With only one player selected, the UCLA football team underperformed in the 2019 NFL Draft, despite bringing in top recruits for the last several seasons.
What is even more interesting is that UCLA, at the time under Jim Mora, did not recruit Wilson as he came in as a walk-on transfer from USC that used his sheer talent to land a starting spot at the tight end position.
Between 2014 and 2016, the Bruins had top 20 recruiting classes as they brought in players like Adarius Pickett, Jaleel Wadood, Austin Roberts, Josh Rosen, Soso Jamabo, DeChaun Holiday, and Mique Juarez.
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Pickett, along with Wilton Speight, Nate Meadors, and Andre James, were picked up as undrafted free agents this year but were not drafted. Among the names listed above (though this is a small sample size), Rosen was the only one that was drafted and drafted high, I might add.
It is unfortunate that the Bruins were able to bring in so much talent and not be able to do anything with it. Under Mora, the Bruins grossly underperformed in his last few years at the helm, and it was apparent that development was not a critical factor in many of these players getting selected.
Although not all of this can be put on Mora, individually, many of UCLA’s recruits have put themselves in less than ideal situations. Many of those decisions also led several of Mora’s players to jump ship when Chip Kelly came on board. A few Bruins did not mesh with the new style of coaching and were either given their release from the program or left on their own accord.
But there is one final factor that led to this disappointing showing by UCLA in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Bruins went 3-9 last season in Kelly’s first season, which is what I believe led to the lack of interest in UCLA players being selected. A lot of these players that were eligible for the draft were not looked at carefully, especially towards the end of the season when the Bruins were hitting their stride.
Though it took a season-long effort, the Bruins were finally able to work with Kelly’s style of football. With all of the departures and injuries the Bruins sustained, it speaks volumes about what some of these upperclassmen not only had to endure but how they were patient and thrived by season’s end.
Still, one can’t change the minds of NFL front offices if they already have a set mind frame. Going forward, the Bruins that hope to jump to the pros will have to step up even more. A tough task, but Kelly develops tough players and in the next few years, we should see even more Bruins getting drafted.