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2016 NFL draft projections for UCLA athletes

2016 NFL Draft


Round 1
Thursday, 5 p.m

Chicago
ESPN / NFL Network

Rounds 2-3
Friday, 4 p.m.

Chicago
ESPN / NFL Network

Round 4-7
Saturday, 9 a.m.

Chicago
ESPN / NFL Network

By Matt Joye

April 28, 2016 12:34 a.m.

The 2016 NFL draft has all the makings to be a historic one for the UCLA football program.

Since the draft reduced to seven rounds in 1994, the most UCLA players drafted in a single year is six. This year, as many as nine Bruins are expected to be taken.

NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter predicts it will be that way in his mock draft, while several other draft analysts project at least six Bruins to be drafted – though they don’t all agree on who those six Bruins will be.

Some have kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn being picked in the 6th round, while others don’t project him to be drafted at all. Some have outside linebacker Aaron Wallace being picked as early as the 5th round, while others don’t even have him on their draft boards.

In the space below, Daily Bruin Sports provides its take on which Bruins will be drafted, and which round they’ll be drafted in. Also included are the predictions from NFL.com, FoxSports.com, CBSSports.com.

First round

Myles Jack, outside linebacker/safety

Daily Bruin Sports: 1st round, 14th overall (Oakland Raiders)
NFL.com: 1st round, 6th overall (Baltimore Ravens)
Fox Sports: 1st round, 19th overall (Buffalo Bills)
CBS Sports: 1st round, 7th overall (San Francisco 49ers)

Jack is one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft class.

Former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is expected to be a top-20 pick in this year's NFL Draft. He is two-time second team All-Pac-12 and won both Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year awards in 2013. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is expected to be a top-20 pick in this year’s NFL Draft. He is two-time second team All-Pac-12 and won both Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year awards in 2013. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

He is probably the most versatile player in the class, with the ability to play outside linebacker, running back or safety. But Jack hasn’t played a down of full-contact football since last September, when he tore his meniscus in practice at the UCLA Intramural Field.

Since then, there have been constant questions swirling about how healthy Jack’s knee is and how the meniscus injury will affect him going forward.

Prior to this week, those concerns didn’t seem to matter much. Even though Jack didn’t run a 40-yard dash or do any shuttle work at his pro day last month, he was still projected to be a top-10 pick.

But then came some new medical information on Tuesday that has since thrown Jack’s draft stock into question.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that Jack’s meniscus injury could lead to osteochondral defect going forward. Osteochondral defect may not prevent Jack from playing this year, but it will require surgery down the road that could leave Jack sidelined for “a long period of time.”

Second round

Kenny Clark, defensive tackle

Daily Bruin Sports: 2nd round, 33rd overall (Tennessee Titans)
NFL.com: 2nd round, 47th overall (New Orleans Saints)
Fox Sports: 2nd round, 41st overall (Chicago Bears)
CBS Sports: 2nd round, 33rd overall (Tennessee Titans)

Clark did so much for UCLA in his three years, playing the nose tackle position in the Bruins’ 3-4 defense. He often consumed double teams in the middle of the line, limiting his ability to rack up huge sack and tackle numbers. But the UCLA linebackers often said that Clark was the most valuable player on the defense, assuming those double teams at the line and thus freeing up space for the linebackers to make plays.

Former Bruin defensive tackle Kenny Clark is a predicted second round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. During the past season, he was first-team All-Pac-12 and third-team All-American. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Former Bruin defensive tackle Kenny Clark is a predicted second round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. During the past season, he was first-team All-Pac-12 and third-team All-American. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

In his last season at UCLA, Clark finally developed the pass-rush ability he was aiming for. He picked up 6.0 sacks – second most on the team – after not registering a single sack in his first two years on campus.

The San Bernardino native is a bit undersized for his position at 6-foot-3, 314 pounds, but he makes up for it with his low center of gravity and solid footwork. He was a standout wrestler during his high school years, and used the wrestling background to his advantage on the line.

Caleb Benenoch, offensive guard/tackle

Daily Bruin Sports: 2nd round, 59th overall (Kansas City Chiefs)
NFL.com: 3rd round, 77th overall (Cleveland Browns)
Fox Sports: 3rd round, 95th overall (Detroit Lions)
CBS Sports: 2nd round, 59th overall (Kansas City Chiefs)

Benenoch never really got his feet firmly into a position at UCLA, as endless injuries and turmoil along the O-line caused him to shuffle back and forth between guard and tackle. But the excess experience Benenoch gained at both tackle and guard should help boost his draft stock.

At 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, Benenoch definitely passes the eye test for the standard NFL tackle. The two things he will need to work on will be refining his fundamentals and minimizing penalties, particularly false starts.

The Kansas City Chiefs appear to be a good fit for Benenoch at the end of the second round. The Chiefs lack depth along the line, and thus need a player like Benenoch who can move seamlessly from guard to tackle.

Fourth round

Paul Perkins, running back

Daily Bruin Sports: 4th round, 129th overall (Carolina Panthers)
NFL.com: 4th round, 114th overall (Oakland Raiders)
Fox Sports: 5th round, 143rd overall (Oakland Raiders)
CBS Sports: 4th round, 137th overall (Green Bay Packers)

Perkins was one of the shiftiest runners in the Pac-12 over the past two seasons. He captured the Pac-12 rushing title in 2014 and was nearly as good in 2015.

In the Arizona game and Stanford games this past season, Perkins made linebackers and defensive backs look silly with an array of juke moves and pivots. It almost looked like “Beast Mode 2.0” when Perkins juked five different Stanford defenders en route to a 43-yard run on Oct. 15.

Overall, Perkins is a reliable back with decent pass-blocking skills that can factor in as a secondary tailback option at the NFL level. A team like Carolina would be a perfect fit, with the Panthers running a lot of spread/read-option concepts that UCLA ran with Perkins.

Fifth round

Thomas Duarte, tight end/Y-receiver

Daily Bruin Sports: 5th round, 155th overall (Indianapolis Colts)
NFL.com: 4th round, 115th overall (Atlanta Falcons)
Fox Sports: 5th round, 175th overall (San Diego Chargers)
CBS Sports: 5th round, 159th overall (Houston Texans)

Duarte is an interesting prospect, as he is listed as a tight end when he never really played a traditional tight end position in college. One could argue, however, that playing tight end in college doesn’t matter, citing three-time all-pro Antonio Gates as an example.

READ MORE: Thomas Duarte, a man on a mission.

The big thing with Duarte will be: How can he block out of the three-point stance at the NFL level? Duarte pretty much never did that in college at UCLA – the Bruins ran a spread offense in his three years on campus. His relatively undersized frame at 6-foot-2, 231 pounds doesn’t help matters much when it comes to blocking.

The best situation for Duarte is for him to occupy the same kind of tight-end/Y-receiver hybrid that he did at UCLA. Indianapolis seems like a good place for that, with the team having a pass-heavy offense with multiple shotgun sets around quarterback Andrew Luck.

Sixth round

Jordan Payton, wide receiver

Daily Bruin Sports: 6th round, 215th overall (Seattle Seahawks)
NFL.com: 7th round, 232nd overall (Washington Redskins)
Fox Sports: Undrafted
CBS Sports: 6th round, 177th overall (Los Angeles Rams)

Payton finished his career as UCLA’s all-time leading receiver and one of the most reliable Bruin receivers ever when it came to third downs.

The one question about Payton coming out of college was his speed. He was never the type of guy who would go deep or beat a cornerback on streaks during his college career, doing most of his work on curl routes or physical routes over the middle of the field.

However, Payton put questions about his speed to rest – at least a little bit – with his 40-yard dash performance at UCLA’s pro day in March. Payton ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the pro day, after running a 4.47 at the NFL combine a month earlier.

Payton figures to be a possession receiver at the next level, used almost exclusively in third-down situations.

Ka’imi Fairbairn, kicker

Daily Bruin Sports: 6th round, 218th overall (Buffalo Bills)
NFL.com: 6th round, 184th overall (New York Giants)
Fox Sports: Undrafted
CBS Sports: 6th round, 218th overall (Buffalo Bills)

Ka’imi Fairbairn went from missing his first two PATs as a UCLA freshman to becoming the Pac 12’s all-time leading scorer and this past season’s Lou Groza award winner – given to the nation’s best college kicker.

Fairbairn made his mistakes early, missing 13 field goals and four extra points in his first two seasons with the Bruins. However, the Hawaii native would go on to connect 38 of his last 46 field goal attempts and 94 of his 95 extra point kicks for his junior and senior seasons.

READ MORE: A trailblazer, a hometown hero.

Most draft analysts project Kai’imi to compete for a starting job wherever he lands, but his biggest weakness lies in consistently hitting long-distance field goals late in the season.

He possesses the leg power to be an NFL kicker – demonstrated when he kicked a school-record 60 yards against Cal – but all four of his misses came in the final three games, with three of them coming in the fourth quarter. All in all, we expect Fairbairn to be drafted in rounds six or seven.

Seventh round

Devin Fuller, slot receiver

Daily Bruin Sports: 7th round, 250th overall (New England Patriots)
NFL.com: Undrafted
Fox Sports: Undrafted
CBS Sports: Undrafted

Fuller is one of those guys who really improved his draft stock in the combine drills. While Fuller didn’t participate in the official NFL combine, he competed at the UCLA Pro Day in March, and stood out significantly from just about everyone else there.

Not only did the 6-foot Fuller weigh in at 195 pounds, he also ran a 40-yard dash that was clocked between 4.36 and 4.37. Aside from that, Fuller ran very crisp routes and caught every pass he was thrown in route-running sessions.

Our guess is that at least one team will take a risk in drafting Fuller, simply because of his athletic potential and soft hands. Though NFL.com, Fox Sports and CBS Sports all predict Fuller to go undrafted, WalterFootball.com has Fuller being picked 228th overall by the Denver Broncos.

Other UCLA players who could be drafted

Aaron Wallace, outside linebacker

Daily Bruin Sports: Undrafted
NFL.com: 6th round, 214th overall (New England Patriots)
Fox Sports: Undrafted
CBS Sports: 5th round, 141st overall (Cleveland Browns)

Wallace was one of the biggest surprises on the UCLA defense last year.

After waiting until his senior year to finally win a full-time starting spot at outside linebacker, Wallace became the Bruins’ sack leader last season. He didn’t have a very good pro day, struggling with his footwork and dropping several would-be interceptions, but Wallace has decent size and the speed to be an NFL reserve outside linebacker.

Alex Redmond, guard

Daily Bruin Sports: Undrafted
NFL.com: 6th round, 198th overall (San Diego Chargers)
Fox Sports: Undrafted
CBS Sports: Undrafted

Redmond left UCLA in a hurry at the end of last season, skipping out on the Foster Farms Bowl to declare for the NFL draft early. It was a bit of an unexpected move for the junior guard, who was not rumored to have much draft stock throughout the regular season.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Redmond was a bit of an enigma during his time at UCLA. He became one of the Bruins’ most consistent starters on the line, but would commonly have lapses of focus, leading to several penalties.

Redmond also missed the Colorado game last year for “personal reasons,” according to coach Jim Mora, only adding more mystery to Redmond’s strange 2015 campaign.

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Matt Joye | Alumnus
Joye joined the Bruin as a sophomore transfer in 2013 and contributed until after he graduated in 2016. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2014-2015 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's tennis, track and field and cross country beats.
Joye joined the Bruin as a sophomore transfer in 2013 and contributed until after he graduated in 2016. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2014-2015 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's tennis, track and field and cross country beats.
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