Rob Rang, a NFL draft analyst for CBSSports.com, projects three Washington defensive players will be taken in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Here’s his mock draft, which includes Shaq Thompson (No. 18, Detroit Lions), Marcus Peters (No. 26 Carolina Panthers) and Danny Shelton (No. 29, Green Bay Packers).
We’ll check in with Rang, who is based in Seattle, throughout the season and post his comments here. Also look for a live chat with Rang as we get closer to next year’s draft.
This week we talked in depth about senior receiver Kasen Williams, who had been projected as a first-round pick. Rang believes a slow start and health concerns about his foot has knocked Williams into the third or fourth round.
Here’s a transcript of the interview, which includes comments about Hau’oli Kikaha and other UW draft hopefuls.
(On what Williams does well) “The ball skills, the leaping ability, the hand-eye-coordination. I don’t see explosiveness out of his cuts, but I don’t know if we ever saw that. He’s kind of a big, possession receiver. I’m kind of curious to see if he regains some of his burst out of his cuts and burst to accelerate away from defenders as he gets further away from that injury.”
(On where was Williams was rated before the injury) “The biggest thing was he was a big, strong receiver who most likely was going to project as a split end in the NFL. There wasn’t a question of could he project to the NFL like other receivers in the spread (offense) because he has the size and the physicality. We saw all of that. The biggest question has always been does he have break-away speed to be able to warrant an early-round draft selection. I put him high as one of the top 10 type of receivers in the country in terms of projecting to the NFL even though he hasn’t had the eye-popping statistics necessarily. You saw the ability early on in his career to make that eye-popping kind of play. Just given his size we were all kind of waiting to see what he would run. He’s one of those receivers whose draft stock is going to hinge on obviously the medical now, but it was always going to incumbent on what he ran. He was always going to be a little bit reliant on what he showed at workouts.”
(On what round Williams was projected at before the injury) “I would probably put him in the second round. But there’s so many good receivers taken in the second round. A lot of times when people hear the second round, they’re disappointed by that. If it’s not the first round they think the player should go back to school. And that’s not always the case. To me there’s just so many similarities to Keenan Allen who unfortunately didn’t run very well. He’s just not an explosively fast guy. But he gets it. He uses his hands well. He’s a sharp route runner. He doesn’t shirk from physicality. That’s similar to what I see from Kasen. Keenan Allen had some medical issues and that’s what helped push him down the board and his lack of great speed. That’s the same with Kasen. He’s a guy that’s really on the edge, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he can be a successful NFL player. You just have to have realistic expectations as far as his speed and what he’s going to be able to do for you.”
(On where Williams projects now in the NFL draft) “A lot of it is going to depend on how many underclassmen receivers go, but I think that he’s in that third to fourth round area with the possibility of moving up. But there’s also the possibility that when they do the real medical testing at the combine teams could be completely scared off by him just like they were with Chris Polk. He was clearly an NFL talent, but the medical came back so ugly that obviously it pushed him right out of the draft entirely. It’s a tougher question than it sounds because Kasen’s draft stock very much hinges with his medical. Assuming the medical comes back OK, I think he’s a candidate to go in the top 100 picks next year and could potentially move up if he runs well. But again it very much hinges on his medical record.”
(On Williams’ medical report being as important as his on-field production this season) “His foot needs to be OK. He can have an All-American, Biletnikof fyear, but if the foot is deemed to be a career-threatening type of situation then teams are going to back off. You certainly want him to be successful. Certainly he hasn’t been as productive as other receivers and that is a concern. He has so much buzz about him in terms of his raw athletic ability from his high school days, but you want to see that actually translates to more success at the collegiate level. But any team that does its homework and goes back and watches the player that he was as a freshman and sophomore is going to see that he has the goods. I know scouts from several organizations I stood should to shoulder with them and watched his practices from previous years and they just shook their heads and said wow this is a talented player. The question is has he maxed out? Is he who he is going to become or does he still have some untapped potential there. And after Week 3, we’re still trying to figure that out.”
(On Shelton) “Danny Shelton is the big surprise. He’s just skyrocketing up the draft board at this point. His production speaks for itself. You can just see he’s at a different level of intensity from snap to snap and pursuit to the edges then he had been in the past. Obviously, he’s a big, wide, huge, strong guy. You knew that he could support the run, but he’s closing on the ball quicker than he ever had before. So he’s the intriguing one. He’s the guy that’s going to have to keep this up. Not necessarily production wise because I don’t anticipate he’s going to lead the country in sacks, but he is right now. He’s going to have to keep up his intensity. He can’t rest on his laurels. But he’s obviously a very intriguing player. He can play the 3-4 (defense) as well as the 4-3.”
(On Thompson) “I think the NFL is kind of more and more going towards the pass and that is going to help these so-called hybrid players like Shaq. He can play linebacker. I think he can drop back and play a little bit of a hybrid safety role. But because of his athletic ability and his instincts, he’s a terrific open-field tackler. I wish he was a little bigger and stouter. But at the same time, he is what he is. I think in today’s NFL, they’re looking for players like him. I think that bodes well for his future.”
(On Peters) “Marcus Peters is among the best and most talented corners in the country. He’s physical. He’s athletic. He’s competitive. He has a history of playing his best football against top competition. At the same time, there are some character red flags with him not the least of which is that suspension. So teams will want to do their homework on him.”
(On Kikaha) “He’s a guy that some people have in the first round. I personally have him in the second round. I like the fluidity. He’s a big, strong guy and it looks like he can drop in space. He uses his hands really well to get off of blocks. He plays with intensity and physicality. But I don’t see an explosive up-field pass rush despite the production. The production is very impressive.
(On Washington having potentially 3-4 first round defenders taken in first round of NFL draft) “For a lot of people it’s kind of hard to believe especially after watching Eastern Washington put up as much production as they did against them to think Washington has that much individual talent. But they really do. Everybody I talk to in the league believe that the Huskies individually are among the more talented defensive teams in the entire country.”
(On other UW players who may get drafted) “Actually the offensive tackle Micah Hatchie is an interesting player. He’s a guy that I want to continue to see. He’s got to stay healthy of course, but he’s got some talent. (Ben) Riva as well. So both of them. I believe they have enough to be drafted, but I just think they’re also late-round guys. Whereas the other five are potential top 100 guys.”