A look ahead, UA draft prospects

Maybe it is a bit early for this discussion. With the college football season over a month away, only Mel Kiper Jr. is thinking about the next NFL draft. Well Mel and Cat Tracks. With training camp about to start, we thought we'd take a look at a few of the Wildcats who could find themselves being drafted next spring.

No Wildcat player heard their name called in the last draft, but that seems to be a one-year let down. According to several sources five Wildcat seniors are generally considered NFL prospects.


The most likely candidate to be the first Wildcat chosen is linebacker Lance Briggs. Briggs has been a tackling machine for the Cats. Briggs is a tad bit light, but more than makes up for it with his great hitting ability.


The NFL has 12 traits they look for in a linebacker and Briggs excels at most of them including instincts, lateral movement and the ability to diagnose the play. To improve his draft stock he may want to show a better ability to shed blocks of larger linemen and a greater effectiveness against the run. Briggs looks to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick as of now, but another great season could see him become another in a long line of Wildcat linebacker selected in the first round. According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt he is the 7th best linebacker in the 2003 draft.


Jason Johnson has the chance to be the first Wildcat QB drafted since Alfred Jenkins was selected as a tight end in the early 80's. Johnson has proved he can succeed in a pass-oriented, pro-style offense, but must improve a lot to get the attention of the NFL. Johnson isn't the biggest quarterback, but his size is almost identical to that of Tulane's Patrick Ramsey who was a first round pick of the Washington Redskins.


Of the 12 traits the NFL scouts look at, Johnson possesses the most important, leadership. What he seems to lack is arm strength and quickness. What he needs to show is that he is a good decision maker, who can show great poise and patience in the pocket. Last season was a mixed bag for the first year starter, and this season he has a chance to make or break his NFL chances. With a decent showing expect Johnson to go late in the draft.


Makoa Freitas is 6-4, 305-pounds. In NFL terms he is distinctly undersized as a tackle. The average tackle in last year's draft was over 6-6 and 318 pounds. The average guards were 6-4, 321. More than likely if Freitas wants to play on the next level he will have to make the switch to guard. Freitas has a ton of on-field experience and has stayed reasonably healthy, which will benefit him come draft time. Another benefit is that Arizona employs a lot of different blocking styles. Although he won't pull and trap too much at tackle, his familiarity with the techniques can help his draft status. He will have to showcase his quickness and ability to pass block if he really wants to impress the scouts. He looks like a late round pick.


Bobby Wade has had a great career at Arizona, but that may not mean a whole lot in the scout's eyes. The scouts will look as much, if not more at his measurements as they will his on-field accomplishments. Wade is short by NFL standards. In this day and age of 6-4 wide outs, the 5-11 Wade will have a lot of ground to make up. What he does have going for him is solid hands, great quickness and a nose for the end zone. Wade is the type of player who could make a name for himself this year and at the post-season all-star games. If he can put up good 40 times, run good routes and showcase the ability to get separation, then he could raise his stock. As of now he looks to be a mid rounds type of player.


Defensive tackle Young Thompson looks to have the hardest chance of moving on to the next level. Thompson seems to small to be a defensive tackle and just isn't quick enough to convert to an end spot. He possesses the quickness that scouts look for, but with his size he must show the ability to rush the passer, because his run stopping will be questioned. More than likely he will be an undrafted free agent.


Darren Safranek has NFL height, but doesn't seem to have NFL weight.


James Hugo has the size and blocking ability, but he isn't a real threat in the passing game. A good season as a target for Johnson could find Hugo on a training camp roster and a possible late round pick-up.


Ray Wells is undersized as a backer, but could be converted to safety. He will have to have a good season, All-Star games and combine to impress the scouts. Not an impossibility.


Jarvie Worcester is probably too slow to make it in the NFL, but his heart and smarts could help him out. A big season will be needed to get invites to the post-season events.


Obviously there are several underclassmen who have NFL talent, but Cat Tracks won't speculate about them until after the season.

E-mail Brad at Heymtymte@cs.com

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