing a video game. McCaffrey has incredible agility, burst, vision and long speed which makes him impossible to handle in the open field. He fights constantly for extra yardage and is a much better inside runner than given credit for. There are slight concerns about him being a bit skinny for a running back and not having ideal strength, but that is just nitpicking a player who looks like the second coming of Brian Westbrook every time he touches the ball.
Royce Freeman, Oregon
For as good a player as Christian McCaffrey is, there is a case to be made that Royce Freeman is (somehow) even better. Freeman has been a a star since his freshman year at Oregon and his dominance will likely continue as Oregon will need him to shoulder an even bigger load this year considering they have no established quarterback. Freeman has an incredible build at 6-0, 230 pounds and possesses an overwhelming power element to his game. He is not all power, however, as he has very good agility for any player, let alone one his size and he has the top end speed to burn a defense. To top it all off, Royce Freeman is very adept in the passing game as a receiver and blocker, making him an every down back with the size and speed to score on any play.
Second Team: Nick Wilson, Arizona and Myles Gaskin, Washington
JuJu Smith Schuster, USC
Every year there seems to be another USC wide receiver who is in the conversation for being one of the best and most productive receivers in the country. Since 2013, USC has had three receivers taken in the second round or higher, of course including the Eagles 2015 first round pick, Nelson Agholor. This year, USC has a receiver who transcends their most recent offerings to the NFL in JuJu Smith Schuster. Smith Schuster started his career at USC as a 17 year old freshman (!!!) and immediately made his presence felt. During his sophomore season (much of which he was only 18 years old for), Smith Schuster was among the best and most productive receivers in college football. Smith Schuster is incredibly well built at 6-2, 220 pounds and his strong frame is evident when he is fighting for the ball in the air or breaking tackles after the catch. What is most astonishing about the sophomore phenom is how advanced he is for such young player. His route running, ability to release at the line and awareness of how to find holes in coverage are things you do not see most young NFL receivers pick up on, let alone a 19 year old college player. It is truly mind-blowing how talented Smith Schuster is and if he decides to enter the NFL next year, he will likely be the top receiver in the class and one of the best receivers to come out of college football in the last few years.
Jordan Villamin, Oregon State
Oregon State lacked dependable play at the quarterback position this past season with Sean mansion now in the NFL (I can't believe I just typed that) and the production for their skill players suffered tremendously. Despite the statistical underachieving, it was still evident how talented young receiver, Jordan Villamin is and the NFL prospect he could become. Villamin is listed at Oregon state as 6-5 and 245 pounds, which is bigger than most tight ends at the college level. While I suspect that measurement is a *bit* ambitious, it does not change that Villamin is a titan of a human being. Villamin's monstrous frame dominates the catch point and his long legs make his speed look easy. Villamin will need more opportunities in the passing game from whoever the Oregon State quarterback will be this season, but it is impossible to watch the huge receiver without thinking of Mike Evans at Texas A&M.
Second Team: Gabe Marks, Washington State and Victor Bolden, Oregon State
Pharaoh Brown, Oregon
After missing all of 2015 to a leg injury, former All Pac 12 selection, Pharaoh Brown is looking to reemerge as one of the top tight ends in the country. Brown as a big, athletic frame at 6-6, 240 pounds and is an excellent receiver who can impact from all over the formation. His lack of weight hurts him as a blocker, but he is a high effort player there and that is all you can really ask from tight ends like Brown who are more suited going out for a pass anyway. Brown will need to prove healthy and regain form in 2016, but if he can he will likely be one of the top tight ends taken in next year's draft.
Second Team: Kody Kohl, ASU
Zach Banner, USC
The better of USC's talented tackle combination and the son of Lincoln Kennedy, Zach Banner has incredible pedigree for an NFL prospect. At 6-8 and over 370 pounds (which is just humungous), Banner is overwhelming as a run blocker using impressive downhill speed, monstrous size and long arms with strong, violent hands to bull defenders out of the way. He is a the human version of the boulder in Indiana Jones and he will annihilate defenders when USC is running the ball. The pass game is a different story because although Banner has the tools to be a great pass protector, his size hurts him a bit. His weight slows his ability to get into a passing set and his poor leverage makes it easier for players to get around him. Honestly, he could stand to lose 20 pounds to make himself a bit quicker and flexible while also maintaining his bully strength. Banner is a joy to watch for an offensive linemen because he is such a marvel of a human being and if he can become more reliable as a pass protector, he could be a high pick next spring.
Chad Wheeler, USC
The second half of USC's duo at tackle is fellow redshirt senior Chad Wheeler. While Banner is the athletic freak of the two, the "smaller" Wheeler (6-7, 310) is the more polished player. Wheeler is dependable in pass protection and plays with great intensity in the running game. He does not have the ceiling that Banner has, but he does have all the makings of a solid NFL lineman. He will need to prove healthy, as his career has been plagued by injury.
Second Team: JJ Dielman, Utah and David Bright, Stanford
Johnny Caspers, Stanford
Stanford continues its storied tradition of producing foreign diplomats and offensive linemen. Johnny Caspers went a bit under the radar in 2015 considering he played on the same offense as a Heisman contender and a first round linemen, Josh Garnett, who played the other guard spot. Of course, the lack of talk should not diminish Casper as an NFL prospect, as he most definitely is. Caspers has experience at guard and center, proving an asset to Stanford as a pulling lineman. Caspers technique, awareness, athletic ability and toughness make him a truly outstanding run blocker. However, he could stand to improve in pass protection, where his hand placement tends to get him into trouble. Caspers could work himself into the conversation as a top 50 pick if he improves his pass protection, but his great run blocking should make him a day two pick regardless.
Damien Mama, USC
Damien Mama was a highly touted recruit out of high school, named the 38th best player in the country in his class. Over the course of his career at USC, it slowly came together for the talented lineman. Mama has a shtick build (6-3, 330) and awesome athletic ability. He has attitude in the run game, which maximizes his skill set. Mama could stand to clean up his technical ability and awareness, but his steady improvement over the course of his career has me confident about him continuing to grow into an NFL lineman.
Second Team: Kenny Lacy, UCLA and Isaac Asiata, Utah
Khaliel Rodgers, USC
Evidently, USC has a talented offensive line. Especially considering that Khaliel Rodgers was able to shine in 2015 after replacing the incumbent center, Toa Lobendahn, who went down with an injury. Rodgers is well built, technically sound and plays with an affective grittiness. The intriguing thing going into next season is that both he and Lobendahn are NFL prospects in their own right, so it will be fun to see who is able to win out and claim that spot.
Second Team: Toa Lobendahn, USC
Interior Defensive Line
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Many moons ago, Eddie Vanderdoes was one of the best highs chool players in the country committing to Notre Dame. Vanderdoes eventually chose to transfer to UCLA and had a shot at being one of the better defensive linemen in the country in 2015, but lost most of his season to an injury. Now, a few months removed from his former teammate Kenny Clark being selected in the first round, Vanderdoes will look to reestablish himself and give himself a shot to be the second first round UCLA defensive lineman taken in as many years. Vanderdoes is well built with awesome power and quickness for his size. He is very raw from a technical aspect, but when he turns it on it is clear to see why he has always been so highly touted. If he can rebound from injury and improve on his technique, it will not be long before he hears his name in the draft next spring.
Lowel Lotulelei, Utah
A few years ago, Star Lotulelei was a Top 15 pick coming out of Utah and has since developed into one of the more stout defensive linemen in the NFL. His younger brother, Lowel, has every chance to follow in his brothers path. The 6-2, 310 pound lineman is built like a can of tuna with his thick, strong frame. He is one of the strongest humans I have ever seen and plays like his hair is on fire. His motor never stops and his dominating strength helps him bull through offensive lineman to disrupt the plays. He is a dominant run defender with upside to impact as a pass rusher and if he continues to improve and dominate, he could be top 50 pick.
Second Team: Kenny Bigelow, USC and Josh Topu, Colorado
Deon Hollins, UCLA
Deon Hollins is a strange player because he is so small and yet so disruptive at the college level. At only 6-0, 230 pounds, Hollins looks more like a safety than an edge defender, but when the ball snaps, Hollins goes all Tasmanian Devil on the offense's ass. He is incredibly quick off the ball and plays with an awesome ferocity that just makes him a pain to deal with. Unfortunately, it feels like though Hollins is a great college player, his size will likely limit what he can do at the NFL level. He may have to transition to an off ball linebacker spot in the NFL but it is more than likely he ends up being a (very good) special teams play. However, that should not diminish how awesome a college player he is.
Kylie Fitts, Utah
A transfer from UCLA, Kylie Fitts plays an unheralded role on one of the best defenses in the country. The 6-4, 265 pound defensive lineman plays with great strength, awareness and a high motor. He has decent, though not overwhelming, athletic ability and he has sound technique that keeps him in the play at all times. He looks the part of a run stopper, but his motor also allows him to be a good clean up pass rusher as well.
Second Team: Takkarist McKinley, UCLA and Joe Mathis, Washington
Azeem Victor, Washington
Washington's success on defense can be attributed in big part to their stud linebacker, Azeem Victor. Victor is very well built at 6-3, 239 pounds and the former edge rusher has the physicality to fight through traffic to make plays on the ball carriers. Despite his relative newness to the position, Victor looks like a natural in coverage and is often dependable attacking the line of scrimmage, delivering big hits in the process. His biggest drawback is his aggressiveness which can too often take him out of plays. If he can temper that and become more controlled, there is no telling how much better Victor will be for the Huskies.
Paul Magloire Jr., Arizona
Arizona loves hybrid players on their defense and Paul Magloire Jr. comes in a long line of safety/linebacker converts. The 6-1, 220 pounder was moved mid season in 2015 and flourished closer to the line of scrimmage to end the Wildcat's season. Magloire has great speed and awareness, obviously excelling in coverage, but he is also aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage. His size will be an issue at the NFL level, as he still is built like a safety and can washed out pretty easily by blockers. If Magloire is able to overcome his size and prove more consistent in traffic, he could be heavily valued by an NFL more and more infatuated with hybrid players.
Torrodney Prevot, Oregon
Oregon's defense was abysmal last season but it was not bereft of high quality athletes. The 6-3, 230 pound Prevot has the ability to fly around as a linebacker and cover in space. Of course, Prevot needs to improve his understanding go the game and become a more consistent tackler, but his athletic ability makes him an intriguing player heading into 2016.
Second Team: Salamo Fiso, ASU, Kevin Palma Stanford and Kenny Young, UCLA
Fabian Moreau, UCLA
Fabian Moreau had an excellent chance to be one of the best corners in the country last season before suffering an early injury that would take him out for the rest of the season. This year, the 6-0, 185 pound cornerback will be looking to reclaim the status as one of the top defensive backs in college football. Moreau is a very physical and intelligent corner who will rarely give up the big play. He is a strong tackler and does a good job turning his head around to find the ball. He is not a great athlete, so it will be important for him to hold his own against top athletes in the conference while also proving his health in order to push himself into Top 40 consideration.
Kevin King, Washington
Another big time piece of the Huskies defense is their 6-2 cornerback, Kevin King. King has long arms that he uses to neutralize receivers and his long stride helps him stay with receivers in coverage. He is a very talented man cover corner who does a good job using his body at the catch point without being too grabby. I am not sure he has the short area quickness or the awareness to immediately impact in zone coverage, but King has the tools to be a starting outside corner in the NFL and a good one at that.
Second Team: Adoree Jackson, USC and Chidobie Awuzie, Colorado
The biggest playmaker on the Utes defense was their safety, Marcus Williams. The ballhawking, six foot, 200 pounder flew all over the back end of the field, making plays all season. Williams has awesome recognition ability combined with great range. He is a true ballhawking free safety and can also bring the hit as a run defender. He is very aggressive, which can hurt him from time to time, but his ability to create turnover will be an incredibly valuable asset in the NFL. There is a legitimate shot that Marcus Williams is a first round pick and could be the first safety taken in 2017.
Budda Baker, Washington
A highly touted recruit, Budda Baker has grown into the leader of the Washingtond defense and is one of the most exciting players in the country. Baker is a great athlete and flies all around the field. He attacks the run with ferocity and is a playmaker with the ball in the air. I have confidence that baker will be a very good NFL player, but he needs to add some weight to his 185 pound frame if he wants the NFL to view him as highly as most analysts do. Regardless, Baker is in for a huge junior season.
Second Team: Tyree Robinson, Oregon and Randall Goforth, UCLA