Hard to predict proCanes’ prospects in NFL Draft

After a record 14 consecutive seasons with at least one player chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, the University of Miami was saved from totally whiffing in 2009 by low-profile linebacker Spencer Adkins — the third selection in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons.

“It’s all about hard work and dedication,” Adkins, who has 15 NFL tackles in three seasons, said that day. “I’m a good dude and good things happen to good people."

Sometimes, yes.

Sometimes, no.

The newest version of the NFL Draft, Thursday through Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, will undoubtedly include a flurry of Miami Hurricanes at one point or another — though most, if not all, of those Canes are expected to be drafted the final two days.

Last April, after a 7-6 season, eight Canes were drafted. Now, after another substandard campaign (6-6) in 2011, as many as nine — maybe more — Canes could be celebrating by the end of the weekend.

“Nine guys from Miami?” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said when asked by The Miami Herald on a national conference call his assessment of some of them. “I have to sit here and count.”

11 UP?

McShay then went on to name 11 Hurricanes — some of them “on the fringe” or “sleepers,” such as tight end Chase Ford, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, receiver LaRon Byrd and defensive end Adewale Ojomo; other more definites, though lower in the process, such as defensive tackle Marcus Forston and offensive lineman Brandon Washington; others whose projections cover a hefty range, such as defensive end Olivier Vernon and receivers Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter; and the more solid mainstays of running back Lamar Miller and linebacker Sean Spence.

In all, he said he wouldn’t be shocked if nine Hurricanes were drafted, but that “a safe bet is seven.”

Miller has been projected to go highest, anywhere from the start to end of the second round, with Spence also projected by some to go in the second round.

“He belongs in the late second round — maybe Green Bay, New York Giants, teams looking for more depth and potential from a big-play, home run hitter,” McShay said of Miller. “His speed — it’s all about cut and go. He’s a guy who heats up more than any running back in this class. … The 1.53-second 10-yard split is the fastest first 10 yards of any running back.”

While McShay called Vernon “the most intriguing” UM draft prospect and said he is a “better player than maybe the perception,” fellow analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Benjamin was his “very intriguing” Hurricane.

“He’s the kind of kid that can probably give you a little bit more in terms of overall versatility. … He’s a flyer and a great athlete — tremendously fast,” Kiper said. “And when you think about what he can do in the return game, he might give you a little bit more early on while Streeter is developing as a pure receiver.”

UM’s draft-eligible players — including the five underclassmen who declared early (Miller, Streeter, Forston, Vernon and Washington) — are trying to drown out the prognosticators.

“Every round is realistic,” said Streeter, who could go anywhere from Day 2 (second and third rounds) to Day 3 (fourth through seventh rounds) of the draft. “You really don’t know until draft day. I’m just praying and controlling what I can, and leave everything else in God’s hands.”

And this, from Benjamin: “It’s all over the place. Some people are talking maybe second or third; some people are talking fourth, fifth, sixth.
“My expectations don’t matter.”

No wonder UM quarterback Jacory Harris, who is not projected to be drafted, scoffed when told last month that analysts are saying there’s no way he’ll be picked.

“I don’t deal with it,” Harris said. “Two years ago [Kiper] was saying I was a second-round quarterback and now it’s, ‘I won’t get drafted.’ It really doesn’t matter. People change their opinions. He’s an NFL analyst. He’s not a scout or somebody that’s going to be making the decision.

“I’ve seen success. I’ve seen failure. I’ve had the opportunity to be on both ends of the stick. I don’t regret one thing that has happened to me at the University of Miami because all of it has helped me to get to this moment right here.”

Even Spence, described by Kiper as undersized at 5-11 ½ and 229 pounds, but “one of the best tackling linebackers in this draft,” has been highly criticized for only managing 12 reps of 225 pounds at the combine in Indianapolis. Spence said he sustained a deep bone bruise in his left shoulder during the Senior Bowl and usually bench-pressed 19 reps.

“In Indianapolis, I wanted to compete and they told us we had to compete,” he said at UM’s Pro Day. “Unfortunately, I pushed out 12, but I know I can do more once I get healthy and back to my old self.”

He was asked how frustrating it was to know that so much emphasis is put on Pro Day.

“It makes me feel like I shouldn’t have played football,” the good-natured Spence answered sarcastically, but with a grin. “I should have just worked on the combine and been a workout warrior.

“I just focus on what I can control.”

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