It is unlikely that number will grow to eight this season, but that doesn’t mean a handful of Owls won’t get their opportunities to land in the League.
Unlike last season, when the only question surrounding FAU defensive end Trey Hendrickson was when he would be drafted, FAU doesn’t boast a sure-fire draftee in this year’s draft, which begins tonight with the first round and concludes on Saturday with rounds four through seven,
A couple FAU players could be selected late on Saturday. Action should pick up in the hours that immediately follow when NFL teams begin signing undrafted players to free agent deals.
Which players are most likely to extend their playing careers? Glad you asked.
MOST LIKELY TO BE DRAFTED
WR JOHN FRANKLIN: He has speed – that is unquestioned. And NFL teams are always looking for speed. Franklin, however, has yet to consistently convert that speed into big plays. During his lone season at FAU, the former quarterback caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 16 times for 242 yards and two scores.
Franklin ran a 4.4 40-yard dash during pro day (some clocked him in the high 4.3s) and his agents are telling him to be prepared on Saturday.
“It’s the speed fact and the production I had when I had the ball in my hands, really,” Franklin said.
Expectation: In year’s past NFL teams might have drafted Franklin based solely on his speed, thinking he could return kicks – and anything else they get from him would be gravy. With the NFL de-emphasizing kickoffs, and perhaps moving to eliminate them altogether in the future, those days are gone. Franklin hasn’t shown better than average hands or route running ability, but some team will likely sign him as an undrafted free agent to see if they can develop him.
WR KALIB WOODS: Woods missed the first half of FAU’s 2017 season after being charged with two counts of felony battery for his role in an off-campus fight. Once FAU lifted the suspension, Woods caught 24 passes for 619 yards and four touchdowns..
At 6-foot-3 and 189 pounds, Woods had long flashed big play ability during practice. This season he made plays in games, too.
Woods ran a disappointing 4.55 in the 40 during FAU’s pro day.
Expectation: With the felony charges still hanging over his head – his next court appearance is scheduled for May 21 – there isn’t much of a reason for NFL teams to go out on a limb for Woods. At least not during the draft. He’ll likely go undrafted, but could still find his way into some teams camp as a free agent.
WILL FIND A CAMP
RB BUDDY HOWELL: If not for the emergence of Devin Singletary, Howell might be the biggest FAU prospect in this class. Even with Singletary as the primary back, Howell still averaged a team-high 6.6 yards per carry en route to 740 yards and five touchdowns last season, and during his career Howell rushed for 2,419 yards and 22 scores.
At 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds, Howell is a big back capable of taking an NFL pounding. He’s also faster than he looks, as his 4.51 time in the 40 attests.
“I’m not really listening for too much [draft talk], just waiting for the day – have the phone on loud and listening for the call,” Howell said. “You don’t want to miss that call.”
Expectation: The way NFL teams race through running backs, Howell will get a shot. History suggests that Howell makes the most of his chances.
“Honestly you’ve just got to make the most of your opportunity when it’s presented,” Howell said.
C ANTONYO WOODS: His conversion to center didn’t begin smoothly, but Woods’ snaps stabilized when he changed the way he gripped the football.
Woods is strong, benching 225 pounds 26 times, and smart. He hopes to become a doctor after the conclusion of his football career.
Three teams have contacted Woods over the past weeks for phone interviews.
Expectation: At 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, Woods isn’t the biggest lineman available, but his combination of strength, mobility and intelligence make for a player who can contribute in the proper setting.
WILL RECEIVE CONSIDERATION
DT JEREMIAH TALENI: Unlike nearly everyone on this list, Taleni’s highlight reel boasts numerous plays against Power 5 conference teams. He was slated to be a starting defensive tackle for Pitt before getting into trouble and transferring to FAU as a graduate student this past summer.
Taleni solidified the middle of FAU’s defensive line and five of his 32 tackles were sacks.
During FAU’s pro day Taleni bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times.
Expectation: At a smidge taller than six feet and only 275 pounds Taleni is small compared with other defensive tackle prospects. Will his quickness be enough to impress scouts? His play at Pitt may help land a camp invite, but Taleni will need to add muscle mass. He might be a good candidate for a stint in the CFL.
G JAKOBI SMITH: Never the best practice player, Smith was at his best during games. At 6-foot-3 and 311 pounds, Smith has good college size but there are significantly bigger players who will be candidates for the same job.
Smith benched 225 times 31 times during FAU’s pro day.
Expectation: Smith plays mean, which NFL scouts will like. He’s disadvantaged by not having much video of himself against Power 5 schools. He may receive an invite for a camp tryout.
G ROMAN FERNANDEZ: A former walk-on, Fernandez made the most out of his collegiate career. He started every game at left guard as a senior.
The 33 times Fernandez benched 225 pounds at pro day were the most of any FAU player.
Like with Antonyo Woods, NFL teams will appreciate Fernandez’s intellect.
Expectation: Fernandez packs plenty of power into his 6-foot, 316-pound frame. A wingspan of less than 75 inches might be what keeps Fernandez’s phone from ringing.
DE HAIDEN NAGEL: Another walk-on who made the most of his opportunities, Nagel started four games as a senior and recorded 17 tackles during FAU’s run to the Conference USA championship and the Boca Raton Bowl title.
At 6-foot-2 and only 242 pounds, Nagel says NFL teams view him as a linebacker at the next level. He’s also drawing interest from CFL teams, who like him at defensive end.
Expectation: Nagel lined up at defensive tackle and defensive end during his career, so he offers versatility, but a 5.03 40 time suggest learning to play outside linebacker at the NFL level may be a challenge. Nagel would jump at a chance to play in the CFL. If there’s a next step, that’s likely it.
WR KAMRIN SOLOMON: Loaded with athleticism, Solomon ran an exceedingly slow 4.66 at FAU’s pro day. Suspended early in the season for his role in the Kalib Woods incident, Solomon was second on the Owls with 33 catches, though they only covered 11.8 yards per reception.
Slated to be the Owls’ starting slot receiver, Solomon lost that job to true freshman Willie Wright. He did end the season as a starter on the outside.
Evaluation: As alarming as that slow 40 time is, NFL teams may figure that Solomon plays faster than he tests. Still, they probably won’t ignore his propensity for dropped passes and the tendency to disappear in crunch time.
His involvement in the Woods affair won’t help. An NFL team might take a chance on Solomon’s athleticism – he displayed a 35-inch vertical leap at pro day – but Solomon’s skills can be found in dozens of wide outs who played Power 5 football.
K Greg Joseph: Kicker or punter is arguably the toughest spot to land in the NFL. Teams almost never carry more than one kicker at a time, leaving only 32 kickers employed at any given time.
Scouts will be impressed with Joseph’s leg, noting that the vast majority of his kickoffs went for touchbacks last season. FAU’s all-time leading scorer, Joseph only made 15 of his 21 field goal attempts in 2017.
Expectation: FAU’s Dalton Schomp led the nation in punting three seasons ago and couldn’t find his way to an NFL roster. Joseph has the leg to kick in the NFL. The Miami Dolphins need a kicker and reportedly have shown interest. Maybe he’s one of several kickers invited for a camp tryout.
CB RAEKWON WILLIAMS: He sure looked like an NFL corner in the first half of the season. Williams, however, saw his season end prematurely when he suffered a knee injury during a midseason practice.
Williams has yet to completely heal from knee surgery, but says he rehab is going well and he’s ahead of schedule.
As a junior Williams recorded 48 tackles and added a pick. Last year he added 25 more tackles and one interception in eight games.
Expectation: Some team may elect to scoop up Williams immediately after the draft, but it’s most likely that Williams will have to prove he is healthy before a team will sign him. Williams says he’s not expected to be 100 percent healthy until August. Interest on him should pick up around then.