The NFL draft starts with round one on April 27, and the University of South Florida has a few prospects hoping to hear their names called by the time the final pick is selected on April 29. Of note are Junior running back Marlon Mack and Senior receiver Rodney Adams.
Mack, the Bulls’ all-time leading rusher, is a speedy runner, capable of making tacklers miss in the open field.
NFL.com describes Mack as though “he has ball bearings in his hips. Able to swivel in multiple directions. Can tilt and slalom around defenders on the second and third level and is able to string moves together. Has slippery feet and is hard to pin down when bouncing laterally. Runs with knee bend and his pad level is low at contact. Explosive burst carries him into his getaway gear. Able to run away from tacklers. Six of his fifteen touchdowns this year went for 43-plus yards. Always plays fast. Contain buster to the outside. Finds ways to slither out of tackles. Hands showed improvement as pass catcher.”
Mack can be a solid piece to a professional football team, but he is not without his weaknesses, namely his tendency to fumble to ball, with 12 fumbles in his three years at USF. If he improves there, Mack would be rated much higher than his third or fourth round grade. He is also stuck in one of the best running back draft classes the NFL has seen in quite some time, so teams with a need at his position will likely take a higher rated player earlier in the draft.
Walterfootball.com projects Mack being selected in the third round, number 80 overall by the Indianapolis Colts, and his draft grade by both CBSsports.com and NFL.com suggest that is around where he will land.
Though the Buccaneers are only four spots after the Colts in the third round, they are expected to select Florida State running back Dalvin Cook with the 19th overall pick, meaning it will be unlikely Tampa Bay would choose two players in the same position so close together in the draft. Expect Mack to go to a team that does not have an immediate need at running back, somewhere he can be a serviceable backup and get groomed to become the feature back in a few years.
Meanwhile, Adams is an enigma. While walterfootball.com does not have him being picked, NFL.com rates Adams between the fifth and sixth round, and CBSsports.com have him as a seventh round prospect. His best asset to teams right now may be his return skills, as he averaged slightly more than 25 yards per return, which could help him get picked. If he slips down to the seventh round, it may be better to go undrafted, as this allows Adams to sign as a free agent to wherever he pleases. Undrafted free agents have a tough road to the NFL, but with the speed and versatility Adams provides, it would not be surprising to see teams competing to get his signature.