Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

Don’t expect a USF draft shutout in 2021 or ‘22

We identify the top candidates to end the Bulls’ two-year NFL draft drought.
USF cornerback KJ Sails breaks up a pass during the Bulls' victory over South Carolina State season. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
USF cornerback KJ Sails breaks up a pass during the Bulls' victory over South Carolina State season. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press ]
Published Apr. 29, 2020
Updated Apr. 29, 2020

USF’s draft drought has stretched into its second consecutive April.

When the NFL’s three-day virtual selection spectacle ended Saturday, the Bulls and East Carolina were the only American Athletic Conference programs not to have anyone chosen.

For USF, that’s two consecutive draft shutouts. Since Bulls players started getting drafted in 2001, the program never has gone three consecutive years without having at least one player picked.

Related: 2021 NFL draft: Five Florida prospects and five wildcards you should know

So will the Bulls avoid similar embarrassment in 2021 and ‘22? Our intel says yes.

While next spring may not produce the draft bounty of 2010 (Jason Pierre-Paul, Nate Allen, George Selvie, Jerome Murphy, Carlton Mitchell) or 2017 (Marlon Mack, Rodney Adams, Kofi Amichia), the Bulls aren’t likely to be totally bypassed. And ’22 could be even better.

Based on what we’ve observed (and input we’ve received from former USF staffers), here are the guys we believe will evolve into the top draft candidates over the next two seasons.

1. KJ Sails, Sr., cornerback

USF cornerback KJ Sails, an East Bay High alumnus, had three interceptions and a forced fumble last season. [USF Athletics]
USF cornerback KJ Sails, an East Bay High alumnus, had three interceptions and a forced fumble last season. [USF Athletics] [ USF Athletics ]

This East Bay High alumnus tops our list because he’s likely the very next Bull to be drafted. Sails needs to get a little thicker (he was listed on the spring roster at 175 pounds), but he has produced quality tape at both USF (three picks, six pass breakups last season) and North Carolina (where he played 19 games from 2016-18). He’ll need to perform well at his pro day, but he’s sure to impress teams in interviews with his maturity (he’s a dad) and engaging personality.

2. Demetris Harris, Jr., left guard

USF wide receiver Randall St. Felix (84) celebrates a touchdown with left guard Demetris Harris (64) during the first quarter of the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. [Times files]
USF wide receiver Randall St. Felix (84) celebrates a touchdown with left guard Demetris Harris (64) during the first quarter of the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. [Times files] [ JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times ]

The offensive line’s ailments last year had little to do with Harris, an agile interior behemoth (6-3, 324) with a tremendous football IQ and nasty streak needed for the next level. If Harris were a senior this year, he’d be atop our list. As it stands, he’s the top prospect for ’22.

Related: Three Florida college takeaways from the NFL draft

3. Mike Hampton, Sr., cornerback

USF defensive back Mike Hampton (14) tips a pass intended for Texas Tech wide receiver T.J. Vasher (9) during the 2017 Birmingham Bowl. [Times files]
USF defensive back Mike Hampton (14) tips a pass intended for Texas Tech wide receiver T.J. Vasher (9) during the 2017 Birmingham Bowl. [Times files] [ ELLIOTT, LOREN ]

After recording two interceptions and 18 pass breakups in 2018, Hampton’s production dropped off significantly last fall (no picks, six breakups). The frame (6-feet-1, 190 pounds) and skills are there, but the output must increase.

4. Donovan Jennings, Jr., left tackle

USF left tackle Donovan Jennings (73), a Gaither High alumnus, has started 14 games over the last two seasons. [Times files]
USF left tackle Donovan Jennings (73), a Gaither High alumnus, has started 14 games over the last two seasons. [Times files] [ JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times ]

Former Bulls coaches loved this Gaither alumnus’ footwork and physical upside (6-5, 328). If and when the ’20 season commences, Jennings and Harris could represent one of the AAC’s top left sides.

5. Darrian Felix, Jr., running back

USF tailback Darrian Felix (2), an Oregon transfer, participates in the Bulls' first and only spring practice on March 10. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
USF tailback Darrian Felix (2), an Oregon transfer, participates in the Bulls' first and only spring practice on March 10. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [ Times ]

Fleet backs with soft hands and decent route trees have evolved into NFL commodities. Felix (5-11, 197) brandished his versatility in flashes last season at Oregon (34 carries, 197 yards; six catches, 78 yards) and could flourish in Jeff Scott’s system at USF.

Five wild cards

WR Latrell Williams, Jr. Former Tennessee signee just might be the team’s fastest player

QB Cade Fortin, So. Has three seasons of eligibility remaining, but man, we’ve heard raves about his arm

LB Dwayne Boyles, Jr. Getting better and better, and bigger and bigger (6-3, 227)

DT Kevin Kegler, Sr. Most seasoned, skilled defensive lineman on the roster

LB Devin Gil, Sr. This Michigan graduate transfer appeared in 40 games for the Wolverines