The MWC Roundtable is back and ready to roll. Kicking things off will be an NFL draft focus. The question is, which player will have the biggest rookie season impact? You can either pick one player out of the entire conference or or the player from your team who will make the biggest difference next season. Be sure to specify which option you are choosing.
Out of all the Utah State players who are projected to find themselves on an NFL roster (or at least be an invitee), the one who may end up having the biggest impact in Year 1 is Dominik Eberle. That may sound crazy, but considering that just about every media outlet and football expert sees Jordan Love sitting for a year before getting the starting job for his team gives Eberle the chance to be one of, if not the only, Utah State rookie to see the field this season. Kicking is a fickle game within the game, and anyone can win (or lose) a kicking job on any team at any point, and we all know Eberle was a very good college kicker. David Woodward was the heart and soul of the USU defense, but he and Tipa Galeai project more as depth players in the League. Maybe Gerold Bright gets a chance as a depth back?
I am going with one of the several San Diego State players that could be picked off the board, Keith Ismael. I really do see a lot of potential in this monster. Ismael is enormous, weighing in at 309 pounds while being quite athletic. He has a 32-inch vertical jump, to put that into perspective, that’s 3.5 inches better than Travis Fredrick’s. He is a versatile player who can play either center or guard. Knowing that the center and guard positions in the NFL get beat up a lot, I can see him stepping in for injured guys, or seeing some action in garbage time, and end of season contests. Or hey, you never know if he could beat out a veteran and prove everyone wrong!
If we are talking solely about Boise State players, I am going to go with John Hightower. I think Ezra Cleveland will have the best career and Curtis Weaver will be a mainstay in the NFL. But Hightower has the ability to make an immediate impact as a returner and will stretch the field for whichever team lands his services. Cleveland and Weaver will be day one and two picks, but Hightower’s speed makes him an impact player. John Molchon and David Moa are also getting some late round buzz. But keep an eye on Chase Hatada, I could see him make a roster. If we are looking outside of Boise State, I would go with Logan Wilson from Wyoming.
Ask me again after the draft, and I’ll probably be able to give you an answer I feel a little more confident in. This is all going to come down to where the players are drafted and how much playing time that player might be looking at starting out. For the conference, I think that you might see a couple of the higher picks on defense make the biggest impact immediately. Sometimes those players can be a little more ‘plug-and-play’ as rookies. I’m looking at Curtis Weaver from Boise State and Logan Wilson from Wyoming. Curtis Weaver was a highly productive player his whole career at Boise State. Should Weaver go to the right team, he could get a chance to start Day 1 and start getting after the QB and make an immediate impact. I think the Cowboys in Round #2 could be a great fit. Dallas has a strong Boise State connection on their roster, and Weaver could help replace Robert Quinn along the defensive line. As for Logan Wilson, he was another highly productive player at linebacker, having started 4 seasons at Wyoming. A recent mock draft on NFL.com had Wilson going in Round #3 to the Patriots. That could be another good fit as Wilson could look to step in for a New England defense that needs to replace Kyle Van Noy.
I’m going to go with Logan Wilson out of Wyoming for my pick to have the biggest impact out of the Mountain West players in this draft. I don’t think he will be the biggest name to go in the draft, he won’t have the flashiest career out of the bunch, and may not even have the biggest impact after year one. However, I think he is the best bet to be a “plug and play” type of guy from the get go. He strikes me as one of those draft picks who goes on day 2 as a mid-round guy and ends up starting for most of the season. He plays solid, mistake-free football, has a few highlight caliber players, and earns the trust of the coaching staff and teammates quickly.
I wanted to chime in for the Falcons, not because I think anyone will make an impact this year, but lately there has been some talk about NFL interest in Falcon cornerback Zane Lewis. The Athletic even picked him in a mock draft as a seventh round choice. He turned some heads at the Falcon’s pro day before all the lockdowns started. Most of the scouts turned out to watch Scott Hattok, the Falcon’s all-MW first team right guard. When Hattok decided not to pursue the NFL, the scouts got to see Lewis run a 4.45 second 40 yard dash, and were impressed with a six foot one inch cornerback with that kind of speed. Lewis has applied for the service academy’s new program that allows direct entry to pro sports for some athletes. This would seem to be the only opportunity for the Falcons to get someone onto an NFL roster for this year. Lewis led the Falcons this year with 15 pass breakups, and had two 99 yard interception returns for touchdowns in his career.
One player that I think will have the biggest impact next season is Logan Wilson of Wyoming. He is projected to be selected in the middle rounds, which is the perfect area to find a diamond in the rough. Wilson’s ability will allow him to be effective in almost any situation. Whoever drafts him will be able to put him on the field with confidence that he can get the job done. I think Wilson will see some significant playing time this year with a team. Someone else who I think could have an impact this year is Boise State offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland. In the NFL, if you are a good lineman, you will get playing time and I think Cleveland could help anyone’s offensive line this season.
I think the rookie who will have the biggest impact will be offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland. The easy pick would be Jordan Love, but depending on the team he gets drafted to, he might not be a day one starter. Cleveland has been surging up draft boards. He is an incredibly athletic tackle that could potentially play either side for a team that is desperate for offensive lineman. Without pro day workouts and sit-down interviews, a team who is looking for a day one tackle could put on Cleveland’s film and like what they see.