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30-Day Countdown: Day 13 - Best Future Pro

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Which current Husky is the best NFL prospect?

Washington Spring Game Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

There are currently 43 former Washington Huskies on NFL rosters. Quite a change from 2009 when there were three. But with multiple Huskies drafted every season since 2014 (highlighted by EIGHT UW players drafted in 2019), the number of former Dawgs playing in the NFL continues to grow.

Look at these six-year stretches:

2008-2014 - 9 Huskies drafted

2015-2021 - 30 Huskies Drafted

Plus, the number of undrafted free agents has grown in a similar way.

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Who are the best pro prospects on the current UW roster?

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A few candidates:

Trent McDuffie (Cornerback, 5-11, 195, RS Sophomore)

Élite explosiveness AND a playmaker? Yes please.

McDuffie is going to do very well at the NFL combine, and only his 5’11 size (which means he is 5’10 or less probably) is the only thing keeping him from being rated above the top SEC or Ohio State DBs.

Some PFF numbers:
  • He allowed only 52 yards in four games last season and earned an 80.6 overall grade.
  • He earned an 85.4 overall grade on 752 snaps as a true freshman in 2019.
  • He’s missed only two tackles on 64 career attempts.

McDuffie possesses elite explosiveness, has remarkable quickness, and he can jump really high (and get there quickly). He gets past blocks, diagnoses plays, and is fantastic when the balls is in the air. He is also an exciting player with the football in his hands.

Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network:

Beyond his explosiveness, McDuffie’s athletic profile remains strong. He’s fluid flipping his hips upfield, and he has the long speed to stick to receivers’ hip pockets. Additionally, McDuffie channels his athletic traits very well. He transfers his weight with ease, stacking feet motions effortlessly. His footwork is effervescent, composed, and meticulous. It allows him to use his athleticism with dangerous efficiency.

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Jaxson Kirkland (Tackle, 6-7, 310, RS Junior)

Kirkland has strong bloodlines. His father, Dean, was an offensive lineman for UW (1988-1990) who went on to be drafted by the Buffalo Bills. The talent did not skip a generation, as Jaxson has been a contributor to the team’s offensive front since the end of his redshirt season in 2017.

Kirkland shows burst and balance coming out of his stance. There are hardly ever any instances where he stumbles or is off balance out of the starting blocks. Besides the explosive first step, he’s smooth. Like a deisel gaining ground as he begins the post-snap process.

Pass protection is where Kirkland hangs his hat.

Jordan Reid, TDN:

“Well advanced in pass-pro, he displays adequate hand usage and can punch and reset in an instance. Playing the game with balance and from a stable position, he can adjust when necessary or when forced to use his anchor.”

But it’s not all good for Kirkland:

Michael Renner, Pro Football Focus:

The biggest area for improvement for Kirkland will simply be play strength. He earned a 69.9 run-blocking grade last season and won’t be a great fit for pure gap schemes in the NFL.

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Cade Otton (Tight End, 6-5, 250, RS Junior)

Mr. Football. That’s Cade Otton.

He’s not super fast, nor super strong, nor even the most physically talented TE the Huskies have had. But Otton is a technician out there, and he wins with technique. He gets a quick release off the line, and shows great savvy as a route runner to avoid getting jammed by defenders, and is always able to get into his route.

It’s hard to describe how Otton moves out on the field, so let’s let an expert break it down:

Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network:

Otton’s athletic traits are most evident in the route-running phase. The Washington TE has definite lateral twitch as a route runner, and he’s a smooth, natural mover who combines motions easily, sinking his hips in and out of breaks. With this mobility, Otton can also be an effective lead blocker, and his speed and length provide adequate conduits.

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Zion Tupuola-Fetui (OLB, 6-4, 260, RS Sophomore)

Obviously the NFL is going to be excited about ZTF, especially if he is able to regain all of his explosiveness.

As you can see from this detailed scouting review based on film, his athleticism is key to his success:

Damond Talbot, NFL Draft Diamonds:

First step Quickness: Comes off the Two point stance and immediately Covers ground with his long Legs. Has a strong burst. His 3 point stance get off is boarder-line elite he gets off the ball so well that you could have have him in exclusive in a wide 9 and he get to a bend position before any lineman can get his hands on him. 20/20

Converting Speed to power: His bull rush is far advanced for a guy of his experience. When he gets off the ball and explodes into a blockers chest the man is at Tupuola-FetuMercy even with one hand. 14/16

Counter: Rushes with a plan, was out smarting almost every offensive lineman. Show you one move than give you another. 7/8

Hand usage: Has quick hands and will get into blockers chest with by chopping off tackles arms. 9/10

Bend: Doesn’t drop his hips but is still in enough of a dip that he can still turn the corner. A little stiff. 4/11

Tackling: Doesn’t always look at what he is trying to tackle, gets home most of the time only missed 3 tackles all of last year. 6/10

Coverage: He played off ball Linebacker 11 times last year at 270 pounds but wasn’t particularly good at it. Just lacked the fluidity. 2/5

Pursuit: Won’t run down backside pursuits. Once he sees run he turns it down. Not his fault as much as it is scheme. 4/11

Run Defense: Was rotated out a lot. Doesn’t play run as hard on Run downs as pass. Just throws his weight around. 2/9

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What it adds up to is a score of 54/65 (83%) on things that have to do with rushing the QB, and 14/35 (40%) on the things that don’t. Notice how much more weight this scout puts on First Step Quickness and Converting Speed to Power, vs Tackling, Coverage, Run Stopping, etc.

Bottom line, if ZTF gets his burst back, the NFL will be all over him as an Edge Rusher.

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Sav’ell Smalls (OLB, 6-3, 250, RS Freshman)

Smalls won’t be eligible for the draft until after the 2022 season, but with the physical tools he possesses, and the strides he made as a true freshman, it’s hard to ignore him as a top NFL prospect. Oh, and he rushes the QB, so vault him even higher in the eyes of pro football execs.

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Poll

Who is the best pro prospect on the Husky Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Trent McDuffie
    (195 votes)
  • 16%
    Jaxson Kirkland
    (82 votes)
  • 22%
    Cade Otton
    (109 votes)
  • 6%
    Sav’ell Smalls
    (31 votes)
  • 11%
    Zion Tupuola-Fetui
    (57 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (15 votes)
489 votes total Vote Now

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