Potential Day 1 Prospects
Jake Bentley, QB, Jr.
We’ve heard a lot of chatter about Justin Herbert, Drew Lock, and Will Grier. While Bentley hasn’t gained much national draft attention yet, he is squarely on my 1st round radar heading into his junior season. Circle 9/8, 11/10, and 11/24 on your calendars if you enjoy watching future NFL QB prospects. South Carolina matches up with impressive defenses, Georgia, Florida, and Clemson respectively, on those dates. Bentley’s performances will go a long way toward determining whether or not he would be a top prospect with an early declaration.
Bryan Edwards, WR, Jr.
I think Edwards is currently a better NFL prospect than Deebo Samuel even though it’s close. He stepped up after Samuel got hurt last season and led the team in receiving. This is going to be a fun tandem to watch. My biggest question with Edwards is his speed. I want to see how he matches up against some tough competition this year. Can he separate from those Florida corners or Deandre Baker? If not, the combine is going to be critical. Ultimately, these performances will determine whether or not Edwards gets drafted in the 1st round instead of the 2nd frame.
Potential Day 2 Prospects
Deebo Samuel, WR, Sr.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Samuel gets selected in the 1st round, but I think the 2nd round is where he belongs. He has impressive size and he was off to a great start in 2017 before breaking his leg. Of course, we’ll have to see how he rebounds from the injury, but I still feel really confident slotting Samuel into April’s draft before the start of the 3rd round.
Javon Kinlaw, DL, Jr.
Kinlaw was very disruptive down the stretch last season and he will be in the early Day 2 mix if he can build on that performance. Kinlaw looks like an NFL athlete with a 6’6 300 lb frame that is built for playing 3-4 DE or 4-3 3-technique. Scouts will like his ability to get his hands on passes and also his quick get-off at the start of plays. He reminds me a bit of the player Colts lineman, Denico Autry, has become.
Sadarius Hutcherson, OG, So.
It may appear strange that I’m ranking a player who has hardly played at the collegiate level over his teammate, Bailey, an established NFL prospect at the same position. Hutcherson is athletic and was named the Co-Offensive Player of the Offseason this past spring. I’ve been trying to identify players who I think have a real chance to break out in 2018 and Hutcherson is definitely one of them. A late 2nd to early 3rd round grade is what he will earn if he carries his offseason momentum throughout the winter.
D.J. Wonnum, Edge, Jr.
Wonnum has enjoyed 2 very impressive seasons as a pass rusher already as he heads into his junior campaign. He has the height and bulk to et the edge in the NFL as a 4-3 defensive end. 3-4 teams will view him as an outside linebacker. If he tests well athletically, he will be a 2nd round choice.
Bryson Allen-Williams, LB, Sr.
As long as the shoulder Allen-Williams injured last season checks out, I see Allen-Williams as a versatile defender who can play the edge in a 3-4, SAM in a 4-3, and potentially 4-3 WILL and 3-4 ILB as well. Solid 3rd round grade as of July 2018.
Zack Bailey, OG, Sr.
Bailey is a solid future starter at either right or left guard at the pro level. He is going to be in the 3rd-4th round this April as long as nothing unforeseen happens.
T.J. Brunson, ILB, Jr.
Brunson starred against Michigan with 13 tackles and 2 sacks to help South Carolina win its bowl game last season. He has the size to play inside linebacker at the next level. He will have to show that he can hold up in coverage to sneak into the 3rd round or else he is more likely to be a 4th-5th round choice.
Potential Day 3 Prospects
Rashad Fenton, CB, Sr.
Fenton considered entering the 2018 draft before wisely opting to return for his senior season. The combine will be big for him, but there’s no denying he has had a productive career at South Carolina. The 5th or 6th round is where I see him right now.
Keisean Nixon, CB, Sr.
Nixon might be more athletic than Fenton and he’s a good player in his own right. He will have a chance to get drafted if he can take a step forward now that he has some experience with the program. He is also currently in that 5th-6th round range.
Joseph Charlton, P, Jr.
Charlton had a net punt average of 40.5 yards last season. He will be a draftable prospect if he puts together another solid year or two in that range.
OrTre Smith, WR, So.
After Edwards and Samuel depart for the 2019 NFL Draft, the spotlight will shine on OrTre Smith. He was a key signing for South Carolina and scored 3 touchdowns as a true freshman. It’s so premature to project his standing in the 2020 or 2021 drafts, but my early call is that he looks like an early 2nd rounder.
Rick Sandidge, DL, Fr.
Sandidge is a highly regarded recruit with Day 2 NFL potential. We probably won’t see much of him on the field until the 2019 college season so he is just a name to file away for the future at this point.