The college football season is underway, which means that the next few months will be full of major upsets, nail-biting finishes, Cinderella teams and flat-out entertaining football. They will also serve as a time for NFL Draft nuts to find the best player in the upcoming draft class, discover a few hidden gems and determine which prospects would be good fits on their favorite professional team.
For the next few weeks, Josh and I are going to be going from conference to conference, finding the best player, a potential Chicago Bears target and a sleeper to give you all a general idea of what to keep an eye on in the coming college football season. We did this concept last year and enjoyed doing it, so we decided to bring it back for another year.
Due to the Khalil Mack trade, the Bears do not have a first or second-round draft pick in 2019. Although that will affect our ability to cover more of the top prospects in each conference, it will force us to get creative in our selections.
This week, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best that the Pac-12 has to offer.
Cream of the crop
Jacob: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
If Clelin Ferrell had decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, then chances are that he would have been the Bears’ selection with the eighth overall pick. Then again, the Bears would not have traded for Khalil Mack in that hypothetical situation, so it may have worked out for the best. Nevertheless, Ferrell is a stud edge rusher prospect who will be selected early in next year’s draft.
The six-foot-five, 265-pound outside linebacker is arguably the most polished edge rusher in the 2019 class. He has several pass-rushing moves in his arsenal, he understands the importance of getting inside leverage, and he plays with great pad level. His physical attributes are impressive, as well: he has great explosiveness for his size and strength coming off of the edge. Ferrell is likely to excel regardless of whether plays in a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive scheme in the NFL, as he can take blockers head on and move in space at high levels.
With the absence of both a first-round pick and a second-round pick, Chicago won’t be able to draft Ferrell barring a major unforeseen drop in his stock. Wherever he ends up, though, will likely end up being very happy to pick him.
Top Bears targets
Jacob: Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
As was the case with teammate Ferrell, Mitch Hyatt could have potentially been a fairly early draft pick in this year’s draft. However, he chose to stay at Clemson for another year, making the group of draft prospects to come out the university an absolutely loaded one in 2019.
Hyatt has a good build for the offensive tackle position at six-foot-five and 305 pounds. He’s a good athlete who adjusts his set point very well, advances to the second level quickly and has solid lateral quickness. Although slightly underweight for his position, he packs a powerful initial punch at the line of scrimmage that can throw defenders off balance. He also plays with good pad level, maintains a squared frame when blocking and is a good combo blocker. While he isn’t necessarily a nasty blocker and his strength when locked up with a defender can be improved, he has the finesse and the girth to be a potential starter at the next level.
It’s very early in my draft process, but I’m projecting Hyatt as an early third-round pick at the moment. I expect the Bears to pick near the middle or the end of the third round this year, but the Clemson left tackle could be in the cards if he’s available.
Jacob: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
Clemson picks up the clean sweep for me here, as my third prospect on the list is also a member of the Tigers.
I’m admittedly not very deep into Mullen’s tape yet, but I see enough promise in his game for him to have piqued my interest. He fits the lengthy cornerback mold that is consistently tied with Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, as he is six-foot-two and roughly 185 pounds. He’s a reliable tackler who has great closing speed and typically takes good angles to ball carriers in space. Mullen has solid ball skills and is able to high point the ball fairly well, a sentiment backed up by his three interceptions in 2017. He is a good athlete who has a natural backpedal and good overall deep speed. His hip fluidity can be improved and his instincts need some work, but his athleticism, size and tackling ability give him considerable upside.
Mullen isn’t a finished product yet, which may cause him to fall a little bit down draft boards. If he happens to fall to the Bears in Round 3 or lower, then he would be a player definitely worth considering.
Josh: Derrick Kelly, OL, Florida State
The 6’5”, 323-pound offensive lineman has played four different positions in his time at FSU, even though he has tended to land at left guard and left tackle. It’s true that this is not the time to be singing the praises of anyone from FSU, but there are a lot of reasons for their struggles against Virginia Tech. It is also true that one of those reasons was that Kelly was one of three offensive linemen not available for the whole game.
If Kelly can get some consistency behind him, he might very well end up being a versatile career backup on the offensive line. He can handle tempo, and he can use his size adequately across the line. If he were available at the end of the draft, he might represent a strong investment in depth and could develop into a sound swing tackle.
Josh: Demarcus Christmas, DT, Florida State
On the other side of the ball, Florida State enjoys the services of Demarcus Christmas. I have seen a couple of sources that suggest he could end up playing 5-technique, but I don’t see it. What I do see is a decent run-stopper who can play at nose tackle in any front, and who can even shed blocks and get penetration from time to time. He has experience playing in a few different looks, and he could be a versatile depth piece for a defense that is looking to either augment Eddie Goldman or needs a less effective, but cheaper, replacement.
Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears and NFL Draft writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He also covers the NFL Draft for USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.