Top 25 NFL Draft Rankings: Brad Kaaya gives No. 23 Miami a rare elite quarterback
Our countdown of the top programs for NFL prospects continues with the Hurricanes
Miami Hurricanes: No. 23
Miami Draft History
- Draft picks since moving to seven-round format in 1994: 119 (5th in college football)
- Draft picks the last 10 years: 41 (11th in college football)
- Draft picks the last five years: 20 (t-14th in college football)
Looking back at the 2016 NFL Draft
- Draft picks: 2
- (1/25) CB Artie Burns
- (4/124) SS Deon Bush
- Undrafted free agents: WR Rashawn Scott , LB Raphael Kirby , DL Ufomba Kamalu , DL Calvin Heurtelou , WR Herb Waters , CB Tracy Howard , LB Tyriq McCord , DT Michael Wyche
Looking ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft
There is no question that the Hurricanes are still relevant when it comes to churning out NFL players (nine draft picks the last two years), but the program has faded from the glory years as a consistent producer of top-tier talent. However, with the rich history, brand recognition and regional recruiting potential of "The U," a resurgence is more likely a matter of "when" and not "if."
Now under the leadership of Mark Richt, the Miami fan base is optimistic that time is now, especially with an experienced quarterback returning under center. Sharing a conference with Clemson Tigers 's Deshaun Watson , Brad Kaaya might not be the most talented quarterback prospect in the ACC, but some around the NFL think he is a future first-round pick. Regardless, Miami hasn't had a quarterback drafted in the top 75 since Vinny Testaverde went No. 1 overall in 1987. Kaaya should change that.
Below are the top draft-eligible prospects on the Hurricanes' roster for the next level.
One of the more interesting prospect storylines to watch this season is Brad Kaaya and his development with new head coach (and former Hurricanes quarterback) Mark Richt. Entering his third season as a starter, Kaaya saw his touchdown total dip as a sophomore (16, down from 26), but he also showed improvement in his completion percentage (61.2-percent, up from 58.5) and interceptions, throwing a pick once every 77.8 pass attempts in 2015, compared to only one every 31.5 attempts as a freshman.
With basically his third different offensive system in three years, NFL scouts are hoping for another jump in his development in Richt's pro-style scheme.
First, the ordinary. Although tall, Kaaya is underwhelming physically with a very lean build and average-at-best arm strength. He doesn't generate ideal velocity on every route, and his inconsistent throwing mechanics make it tough for him to generate torque in his delivery.
However, there is a lot to like. Kaaya is advanced mentally with his presnap vision and composure within the pocket. He is comfortable with the bullets buzzing to quickly find his hot read or move off his first receiver, finding the second or third progression. Kaaya also has the downfield touch to be effective on deep passes, despite his lack of a power arm.
Richt gives near complete control in his offense to his quarterback to call plays, make checks and coordinate the offensive gameplan. And when talking to NFL scouts, the words "first round" are mentioned, but scouts are reluctant to draw a hard line on Kaaya because they are eager to see how he responds under Richt's tutelage.
Miami had only two draft picks this past spring -- both from the secondary. But with Corn Elder returning for the Hurricanes, the cornerback spot should be in good shape. After mixed results his first two years in Coral Gables, the Nashville native had a breakout junior season in 2015 with a team-best 13 passes defended, adding 41 tackles and two interceptions.
Veteran defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who enters his first season at Miami, runs a blitz-happy scheme, which will give NFL scouts plenty of opportunities to evaluate Elder on an island this season.
Studying Elder on film, his size is first to stand out -- and not in a particularly positive way. He doesn't possess ideal height or growth potential for the position and his lack of length will show, especially when receivers shield him from the ball. However, he is routinely in phase with receivers due to his loose athleticism to shadow from inside or outside positioning.
Elder has agile feet and swivel hips, making it look easy to click, close and attack the catch point with proper timing. He arrives at the ball carrier with violence and attempts to use proper technique as a tackler, but his inconsistent finishing strength is an area scouts are hoping to see improvement.
Although he doesn't have the same traits that made Artie Burns a first-round pick, Elder has the athleticism, toughness and opportunistic awareness that makes him an intriguing nickel corner at the next level.
While Kaaya is the face of the Miami program, his best friend and snapper is one of the most important players on the Hurricanes' roster. Nick Linder , who is the younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars starting guard/center Brandon Linder , worked his way onto the field as a true freshman, starting four games at left guard in 2014. He moved to center last season and started all 13 games, drawing praise from Kaaya and the coaches for his work ethic and steady play.
Linder has an efficient snap-and-step motion to set up, sink his weight and use his eyes to pick up interior rushers. He uses short, measured steps to create a sturdy base in pass protection, but while aggressive with his punch, defensive tackles can overpower him and knock him off balance.
Linder lacks ideal upper body strength, but he recovers well and competes with a controlled stubbornness to neutralize physical defenders at the point of attack. He has the mobility to pull, trap and get inside out on linebackers and his awareness was impressive for a true sophomore last season.
Entering his junior season, Linder isn't a household name, but has put himself on the NFL radar.
One of the top pass rushers in the ACC, Al-Quadin Muhammad was highly recruited out of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, but his career at Miami got off to a rocky start. After an unremarkable freshman season as a reserve, he was suspended for the 2014 season and wasn't permitted to attend classes due to an off-campus altercation with a student.
Muhammad returned in 2015, but started the season buried on the depth chart and sat out the season opener due to a violation of team rules. However, he quickly earned more and more playing time and led the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (5.0) last season. Muhammad underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this past spring, but is expected to be 100 percent for the start of the 2016 season.
In Miami's hybrid 3-4 scheme last season, Muhammad played a hybrid edge rusher role, but will transition to defensive end full-time in Diaz's four-man front. He bursts off the snap and is able to generate movement with a bull rush, shooting his hands into blockers before they can react.
Although he isn't overly imaginative with his pass-rush arsenal, Muhammad is a balanced athlete with improved upper body strength to peel off blockers and find the ball carrier. He looks natural opening his hips to transition in space and cover out of the backfield.
Although he has multiple suspensions in his past, most around the program continue to call him one of the program's leaders. And although he is far from a finished product, NFL scouts are keeping a close eye on Muhammad this fall.
While Kaaya and his development this season will be the main storyline at Miami, the health and consistency of Stacy Coley will be a major subplot. A native of nearby Pompano Beach, Coley was highly recruited out of high school and saw immediate snaps for the Hurricanes in 2013, earning Freshman All-American honors.
After an inconsistent 2014 season, he set career-bests as a junior despite missing most of September due to a hamstring injury, finishing with 47 catches for 689 yards and four touchdowns. With Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters no longer on the roster, Coley is the clear-cut No. 1 wideout on the Miami depth chart.
Although not quite as fast as his former teammate Phillip Dorsett , Coley comes close with dynamic speed, running with easy acceleration to quickly separate himself in his routes or as a ball carrier. He has nimble feet at the top of patterns to create room to work, making mid-route adjustments based on coverages and alignments to help his quarterback. Coley will have the occasional double-catch or take his eye off the ball too early, but he displays very soft hands with the ball skills to attack the ball away from his frame.
Aside from on-field consistency issues, the No. 1 goal for Coley in 2016 is to shed the fragile tag due to his lean body type and tendency to be pushed around by physical defensive backs. He has missed a few games in each of the last three seasons at Miami and needs to show scouts he has enough body armor to not only survive, but also thrive at the pro level, because the ability is there.
Other draft-eligible prospects to watch:
- Joseph Yearby , RB, JR. (5-9, 207, 4.52, #2)
- Standish Dobard , TE, SR. (6-4, 265, 4.83, #5)
- Trevor Darling , LT, JR. (6-4, 316, 5.29, #73)
- Danny Isidora , RG, rSR. (6-4, 310, 5.29, #63)
- KC McDermott , LG, JR. (6-6, 300, 5.27, #52)
- Chad Thomas , DE, JR. (6-5, 265, 4.76, #9)
- Gerald Willis , DT, rSO. (6-3, 280, 4.94, #91)
- Jermain Grace, SLB, SR. (6-1, 205, 4.62, #5)
- Rayshawn Jenkins , FS, rSR. (6-1, 208, 4.53, #26)
- Jamal Carter , SS, SR. (6-1, 210, 4.58, #6)
- Justin Vogel , P, SR. (6-4, 210, 4.94, #16)
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