The 2011 NFL Draft concluded over the weekend and three Arizona Wildcats – all defensive ends – heard their names called at some point over the three-day period. UA has seen many players go to the NFL in recent years and next year doesn't appear to be any exception to that rule.
In fact, 2012 could be quite a busy year for Arizona football in the draft.
For starters, quarterback Nick Foles could potentially be a hot commodity. Mel Kiper has Foles currently listed as the number two overall quarterback in next year's draft. Obviously a lot can change between now and then for Foles, but if this year has emphasized anything about the draft, it's the fact that teams tend to value quarterback more than any other position and will reach for one if necessary.
Foles needs to have a strong year to go high in the 2012 draft. A big campaign could vault him right up towards the top, but he will have some tough competition in players like Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill and several other potential candidates.
Foles does have a big advantage in that he has one of the deepest and most talented set of wide receivers in the country, so that should help boost his numbers as a senior. Foles' ability alone should get him drafted, but how high depends on how good of a senior season he has.
Wide receiver Juron Criner considered entering the 2011 NFL Draft, but decided to return for his final season at Arizona. Criner is arguably the best receiver in the Pac-12 entering the 2011 season and has first round potential written all over him. His athletic ability and strength are off the chart and it is likely he will go in the first couple of rounds in 2012.
Other offensive players that could be drafted include running back Keola Antolin and wide receivers David Roberts and David Douglas.
Antolin is going to have to have a pretty impressive season for that to happen and it will be tough. With players like Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler waiting in the wings as well as a potential impact freshman like Ka'Deem Carey coming on board, Antolin will need to step his game up to a whole new level in order to hear his name called next year.
Both Roberts and Douglas will have their work cut out for them as well. With Dan Buckner likely to make a pretty sizable impact as well, players like Roberts and Douglas could see their production slip. It will be key for them to step up in fall camp as well as the early part of the season. While it will be a difficult journey for both Roberts and Douglas, they definitely have a shot in UA's pass-happy offensive scheme.
The defensive side of the ball has its fair share of potential draftees.
Linebackers Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls did enough after transferring from the JUCO ranks to warrant attention from scouts. Vassallo was one of the Pac-10's best tacklers in 2010 and his feel for the game certainly improved as the season went on. Another season like Vassallo had as a junior and he should be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds at the very worst.
Earls had an impressive 2010 campaign as well. He also has the type of smarts and athleticism scouts are looking for to play linebacker at the next level. He is a solid tackler and has the ability to make plays in coverage. Like Vassallo, if Earls has a strong senior season, he could hear his name called in the draft next season.
There are also a couple of players in the secondary that hope to get drafted.
After his sophomore season, it appeared that cornerback Trevin Wade was on his way to being one of the best cornerbacks in the country. Heading into the 2010 season, he was named to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe award, but injuries ended up setting Wade back and he had a relatively down campaign.
After a strong spring camp, Wade appears to be ready for his senior season and a strong showing could vault him back into the draft.
Robert Golden is also a player to watch out for. With productive appearances in his career at both cornerback and safety, Golden is a player that could be drafted after his senior campaign. He is a physical player with the ability to play the pass well. He will primarily play safety in his final season and could see his stock rise significantly with a big year.
Aside from the players already listed, there are a few others to watch out for. Dan Buckner will only be a junior and will battle a plethora of talented receivers for playing time and reps, but with his measuables, he could play his way into the draft after one season at Arizona.
While defensive ends Mohammad Usman and C.J. Parish haven't done much at the collegiate level yet, both have the size to play defensive end at the next level and all they need is one great season to improve their chances greatly.
There are certainly other players on the roster that could play their way into the draft as well, but at this point, they are all long shots at best or underclassmen that will likely need another season.
Numerous Wildcats could be drafted next year
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