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Pac-12 deserves attention from the draft community this season

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College football prospects worth keeping an eye on.

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 always has prospects that fly under the radar all season due to an “East Coast Bias” that sports media tends to have. Mostly because a lot of people are in bed by the time a lot of these games are in the second half. However, the Pac-12 has a number of high profile prospects with quite a few who will contend for first round status. PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: SEC Preview | ACC Preview | Big 10 Preview


Quarterback

Justin Herbert, Oregon: Justin Herbert could have been a first round pick last year but decided he would rather try to be the first overall pick. Herbert enters the season as a consensus top two quarterback but has the tools to ascend to Blue Chip status. Herbert is well built, athletic and has great arm strength. If he can improve accuracy and pocket movement, he could hear his name called first in spring.

Second Team: KJ Costello, Stanford

Running Back

Eno Benjamin, ASU: Eno Benjamin exploded for the Sun Devils last year, gaining almost two thousand yards of offense and 18 total touchdowns. The 5’10” junior does not have prototypical NFL size at the position, but he is a quick, hard running back who can contribute in the passing game. He is the clear-cut top back in the conference and he should have a huge 2019.

J.J. Taylor, Arizona: Only about 200 hundred miles away from Eno Benjamin, J.J. Taylor was ripping it up for the Wildcats last season. The diminutive 5’6” runner is a home run hitter who makes a big impact on offense and special teams. The NFL might be hesitant given his size, but his ability with the ball in his hands should get people to take notice.

Second Team: Joshua Kelley Sr., UCLA and Zack Moss, Utah

Wide Receiver

Laviska Shenault, Colorado: Laviska Shenault is one of the more exciting players in college football with the ball in his hands. Shenault looks more like a running back at 6’1” and 220 pounds and he runs like one too. He is a tough, hard running receiver with dependable hands.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC: Michael Pittman Jr. had a lot of exciting plays last year. He not only led the Pac-12 in yards per reception (18.5), but he was also named Pac-12 “Perimeter Player of the Year.” The 6’4” receiver has impressive size and speed. With more consistency at the quarterback position this year and hopefully a healthier year for Pittman (had shoulder surgery last year), he could have a huge senior year.

Second Team: Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State and Aaron Fuller, Washington

Tight End

Colby Parkinson: The earth makes another full rotation around the sun and Stanford has an NFL tight end prospect. Two of life’s constants. The 6’7”, 240 pound pass catcher was a decorated power forward in high school and it shows in how he plays the game. He is an athletic receiver who plays above the rim and makes huge plays down the field and after the catch. He is not a polished blocker, but makes good effort on running downs. Teams will be most impressed with his upside as a Jimmy Graham-type of mismatch in the NFL.

Second Team: Jacob Breeland, Oregon

Offensive Tackle

Walker Little, Stanford: Stanford continues a long tradition of NFL ready linemen with Walker Little. The junior blocker defies his name with a 6’7” stature and weighing in over 315 pounds. He’s agile, with good hands and flashes ability in the power running game. This is shaping up to be a good year for offensive linemen so Little will need a strong season to separate himself.

Trey Adams, Washington: Trey Adams has been in college seemingly forever. The senior blocker’s career has been marred by injuries and his talent hasn’t consistently been able to shine through. If Adams can stay on the field this year, he could play himself back into higher draft consideration.

Second Team: Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon and Abraham Lucas, Washington State:

Offensive Guard

Shane Lemieux, Oregon: The Oregon offensive line could be one of the best in the country next year and Shane Lemieux is the top prospect on the unit. Lemieux is an experienced senior blocker who has good athleticism, versatility and physicality.

Dallas Warmack, Oregon: It’s rare for Oregon to get transfers from Alabama due to different styles, but the Ducks transition towards a more smash mouth style makes Warmack a fit in their offense. The stout blocker had a fantastic first season with the Ducks last year and will look to build on it towards a big senior year.

Second Team: Luke Wattenberg, Washington and Josh Watson, Washington State:

Center

Nick Harris, Washington: Harris has been a stalwart for the Huskies the last four years. He is a bit smaller for a center, measuring at 6’1”, but he is tough and smart. He is an athletic player who has kept the Huskies line together. With a new quarterback in town, the spotlight will be on Harris’ ability to keep him upright.

Second Team: Jake Hanson, Oregon

Edge Defender

Bradlee Anae, Utah: Utah always seems to have physical, smart defenders along their trenches. Bradlee Anae is one of the best run stopping edge players in the conference. He is a high motor player who makes his presence felt on every down. The 6’3” pass rusher could be a top contender for high conference honors.

Christian Rector, USC: The Trojans top returning defender is the versatile Christian Rector. The 6’4” senior plays inside and out for the Trojans and has shown excellent run defending ability and can push the pocket from the inside on passing downs.

Second Team: Mustafa Johnson, Colorado and Luc Bequette, Cal

Interior Defensive Linemen

Leki Fotu, Utah: Another high impact Ute. Leki Fotu is a huge (6’3”, 330 pounds) presence inside the Utah defensive line. He is a classic space eater who plays with a high motor. He is not a dynamic pass rusher, but his value on running downs is high.

John Penisini, Utah: Leki Fotu’s partner in crime inside the Utah line is senior John Penisini. Penisini is a quick, high motor guy. He benefits from the blockers Fotu takes up and provides push on passing downs. He is the third musketeer on a talented line, but a good player in his own right.

Second Team: Levi Onwuzurike, Washington and Jordon Scott, Oregon

Linebacker

Troy Dye, Oregon: One of two returning players in the country to lead his team in tackles three years in a row. The 6’4”225 pound linebacker looks more like a big safety and moves like one too. He is a quick, smart linebacker with no fear going into traffic and taking down a runner. He made massive strides last year and figures to improve even more in his final season with the ducks.

Evan Weaver, California: The 6’3”, 235 pound linebacker is a classic, downhill player. Weaver is a smart player who has no problem crashing the line of scrimmage. He is solid in pass coverage but is not a top tier athlete who may not be able to keep up in the NFL. However his two-down ability does not go unnoticed.

Colin Schooler, Arizona: Colin Schooler stuffed up the stat sheet last year. The 6’1”, 230 pound linebacker had over 20 TFLs, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Schooler plays like his (very long) hair is on fire, darting around the field with urgency. He hits hard and has no problem fighting through blocks. He is not a great athlete, but his instincts make him a great college player.

Second Team: Nate Landman, Colorado and Jahad Woods, Washington State and Tony Fields II, Arizona

Cornerback

Paulson Adebo, Stanford: Paulson Adebo is one of the top cornerbacks in the country, period. The Texas native jumped onto the scene last year, picking off four passes and knocking down another 19. He is a long, aware ballhawk. He is a good athlete. He could improve as a run defender but teams will be far more interested in his coverage skills.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah: Jaylon Johnson also picked off four passes last year but didn’t see much “ball production” besides that. However, he flashes impressive physicality at the cornerback position and is a good athlete to boot. Johnson could be a breakout star this year.

Second Team: Thomas Graham, Oregon and Darnay Holmes, UCLA

Safety

Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal: When you see a 6’2”, 210 pound safety picked off six passes last year, you take notice. Jaylinn Hawkins is not a classic rangey ballhawk at the position. However, he is a smart player who is running 100 miles per hour all game. Hawkins is a maximum effort player and if he keeps making plays on the ball, the NFL will take notice.

Jalen Thompson, Washington State: Jalen Thompson is arguably one of the best tacklers in the country. He is a dependable, hard hitter in the passing and running game. He is an athletic, smart player. He is not a “playmaker” necessarily, but he is a defender a team can rely on not to make an egregious mistake and he will make safe, smart plays when they are there for him.

Second Team: Ashtyn Davis, Cal and Myles Bryant, Washington