Our latest stop on the college football prospect tour takes us to Washington State as well look at prospects the Buccaneers might find interesting.
If NFL teams like the Buccaneers were able to draft college coaches then Washington State’s Mike Leach would be near the top of my big board. Leach is one of the funniest personalities in all of sports, and a “football guy” in the truest sense imaginable. Unfortunately we’re limited to just the players, and Leach’s 7-7 Cougars team isn’t exactly dripping with NFL talent. Historically the Buccaneers haven’t dipped much into Cougar pool, with Hamza Abdullah in 2001 and Ricky Reynolds in 1987 being their only two draft picks from the school.
Washington State has twenty seniors departing for the NFL draft this Spring, along with two underclassmen. We’ll go over all the names, and then zero in on a couple that may be able to help out the Buccaneers.
Defensive back – Robert Taylor
Quarterback – Luke Falk
Defensive back – Kirkland Parker
Wide receiver – Robert Lewis
Cornerback – Marcellus Pippins
Running back – Gerard Wicks
Running back – Jamal Morrow
Linebacker – Isaac Dotson
Linebacker – Dylan Hanser
Place kicker – Erik Powell
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Linebacker – Peyton Pelluer
Linebacker – Frankie Luvu
Linebacker – Nate DeRider
Offensive line – Cole Madison
Offensive line – B.J. Salmonson
Offensive line – Cody O’Connell
Wide receiver – CJ Dimry
Defensive line – Daniel Ekuale
Place kicker – Mitchell Cox
Defensive line – Garrett McBroom
Wide receiver – Tavares Martin
Defensive end – Hercules Mata’afa
Senior to watch: Running back – Jamal Morrow
Tired of hearing about running backs yet? No? Good! This year’s NFL draft is loaded at running back and Washington State’s Jamal Morrow is an under-the-radar option for the Buccaneers who desperately need help at the position. Standing at 5’9, 203 lbs Morrow isn’t the ideal build for an NFL workhorse, but he’s proved capable of contributing through the air which is extremely valuable in today’s NFL.
In his senior season Morrow was the Cougar’s leading rusher with 522 yards and four touchdowns, and tacked on 60 catches for 506 yards and another five touchdowns. Morrow’s small frame, lack of rushing production, and the deep class of runners will all likely put him somewhere in the range of rounds five and seven. Morrow won’t be the Buccaneers first choice, but could be a depth pick with upside as a third down pass catcher.
Underclassman to watch: Defensive line/linebacker – Hercules Mata’afa
For the interests of the Buccaneers, the most valuable Cougar in this year’s draft is Hercules Mata’afa. In 2017, the junior Polynesian college football player of the year led the PAC-12 in tackles for loss (22) and sacks (10), racked up 45 total tackles, and forced two fumbles. Though he played all over the defensive line, including a lot of defensive tackle, the 6’2, 252 lb Mata’afa will be drafted as a 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 edge rusher. You’ve likely heard the phrase “tweener” used to describe defensive linemen without a clear position; that’s precisely what Mata’afa is.
Mata’afa was the engine of the Washington State defense and put up career highs across the board in his final collegiate season, which helped his draft stock immensely. Still it’s difficult to pin down what his draft stock is before the combine (which he was invited to). Since so much of his time in college was spent on the interior of the defensive line, NFL teams will want to see how well Mata’afa can bend and be flexible as an edge pass rusher, as well as get an idea of how well he bursts out of various stances. For now we can consider Hercules to be a second or third round pick with upside for more.
That’s it for our look at Washington State and their son of Zeus. Who are your favorite Cougars in this year’s NFL draft, Buccaneer fans? Sound off in the comments with your take, and check back tomorrow for a look at the Oregon Ducks.