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Hogs Haven 2020 NFL Draft Coverage: Texas Longhorns Preview

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An early preview of the University of Texas players who may be prominent in the 2020 NFL draft

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 06 Red River Showdown - Texas v Oklahoma Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I am going to preview one team per week (either Friday or Saturday) throughout the college football season. One of the biggest games this weekend will be when #11 Texas takes on #6 Oklahoma in the 114th edition of the “Red River Showdown”.

Of all the team previews I have done thus far, Texas has the least NFL talent. When I did my preseason rankings of over 300 prospects, only five were Longhorns, and only Colin Johnson was included in my top-100. Was I being unreasonable? Not really. Texas had just one player selected in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, just two in 2019, and have not had more than five prospects drafted since 2010. With only two Rd1 players and just nine drafted in the Top-100 since 2010, Texas has been devoid of talent for much of this decade.

However, their future seems bright, as only seven starters are seniors, and few underclassmen look likely to declare early.

Last season, I watched both Oklahoma contests, the West Virginia game, and their bowl victory over Georgia. This year, I watched the entire LSU game and parts of the Oklahoma State and West Virginia games.

POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

While some draft analysts have suggested Collin Johnson, I currently do no see a potential first round pick when evaluating Texas’ 2020 prospects.

POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS

#52 Samuel Cosmi (RS-Soph.) OT 6-7 300.

A lightly regarded 3-star HS prospect, Cosmi red-shirted during the 2017 season, before becoming Texas’ starting RT in 2018.

Playing at around 280 pounds, as a red-shirt freshman, Cosmi lacked great functional football strength, and was easily moved when facing power. He reportedly put on about 15-20 pounds over the off-season, and his added size and strength have made him one of the best offensive tackles in the conference.

Cosmi showed enough progress throughout last year that he transitioned to LT for the 2019 season. While his technique has been effective, you can still see him struggle to anchor but his is a really good athlete, with excellent coordination and agility.

In the LSU game, Cosmi may have got away with a couple of holds, but he mostly stonewalled Edge K’Lavon Chaisson and DE/DT Rashard Lawrence, likely the best defenders he will face this season.

Against WVU, he caught a backwards pass and ran it in for a 12-yard touchdown on a trick play, and was voted onto PFF’s team of the Week.

PFF writes “Capping a terrific day of blocking with a touchdown, Cosmi has solidified himself as one of the nation’s top tackles. He allowed just a single QB hurry on his 39 snaps in pass protection while possessing a big grade in the run game but his highlight of the night came when he took a reverse pass (thrown behind QB Sam Ehlinger) 12 yards for a rushing score that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Longhorns.”

Still just a red-shirt sophomore, some analysts have said they view Cosmi as a better NFL prospect than former Longhorns LT/current Cowboy LG Connor Williams (Pk#50).

The Vikings’ Brian O”Neal (Pk#62, 2018) caught a touchdown on a similar play while at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also played both RT and LT. I think we are looking at a similar prospect, who will likely be drafted at the back end of Rd2 or near the top of Rd3.

#9 Collin Johnson (Sr.) WR 6-6 220.

Going into the 2019 season, Johnson had appeared in 38 games with 22 starts. He posted a 68-985-7 receiving line in 2018 with a 60% contested catch success rate. Over the summer, ESPN’s Matt Bowen compared Johnson to the Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike Williams. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked him as his top-ranked senior receiver, and ESPN’s Todd McShay mocked him to come off the board with the 9 pick in his much too early mock just after the 2019 draft.

This season, Johnson played in the Longhorns first two games but sat out the last three games with a hamstring injury.He also had arthroscopic surgery his left knee in January of 2019.

NFL Bloodlines: Father Johnnie Johnson was a 1st round pick by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1980 NFL Draft.

Hh has experience at all three WR positions (X, Z and in the slot).

While he is a towering presence, Johnson is built long and narrow, with skinny legs and a narrow torso. While he has a great catch radius and can track the ball downfield, he doesn’t have great speed, and doesn’t get much separation as a route runner.

With his frame, he may never develop as a crisp route runner, or offer much yards after the catch, because he just can’t sink his hips out of his breaks and struggles with change of direction skills. However, with his size, he could develop into a red zone threat.

Comparably framed receivers, such as Hakeem Butler and Equanimeous St. Brown have slid much further than expected in recent drafts, while others such Allen Lazard and Simmie Cobbs went completely undrafted.

LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS

#19 Brandon Jones (Sr.) Safety, 6-0 205.

Jones came to Austin as one of the top five safety prospects in the country. Going into his senior season, Jones had appeared in 34 games with 23 starts. He plays an interchangeable SS/FS role as well as over the slot or as a dime linebacker.

In 2018, Jones played in 10 games and totaled 70 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. However, an ankle injury forced Jones to miss a total of four games as a junior.

After two good seasons of tape, Jones surprised many when he announced he would return for his senior season, by explaining “I got really good feedback from the NFL, but with my injury I felt I had more to prove not only to myself, but to my team as well,” Jones said in a statement released by the school.

That is Jones standing on the roman numeral 12, playing the increasingly more prevalent quasi-linebacker/nickel role, where he lines up just outside the tackle box.

Jones all of spring practice after undergoing surgery on February 26, 2019 for the high ankle sprain originally suffered in the 2018 season opener.

Despite being a good athlete, Jones doesn’t always cover much ground moving backwards and can be beaten deep in one on one situations. While he is functional as an interchangeable safety, he is best closer to the line of scrimmage and comfortable lined up against slot-receivers on the college level.

It is important to realize, he played through an injury that required surgery after last season, and now that he is healthy, I am interested to see his performance against teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech. In the right system, I think he is a potential starter.

#73 Parker Braun (RS-Sr.) LG 6-3 300.

Braun is a graduate transfer offensive lineman who came to Texas after starting the last 32 of his 36 games over three seasons at Georgia Tech, where he was voted first-team All ACC last season. As a true freshman, Braun earned freshman All-American honors by ESPN and as a sophomore, Braun was voted second team All-ACC.

Of coarse, the pass-happy spread that Texas runs could not be more schematically different than the run-heavy triple-option that Braun played in at Georgia Tech. As a team, Georgia Tech completed just 56 of 126 passes for 1089 yards in 2018, while Texas completed 310 of 476, for 3,615 yards.

This season, Texas completed 3 more passes in just it’s first two games (59) than Georgia Tech did all of last season.

That is a lot more pass-blocking reps, and should really help round-out Brauns overall game.

After last weekend’s WVU game, Braun was also voted onto PFF’s team of the Week. PFF writes “Braun finished with the country’s second-highest run-blocking grade and allowed just four hurries without a QB hit or sack on his 40 reps in pass protection.”

I have not watched Braun’s work while at Georgia Tech, but I have heard that he was outstanding, including against the mighty Clemson defensive line that produced three first round picks this past spring.

Braun is undersized for the position and doesn’t have a great amount of experience in pass protection thus far, but he appears to be a good athlete and technician.

#11 Sam Ehlinger (Jr.) QB 6-2 234.

Colt McCoy 2.0?

A native of Austin, Ehlinger was ranked by most recruiting services as one of the top-5 QB recruits in the nation.

Despite only playing in nine and only starting six games as a true freshman, he became the first Longhorn since Colt McCoy in 2008 to lead the team in both passing and rushing in a season.

Following an outstanding sophomore year, in which he racked up 41 total touchdowns (25 by air, 16 on the ground) compared to just five interceptions, Ehlinger enters the 2019 season as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.

Through five games, he’s completing nearly 70% of his passes, and has thrown 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions this season. He currently ranked 6th nationally in total QBR by ESPN.

Recently, Pro Football Focus ranked him as their fifth best college quarterback (not necessarily pro prospect) in the nation for 2019. They go into great detail by explaining “The top five wouldn’t be complete without Ehlinger as he’s currently thrown for 10 big-time throws (15th) while limiting himself to just four turnover-worthy passes. He’s averaging a deeper depth of target than year’s past and still sitting with a strong 75.4% adjusted completion percentage. His offensive line is playing well ahead of expectations and giving him a clean pocket on 75.6% of his dropbacks. He’s rewarded the Longhorns with the country’s 14th-best passer rating when kept clean, throwing for 1,191 yards and 16 touchdowns, the latter tying for third-most in the nation.”

Against LSU (the best defense Texas will face in terms oft pro prospects), Ehlinger completed 31 of his 47 passing attempts for 401 yards, and four touchdowns, with zero interceptions.

A very good athlete with a quick and compact throwing motion, Ehlinger puts good zip on passes in the short and intermediate range, and can occasionally uncork beautiful long pass down the sideline, however his mechanics, footwork, and mental processing all need work.

A local legend, it probably would be a mistake for him to leave early, as his arm strength isn’t great. That being said, his body has taken a pounding as a runner already, and with primarily predetermined reads, the Texas offensive system may not afford him much more grooming.

#6 Devin Duvernay (Sr.) WR 5-11 210.

Duvernay currently leads the nation with nine receptions per game, and his 45 catches this season are more than Texas’ next three receivers combined.

NFL bloodlines: Cousin of Kyler Murray. Twin brother, Donovan, is a defensive back for the Longhorns. Ran a 4.38 second 40 time at high school all-star circuit.

Going into this senior season, Duvernay had appeared in 39 games with 17 starts. He spent his first three seasons primarily as an outside receiver, mostly opposite Collin Johnson, and had 79 catches for 1072 yards and seven touchdowns through his first three seasons. PFF charted him with zero drops in 2018.

In 2019, he was moved into the slot, replacing Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who declared for, but went undrafted in 2019.

In somewhat of a breakout season, Duvernay has already caught 45 passes for 463 yards with four touchdowns this season, nearly matching his stats for all of last season (41 catches for 546 yards and four touchdowns).

A very good athlete, he ran a 4.38 second 40 time at high school all-star circuit, while also posting a 4.24 short shuttle, 37.7” vertical, and elite 120 SPARQ score.

With a thick, almost running back’s build, he has a very solid and powerful frame. He runs a very simplistic route tree and needs refinement as a route runner.

Similar to James Washington (Pk#60), in both build and traits, Duvernay has a chance to break into the top-100 if he continues his breakout season. Since I see him as more of a day-3 option, Gary Jennings (PK#120) might be a better comp, since he lacks the short area quickness of a slot receiver or the length and ability to beat press-coverage on the outside.

#32 Malcolm Roach (Sr.) DE/DT 6-3 290.

Going into the 2019 season, Roach had appeared in 34 games with 11 starts (8 at DE and 3 at OLB) and accounted for 90 total tackles, including 13.5 for loss, with five sacks.

Last season, Roach started the first three games before suffering a fractured foot against USC. He missed the following 5 games after surgery, then returned to play against WVU, and finished the year with 24 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, and a pass broken up.

While versatile on the collegiate level, he may be a bit of a tweeter in the NFL. Up to 290 pounds after playing around 270 earlier in his career, Roach is tightly wound, and lacks flexibility. He just doesn’t have the length of Charles Omenihu and lacks speed, agility and explosiveness.

#56 Zach Shackelford (Sr.) C 6-4 305.

Shackelford was the lowest-rated member of Texas’ 2016 recruiting class, but started the Longhorn’s opener as a true freshman. That season, he started nine games and finished the year as a FWAA freshman All-American.

Going into his senior year, he had 29 career starts over his first three seasons, and was named a team captain.

Similar to Chase Roullier, Shackelford is a good technician and a good enough athlete for the position, but doesn’t have that one dominant trait to be anything more than a late round pick with developmental potential.

OTHERS

#23 Jeffrey McCulloch (Sr.) OLB 6-3 245.

Going into the 2019 season, McCulloch had appeared in 36 games, but with just 6 starts, and without much career production (66 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 1 INT).

Has experience at the “B” LB position (a LB/DE hybrid) but is currently starting at “Rover” (weakside LB) as one of only two linebackers in the Longhorns 3-2-6 base defense.

His nickname is the “Shark”, McCulloch is likely a long-shot to get drafted but has good size.

#15 Chris Brown (RS-Jr.) Safety, 5-11 195.

Brown is a fourth-year defensive back who had played in 25 career games with just two starts going into the 2019 season.

With defensive backs Jalen Green (dislocated shoulder), Caden Sterns (sprained knee ligament) and Josh Thompson (broken foot) all sidelined, Texas will be without three members of their secondary for the next couple of weeks, giving Brown every opportunity to prove himself.

Technically, draft eligible, but without a much of a resume, Brown is just the team’s 3rd or 4th best safety but still a starter in the Longhorns base defense, which is a 3-2-6 “Dime”.