After three rainy days in Chicago, home to the 2016 NFL Draft, the UCLA Bruins saw eight of its players drafted.
Amidst boos for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and medical concerns regarding Myles Jack’s knee, Bruins across the nation waited name after name to hear Jack’s name called in the first round. However, as the New York Jets selected Darron Lee (OLB Ohio State) with the 20th pick, it became clearer that Jack’s draft stock had likely dropped to the second round.
To everyone’s surprise, UCLA still had a player selected in the first round. Defensive Tackle Kenny Clark will be joining Bruins Datone Jones and Brett Hundley, Jr., in Green Bay, after the Packers selected him with the 27th pick. Clark is the fourth UCLA player the Packers have drafted in the past four years.
Jack finally heard his name called in the second round, when the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to get the physical linebacker. Rounds three and four were very quiet for the Bruins. However, six more players finally got the call in rounds five and seven: Caleb Benenoch (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Paul Perkins (New York Giants), Jordan Payton (Cleveland Browns), Aaron Wallace (Tennessee Titans), Thomas Duarte (Miami Dolphins), and Devin Fuller (Atlanta Falcons).
After three days of anxiety, tears, and seeing dreams fulfilled or crushed, what can the Bruins take away from this draft?
The Mora Revolution Is Working
Well, sort of. Before Head Coach Jim Mora took over, UCLA could hardly call itself a football school, especially while playing in the same town as USC. Things have changed since. In the Mora era, UCLA has sent twenty players to the League. That is quite an accomplishment, considering Coach Mora only took over in 2012.
With eight players drafted, UCLA was the third school in the nation based on number of draftees, just behind Ohio State and Clemson. And if that statistic does not convince you, maybe this one will: UCLA ranked ahead of the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, and USC. How about that for a recruiting poster?
However, there are many who wonder why the talent is not translating into more wins. In his fourth season with the program, UCLA saw its record decline to eight wins and five losses, including a loss to USC and in the Foster Farms Bowl to Nebraska, a team with a losing record. This happened at a time when UCLA’s talent was arguably at its peak (so far).
Yes, there were injuries, and yes, the coaching was not all there, but is that the reason why the Bruins had an 8-5 record? With a new season around the corner bringing experienced talent and some new coaches, perhaps we will finally see if the revolution will turn the Bruins into the national contenders the fans are waiting to see.
We Are Officially LBU!
It has been suspected for a while, but I am ready to call it: UCLA is officially LBU. In 2014, the Minnesota Vikings selected Linebacker Anthony Barr in the first round. Barr’s selection so early in the draft did not come as a surprise.
As any Bruin will tell you, Barr’s instincts and size brought more than one Rose Bowl visitor to the ground. Jordan Zumwalt, also a linebacker, was selected on the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the 2015 draft, Linebacker Eric Kendricks joined Barr in Minnesota after being selected in the second round. This year, Jack and Wallace were selected in the second and seventh rounds, respectively.
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Out of the current six active UCLA linebackers on NFL rosters, five were drafted in the Mora era. But the most intriguing part is Wallace.
Wallace had an explosive season in 2015 after injuries allowed the Redshirted Junior to start eight of thirteen games. He led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks. There is no doubt that the talent was there.
However, many predicted Wallace would go undrafted. The Titans pick could be a testament to the Bruins reputation as Linebacker U—and Wallace’s talent, of course.
There are many more UCLA linebackers coming to the NFL soon (although hopefully not too soon for some), including the likes of Cameron Judge, Jayon Brown, Kenny Young, Isaako Savaiinaea, and Deon Hollins.
Elite Quarterbacks Attract A Solid Receiving Corps
In the 2016 draft, the Bruins saw two wide receivers, Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller, and one tight end, Thomas Duarte, join the NFL. Some will even go as far as to count Devin Lucien (New England Patriots) in the Bruins list of draftees.
Lucien, a wide receiver, played at UCLA for three seasons before transferring to Arizona State University for the 2015 season. In addition to the lucky draftees, Logan Sweet signed with the Indiana Colts as an undrafted free agent. The last time UCLA had three receivers drafted was in 1973.
UCLA’s 2016 roster will bring back familiar receiver names such as Darren Andrews, Kenneth Walker III, Mossi Johnson, and Eldridge Massington. All of these players bring an array of talents that had been missing in the UCLA receiving corps in the pre-Mora era. The trend of attracting better receivers started with Quarterback Hundley, who became UCLA’s all-time leader in touchdown passes in 2014.
The trend continued with the recruiting of St. John Bosco High School graduate Josh Rosen, who was ranked by Rivals.com and Scout.com as the best quarterback in his class. Rosen was the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for the Bruins. This trend should make every Bruin happy. After all, Rosen, the Chosen One, can only shine with the right weapons at his disposal.
If there is something Bruin fans can take away from the 2016 NFL Draft is that UCLA is making a name for itself in the nationwide stage and the future sure looks promising.