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Is USF poised for its best draft weekend ever?

The Bulls could produce a larger NFL draft class than the 2010 group, which had a school-record five players picked.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
South Florida Bulls running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) runs routes during Pro Day at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, March 26, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times South Florida Bulls running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) runs routes during Pro Day at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, March 26, 2018.
Published Mar. 27, 2018

While USF's outgoing senior class wasn't quite able to fulfill its airy preseason expectations, maybe it will have better luck with the postseason hype.

The group could produce the largest NFL draft class in program history.

If the mock drafts, pro day buzz and postseason all-star game invitations are any sign, the Bulls' draft class of 2018 could rival — or even eclipse — the 2010 group. That class, led by No. 15 overall pick Jason Pierre-Paul, produced a school-record five draftees.

Could this class have more? Gonna be close, though who can really tell?

"(The scouts) will come and tell you the greatest things, but you never know what is said behind closed doors," WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling said. "So you just have to wait 'til draft day to figure it out."

Let's play along though, and look at the draft projections (perhaps as reputable as any out there) for the most prominent Bulls prospects.

DT Deadrin Senat, likely the first Bull to go off the board, is considered a third- or fourth-rounder at this point. DB Deatrick Nichols is forecast to go in the sixth or seventh round, though his sparkling effort Monday at USF's pro day could improve his stock.

Related: USF pro day: Deatrick Nichols makes fast work of 40

Similarly, Valdes-Scantling is projected as a seventh-rounder, but could move up if he can exhibit consistent hands (as he did at Monday's pro day) to accompany the blistering 40-yard dash time (4.37 seconds) he clocked at the NFL scouting combine.

The wild cards are QB Quinton Flowers, versatile TB D'Ernest Johnson and defensive linemen Mike Love and Bruce Hector.

While the knocks on Flowers are well-chronicled (i.e. height, arm strength, accuracy), so much of what he achieved in his career can't be gauged with a stop watch or vertical measure. And to his credit, his throws — albeit against air — appeared crisper at USF's pro day.

Regardless, based on what he put on film the past four seasons, a team could be inclined to use a draft choice on him for his sheer athleticism. Moreover, his backstory of perseverance plays well in any locker room or community.

Similarly, Johnson — USF's career all-purpose yards leader (4,186) — could serve any team as a kick returner, pass catcher out of the backfield or emergency back.

"I guess if there's a big surprise to most people — not necessarily with me — it would be D'Ernest Johnson," former Bulls coach Willie Taggart said last week.

"I call him 'Junkyard Dog' for a reason — he can do it all. Again, he's gonna make a GM look like a genius. The kid's a football player, he can play. You put him in there, he's gonna compete, he's gonna make plays."

Toss in Love and Hector, who could build on the momentum of their seemingly solid pro day workouts, and the Bulls could — could — have their strongest draft-weekend presence yet.

Cue the postseason hype.

Bulls bumper crop
As it stands, USF's 2010 draft class remains the largest in school history
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (first round, Giants)
S Nate Allen (second round, Eagles)
DB Jerome Murphy (third round, Rams)
WR Carlton Mitchell (sixth round, Browns)
DE George Selvie (seventh round, Rams)