Hurricanes likely to see only three go in NFL Draft, but wait 'til next year

CORAL GABLES — For the second year in a row, the University of Miami will be little more than a bystander in the NFL Draft.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, who played only one season for the Hurricanes, is the first UM player expected to be taken, but probably no earlier than the third round. The only other UM players likely to be drafted are offensive tackle Jason Fox and middle linebacker Darryl Sharpton.

Three draftees is hardly worth bragging about for a football program that has produced more draft choices (66) since 1999 than every college in the nation except for Ohio State (77) and Southern Cal (67).

But it's better than Miami's output last year when Spencer Adkins, a rarely-used linebacker who may gone undrafted if not for a spectacular performance at UM's Pro Day, was the lone Hurricane selected.

Thursday's first round will be particularly dull for UM fans. After setting an NFL record by producing a first-rounder in 14 consecutive drafts (1995-2008), the Hurricanes will not have a No. 1 pick for the second consecutive year unless something crazy happens. Since 1999, Miami has developed 27 first-round picks, with Ohio State being a distant second with 19.

This year could also mark the first time since 1980-81 that Miami has gone back-to-back drafts without a player chosen in the first two rounds.
But it's not all doom and gloom. The good news is that the Hurricanes' draft drought could be coming to an end soon, thanks to a roster loaded with talented juniors and seniors. Four UM players are ranked among the top 5 at their positions for next season by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.

That list includes senior Allen Bailey, who Kiper rates as the No. 1 defensive end in college football heading into the 2010 season. Also on the list are receiver Leonard Hankerson (No. 3), outside linebacker Colin McCarthy (No. 4) and Orlando Franklin, ranked as the No. 5 guard although he will play left offensive tackle for the Hurricanes next season.

"The next two or three years here, you're going to see a big change," UM coach Randy Shannon said of the team's talent.

Graham, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound red-head who played basketball at UM for four years before trying football, is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Graham turned down what he said was a "six-figure contract" to play basketball in Europe so he could accept Shannon's invitation to play football, which he hadn't played since his freshman year in high school.

Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards and was second on the team with 5 touchdown catches. His stock shot up at the NFL Combine in February after he ran 40 yards in 4.56 seconds, the second-fastest time among tight ends.

Despite questions about his experience and toughness as a blocker, Kiper has Graham going in the third round with the 92nd overall pick to the Cleveland Browns.

"It's not easy, but obviously you take a chance and roll the dice on a player maybe in the third round that has the athletic ability that he has," Kiper said. "Sure, he was a little bit unnatural catching this year. Sure he didn't look like a guy who could play in the NFL, but who would have expected that [after one year]?"

University of Miami potential draftees
TE Dedrick Epps (6-4, 253 pounds) 7th round or free agent — Nine months after ACL surgery, started 9 games for 'Canes.
OT Jason Fox (6-7, 314) 4-5th rounds — Stock has dipped for UM iron man because of knee surgery.
TE Jimmy Graham (6-8, 260) 3rd round — Athleticism overcomes questions regarding experience, toughness.
RB Javarris James (6-0, 215) 7th round or free agent — Fast start to career ruined by injuries.
LB Darryl Sharpton (6-0, 235) 5th or 6th round — Finished career with a bang, leading UM with 106 tackles.
CB Sam Shields (6-0, 190) 7th round or free agent — Spectacular Pro Day workout could get him drafted.

School — No. 1 picks, Total picks
Ohio State — 19 — 77
Southern Cal — 16 — 67
Miami — 27 — 66
Tennessee — 63 — 11
Georgia — 62 — 12
FSU — 60 — 13
Florida — 58 — 11

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