The PAC-12 may not be viewed as the powerhouse that the SEC is, but make no mistake, each year plenty of high-quality talent is selected in the NFL draft out of PAC-12 schools.
It’s too early to tell, but players like Andre Dillard (WSU), Byron Murphy (UW) Marquise Blair (Utah) and Kaleb McGary (UW) all have a chance to make an immediate impact in the NFL after getting drafted last season.
The 2019 college football season is nearly upon us, and once again the PAC-12 has numerous candidates who might hear their name called early on draft day next season.
10 players out of the PAC-12 who have a realistic chance of getting selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon
Herbert is not only a near-lock to go in the first round next season – barring an injury – he has a great chance to go No. 1 overall. It was definitely a surprise when the star quarterback elected to return to college for his senior season, coming off a junior year where he threw for 3,151 yards with an excellent 29-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record.
Herbert said he felt he had unfinished business with the Ducks, and he’ll return as an immediate candidate for the Heisman trophy, alongside Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Herbert has been praised for his ball placement, knowledge of the game and his sneaky mobility, although durability concerns and a tendency to stare down receivers could hurt him at the professional level.
Expect Herbert to be the first PAC-12 player selected next year, and possibly the first player overall.
Laviska Shenault, Receiver, Colorado
Laviska Shenault is not only one of the best names in the PAC-12 (more on that later) but he has a real chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, particularly if he can build off an incredible junior season.
At Colorado, Shenault hauled in 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns, while also carrying the ball 17 times for 115 yards and five more touchdowns.
Shenault is listed at six-foot-two and 215 pounds, and most scouts think he’ll time out around a 4.40, which gives him an extraordinary blend of size and speed.
He’s still a bit raw as a receiver, but his versatility, size, speed, and instincts make it easy to see him as a future star – and one that should get drafted early in 2020.
Walker Little, Tackle, Stanford
Stanford tackle Walker Little is anything but – standing at six-foot-seven and weighing 317 pounds. He was co-freshman offensive player of the year in the PAC-12 two years ago and was an absolute beast at clearing rushing lanes for Bryce Love of the Cardinal.
Little is already projected as a mid-first round pick, and if he can stay healthy (he’s battled injuries in the past) there’s little reason to assume he won’t find himself as an NFL starter as soon as 2020.
Calvin Throckmorton, Tackle, Oregon
On nearly any other list, Laviska Shenault would be the best name. However, it’s pretty darn hard to beat Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton, a name that sounds like it belongs in the Harry Potter universe.
Throckmorton is listed as a tackle, although he has experience as a guard as well – and many analysts believe that is where he will end up in the NFL.
His explosiveness is nearly unparalleled, and his ability to pull and locate blockers makes him an attractive piece to run-heavy NFL squads. He does struggle out in open space however and might be a liability as a pass-blocker.
Throckmorton will have to mitigate some of those concerns if he wants to end up in the first round, but his size, explosiveness, and high football IQ make him a tantalizing prospect entering his fifth season at UO.
Trey Adams, Tackle, Washington
Trey Adams is an absolute unit, standing at six-foot-seven and weighing over 300 pounds. Despite that he has shown good body control as a pass-protector, making him a potential left tackle in the NFL and capable protector of the blindside.
Durability is a big concern here, as the UW star has missed big chunks in each of the last two seasons. He’ll need to be healthy and productive next season if he wants to find himself getting selected in the first round, but he does have the talent to go that high.
Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback, Utah
Jaylon Johnson enters his third season at Utah coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him snag four interceptions, along with 31 solo tackles and two sacks.
Johnson has the near-perfect size for an NFL corner, standing six-foot and weighing 190 pounds. He’s physical and aggressive at the point of contact, making him a great asset against bigger, more physical NFL receivers.
He’s raw, and has some issues in quick throws. But Johnson has the tools and build to be a high-quality defensive back in the NFL. He could find himself getting picked in the first-round of the NFL Draft if he has a strong junior campaign.
Jacob Eason, Quarterback, Washington
The range of outcomes that are possible for new Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason is nearly infinite.
The transfer from Georgia sat out last year but is expected to start for Chris Peterson and company next season. Eason wasn’t bad the one season he started at Georgia, completing 55.1% of his passes for 2,430 yards with a nice 16-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But after losing his job to Jake Fromm, Eason will have to prove himself in the Pacific Northwest. If he can harness his absolute cannon of an arm, he could easily find himself getting selected by a QB needy team in the first round.
Troy Dye, Linebacker, Oregon
Dye has started for the Ducks over the past three seasons, posting remarkably consistent numbers throughout his career. His 182 solo tackles are already 22nd all-time in the PAC-12, and his 125 assisted tackles rank 16th.
Dye possesses excellent range and instincts as a linebacker, and his size and style of play should mesh well with the current NFL style.
He does have some issues in run protection, often relying on seeing the ball-carrier and chasing them rather than anticipating, but those are things he can learn at the pro level. It would take a step forward from Dye for him to jump into the first round, but as it stands he has a great chance to be a high-quality NFL starter for a long time.
K.J. Costello, Quarterback, Stanford
Scouts, coaches and general managers love their tall quarterbacks. It’s why Paxton Lynch was an NFL Draft first-rounder and Russell Wilson fell into the third – even though Lynch is now fighting for a job backing up Wilson in Seattle.
K.J. Costello stands six-foot-five and weighs a lean 215 pounds, and his size and absolute rocket arm make him an appealing potential first-round target next season.
He led the Cardinal to a 9-4 record by throwing for 3,540 yards with a nice 29-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a solid 65.1% completion percentage.
Costello’s IQ in the pocket is excellent, and he has complete trust in his receivers – often making challenging throws and seeing openings before anyone else can.
He’s a bit limited mobility wise – as most six-foot-five quarterbacks are – but another strong season could vault Costello into the first-round conversation, particularly if multiple quarterback-needy teams emerge. He may end up being a Pac-12 NFL Draft first-rounder.
Christian Rector, EDGE, USC
EDGE defenders were all the rage in the NFL Draft first-round last year, and while the PAC-12 doesn’t have a huge laundry list of elite, draft-eligible pass-rushers in 2019, one who could sneak his way into first-round consideration with a strong campaign is USC’s Christan Rector.
Entering his fifth year with the Trojans, Rector will need to show consistency if he wants to get attention at the top of the NFL Draft. An imposing six-foot-four and 270 pounds, Rector can absolutely wreak havoc off the edge – but too often he disappears for entire games.
His hand placement and use of length have been strengths of his in the past, but he often gets too upright and struggles to fill gaps in the run-game – both traits that he’ll need to improve on in his final season down in Southern California.