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Early Look at Where the Miami Hurricanes Project in the First Round of the 2024 NFL Draft



University of Miami Safety - Kamren Kinchens | Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

The NFL Draft tends to be a measuring stick of how much top-tier talent a college football program contains on its roster from year-to-year, and to an extent its relative success on the field. The Miami Hurricanes did not have such a great season last year after posting a 5-7 record for the first time since 2007. It was a rough year for Mario Cristobal as much as it was for Miami fans.

However, they did have three players selected from that team and continued a 49-year streak of draft selections from the university in the recent 2023 NFL Draft. The aforementioned players were defensive back Tyrique Stevenson in the second-round (56th pick) by the Chicago Bears, tight end Will Mallory in the fifth-round (162nd pick) by the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive back DJ Ivey in the seventh-round (246th pick) by the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was certainly an improvement in comparison to the 2022 NFL Draft, where Miami only had one player selected and their draft record almost came to an end. That was defensive tackle Jonathan Ford, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh-round. The very same year former Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz was relieved of his duties, subsequently accepting the defensive coordinator position with the Penn State Nittany Lions shortly thereafter.

The Hurricanes could be turning a new page under Mario Cristobal now, or rather I should say a familiar one. The consensus, ‘five’ Miami Hurricane players have received first-round projections by numerous media outlets that follow and study game film around the college football world on a year-to-year basis. While it should not be taken as the exact end result, considering we are almost a year away from the 2024 edition of the NFL Draft, it appears that player development and talent level is being raised in Coral Gables under Cristobal.

Miami ranks fifth all-time with ’67’ first-round NFL Draft Picks, in addition to sharing an NFL record six first-round selections in one draft (2004) with the Alabama Crimson Tide (2021). Miami Hurricane fans have correlated the team’s historic success with the amount of NFL Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers they’ve watched come through the program.

The term “NFLU” has been used countless of times by its fans and football analysts, and while Miami still has achieved some success with players they have sent to the professional league in recent time, it is unfortunately not at the same frequency as it once was.

That could change though, take a look below at the ‘early’ draft projections LifeWallet Sports has compiled of all the Miami Hurricanes draft eligible prospects receiving first-round mock projections in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Javion Cohen | Offensive Lineman | 6’4″, 305 lbs. | Fourth-Year Junior

Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

17. Seattle Seahawks – Walter Football

“The Seahawks have two talented, young tackles, but they could use some upgrades in the interior of the offensive line.

Javion Cohen showed great ability as a pass protector and run blocker.”

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – TheScore

“Cohen was a solid performer on the line at Alabama before opting to transfer to Miami this offseason. He heads north but stays in the state of Florida with the Jaguars opting to give Trevor Lawrence more protection on the offensive line.”

21. Carolina Panthers – 247Sports

“After picking Bryce Young this year, we gave the Panthers a receiver in the first pick here and then have them protecting Young on the second pick. Cohen, by some reports, was considered to be Alabama’s best offensive lineman by NFL scouts and is now with the Hurricanes after entering the portal.”

26. Green Bay Packers – YardBarker

“The Packers have had success with later-round draft choices on the offensive line in recent seasons, but could approach a prospect with higher upside in next year’s draft. Cohen goes into 2023 as one of the top interior line prospects in the college game after transferring from Alabama.”

Kamren Kinchens | Safety | 5’11”, 202 lbs. | Junior

Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

21. New York Giants – The 33rd Team

“The New York Giants did not pick a safety in the 2023 draft until the seventh round, but in 2024 they take Kamren Kinchens from Miami. Kinchens is a ball-hawking safety who had six interceptions in 2022 while showing off his instincts, hands and ball skills. Some have compared him to fellow Hurricane Ed Reed.”

23. Los Angeles Chargers – Touchdown Wire

24. Dallas Cowboys – Bleacher Report

“The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a running back next offseason, as Tony Pollard is currently set to play on the one-year franchise tag in 2023. While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones keeps talking about possibly bringing Ezekiel Elliott back, pen has yet to meet paper.
However, the positional value just isn’t there, as there isn’t a Bijan Robinson type of back who is worthy of a Day 1 selection.

Also, the Cowboys could lose ball-hawking safety Malik Hooker next offseason in free agency. He’s been solid in Dallas, picking up four interceptions over the last two years, but he’s replaceable. The front office will likely prioritize cornerback Trevon Diggs in free agency.

If the Cowboys do lose Hooker, drafting Miami safety Kamren Kinchens would be an excellent way to replace him. Kinchens had six picks last year and averaged 16.5 yards per return, including one touchdown.

Kinchens and Diggs would be a quarterback’s nightmare, as every ball in the air would become a turnover threat.”

25. Green Bay Packers – NFL Mocks

“The Green Bay Packers missed out at safety in the 2022 draft, and the 2023 class wasn’t up to snuff. They get their starter for the future here with that second first-rounder in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft. Kamren Kinchens has plenty of experience as a free safety.”

27. Green Bay Packers – USA Today

“Let’s assume that Aaron Rodgers will take at least 65% of the Jets’ snaps in 2023, bumping up the pick being sent back to the Packers from a second-rounder to a first. Though he doesn’t have the physical tools of fellow Hurricanes safety James Williams, the 5-10, 202-pound Kinchens displayed his coverage prowess with six interceptions in 2022. His skill set would come in handy for the Green Bay defense’s back end, which already looks iffy.”

27. Green Bay Packers – Pro Football Focus

“The Packers acquire the Jets’ first-round pick if Aaron Rodgers plays 65% of the snaps in 2023. Unless disaster strikes for New York, this will be Green Bay’s pick. 

Kinchens led all safeties in the country with a 90.0 grade and a 90.7 coverage grade. Kinchens’ six interceptions were also tied for the most in the Power Five.”

27. Kansas City Chiefs – NFL Draft Bible

32. Kansas City Chiefs Fansided CFB

“Though the Chiefs draft didn’t have a ton of people over the moon in 2023 but it was a solid group of additions to the Super Bowl champs. But now they need to get down to brass tacks, which in this case means finding a replacement for Juan Thornhill.

I love Miami safety Kamren Kinchens to do just that. Much like Thornhill did for Kansas City, Kinchens plays everywhere with snaps in the slot, in the box and dropping back into a deep role. He can be a real asset that would slot seamlessly into this defense.”

Zion Nelson | Offensive Lineman | 6’5″, 316 lbs. | Fourth-Year Junior

Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

11. Chicago Bears – Touchdown Wire

17. Miami Dolphins – Fox Sports

“The Dolphins will have greater insight into Nelson than other NFL clubs. Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal is a former offensive line coach and should have Nelson playing the best football of his career in 2023, living up the lofty expectations that came with him when the former five-star recruit signed — prior to the knee injury that limited him to just two games last year.”

26. San Francisco 49ers –

“The 49ers could end up adding to their draft inventory as they have two quarterbacks in former first-round pick Trey Lance and Mr. Irrelevant of the 2022 draft, Brock Purdy, who is slated to start. A 6-5, 315-pounder, Nelson had All-American talent but played just two games last season because of a left knee injury.”

27. Green Bay Packers – The 33rd Team

“The Packers got this pick from the Jets and select the talented Zion Nelson from Miami. Nelson has the size (6-foot-5, 318 pounds), length and movement skills teams look for in an offensive tackle. Scouts like his punch, strength and toughness to get movement in the run game. He should be a plug-and-play offensive lineman who will start for several years.”

30. San Francisco 49ers – Fansided CFB

“San Francisco had a more befuddling draft than imaginable, despite not picking until the third round. But the most perplexing part was not taking a right tackle replacement for Mike McGlinchey after letting him walk in free agency.

They start to fix that by taking Miami standout Zion Nelson. Nelson has improved every year with the Hurricanes as he’s gotten bigger but not sacrificed his athletic gifts fully either. He still shows some rawness in his technique, but he has all the traits to be a real force as a bookend at the NFL level.”

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Yahoo! Sports

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Draft Wire

31. San Francisco 49ers – NBC Sports

“Back in 2019, Nelson was asked to start for the Hurricanes at left tackle as a true freshman. He struggled badly and got benched. But he got another shot at left tackle and played well as a sophomore and junior before missing most of this past season with a left knee injury. I don’t know how many guys go from getting benched to the first round, but if Nelson has a healthy 2023 season, he has a very good chance to do it. He stands 6-foot-5, 315 pounds and will need to get bigger and stronger to hold up against top edge rushers in the NFL. But he’s already a very technically sound player and what he lacks in power he makes up for with outstanding instincts and technique.”

31. Philadelphia Eagles – YardBarker

“The Eagles have some long-term offensive line concerns with Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce nearing retirement. Nelson could be a plug-and-play tackle on the right side of the offensive line should Johnson call it quits after this season.”

31. Philadelphia Eagles – Sportsnaut

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Bleacher Report

“The Kansas City Chiefs took an interesting approach to their offensive tackle situation this offseason. Both of their starters in 2022 (Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie) were free agents, and they let both walk rather than bringing at least one back.

Instead, the Chiefs signed Jawaan Taylor from the Jacksonville Jaguars to a four-year, $80 million contract. Taylor has primarily been a right tackle dating back to college, but he’s now expected to switch sides of the center and protect Patrick Mahomes’ blind side. That has the potential to be a disaster at the $450 million quarterback’s expense.

Even if Taylor successfully makes the switch from right tackle to left and plays well, the Chiefs would still be wise to spend a first-round pick on an offensive tackle. They could still use someone to man the right side, and Miami’s Zion Nelson has some experience doing that in college. He’s been solid in pass protection for the Hurricanes and has a great frame at 6’5″ and 316 pounds.

Nelson’s biggest issue is a knee injury that sidelined him for all but one game in 2022. But if he can stay healthy this upcoming season, he’d be a great first-round pick for Kansas City. The Chiefs did just spend a third-round pick on Wanya Morris, but that shouldn’t stop them from making sure Mahomes stays upright.”

32. Kansas City Chiefs – DraftKings Nation

Leonard Taylor III | Defensive Lineman | 6’3″, 305 lbs. | Junior

Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

8. New England Patriots – Sharp Football Analysis

“Taylor, a former five-star recruit, emerged as one of the nation’s most dominant interior pass-rushers as a true sophomore in 2022. His combination of strength and quickness is rare for an interior lineman.

Key stat to know about Leonard Taylor III 一 Generated a 13.9% pressure rate on the interior defensive line 一 among Power Five linemen, only Buccaneers first-round pick Calijah Kancey had a higher rate.”

15. Las Vegas Raiders – USA Today

“Scraping by on the interior with the likes of Jerry Tillery, Bilal Nichols and third-round rookie Byron Young likely will prove problematic for the Silver and Black. An ascending talent, the 6-3, 305-pound Taylor flashes impressive pass-rushing tools that should put him in high demand.”

17. Houston Texans – Pro Football Focus

“This past season, Taylor lived up to his top-10 recruit billing coming out of high school. His 19.5% pass-rush win rate and 16.2% pressure rate trailed only Calijah Kancey among Power Five interior defensive linemen. With an increased workload, Taylor could rise even higher than this.”

17. Seattle Seahawks – The Dallas Morning News

“High upside for this 300-pound lineman.”

17. New York Giants – DraftKings Nation

23. Los Angeles Chargers – The 33rd Team

“The Los Angeles Chargers did not address the defensive front in 2023, but in 2024, they turn the card in on Miami’s Leonard Taylor. Taylor is a disruptive player who has top-level movement skills for his size (6-foot-3, 305 pounds). He has natural hands and can unlock his hips with ease. Taylor plays hard and is not an easy player to control for four quarters.”

24. Denver Broncos – Windy City Gridiron

“In case you couldn’t tell, the 2024 draft could be loaded at defensive tackle! Taylor’s athletic ability for a 305-pounder is absurd, which can see him take reps outside as a 5-tech in some cases. He’s active with his hands, and though his play strength could improve, he offers tremendous interior pass-rushing value that could entice Denver here.”

28. Buffalo Bills – Bleacher Report

“The Buffalo Bills are set up for success for the next several years. They’re almost guaranteed to stay competitive with Josh Allen at quarterback and have plenty of talent on offense across the board.

The Bills also have a good combination of pass-rushers and coverage defenders, but free agency will determine their needs in 2024. They’re likely going to have a massive hole at defensive tackle.

DaQuan Jones, Ed Oliver and Tim Settle are all scheduled to become free agents next offseason, and Buffalo is expected to be nearly $24 million over the cap. That will make it difficult to bring back one of those guys, let alone all three.

The Bills may have to turn to the draft to address their defensive line, and Miami’s Leonard Taylor III would be a great option. He already has great size at 6’3″ and 305 pounds, and he’s racked up 19 tackles for loss in two seasons, including 8.5 in only six games in 2021.
Taylor’s combination of size and production would give Buffalo the disruptor in the middle of the defense that it’ll likely be looking for.”

30. Buffalo Bills – TheScore

“Taylor was a highly touted recruit while heading to Miami and began to deliver on that hype last season. He was one of the country’s most productive pass-rushers among interior linemen, getting pressure on almost 17% of his chances.”

James Williams | Safety | 6’5″, 215 lbs. | Junior

Photo Credit: University of Miami Athletics

16. Los Angeles Rams – FOX Sports

“Trading away Jalen Ramsey may have alleviated some of the Rams’ salary-cap concerns, but now the club lacks a difference-maker in the secondary. Williams offers a combination of size, agility and playmaking skills to help fill that role.”

18. Los Angeles Chargers – Pro Football Network

“Nasir Adderley retired this past offseason, and the Chargers are due to lose Alohi Gilman in 2024. They’ll need a new running mate alongside Derwin James, and who better than a 6’5″, 224-pound obelisk in Miami’s James Williams? Williams, alongside James, would be nightmare fuel for opposing offenses, given his length, athleticism, and physicality.”

25. Jacksonville Jaguars – For The Win

“Williams has the size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) to have a Kyle Hamilton-type presence for the Hurricanes in 2023. He’d stay in state and punch up a roster that’s thin at safety and in need of secondary help in general. The big safety can crush ball carriers near the line of scrimmage and hold his own in man coverage.”

27. New York Jets – Sports Illustrated

“Williams is about as massive a safety as you’ll find at 6’5″ and 224lbs, and yet he flies around the field to make hits and plays on the football. We have no idea what the timetable for Aaron Rodgers’s career is, but until he announces he is done, the Jets should continue to add talent throughout the team. Adding a dominant safety may complete this defense entirely.”