Rich Rodriguez has had five NFL draft picks in his first four years as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. Not exactly a great statistic, but all along, particularly when his team reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, folks were saying that Rodriguez was winning without a whole lot of talent. He was getting the most out of Mike Stoops' remaining guys, as well as his own first few recruiting classes.
As Arizona's recruiting classes come along, the NFL Draft production will get better. Arizona is a program on the rise. The past four years have been the winningest stretch in school history, including four straight bowl games and 33 wins. If Arizona can bounce back from 2015 and get back to the 8-win benchmark Rodriguez set in his first three years, more attention will start shifting to Tucson, putting the spotlight on the draft-eligible members.
Arizona has a solid senior class this season and this class could bring in plenty of draft picks for Rodriguez. There are probably about ten guys you could make the case for like DaVonte' Neal and Zach Hemmila as late round picks, or a case in which a guy like Nick Wilson could declare early if he's healthy and running well. There's also Freddie Tagaloa, but he's going to have to stay healthy and beat out Layth Friekh for that starting job at left tackle.
Below I have six guys who have futures in the NFL one way or another. All things considered, it's fair to think that Arizona has no less than three draft selections in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Paul Magloire Jr.
Magloire is currently ranked 9th among all strong safeties in the 2017 draft class. He led the team in tackles after taking over the starting linebacker role in week five of the 2015 season. The hybrid linebacker/safety has been one of the most sought-after positions in the NFL, with the rise of Mark Barron and Deone Bucannon. Guys like Myles Jack, Su'a Cravens and Keanu Neal were reaping the benefits in this draft because of this shift in philosophy.
I like to think that Samajie Grant is the best receiver of the group. Many Arizona defensive backs always say Samajie is the hardest to cover. He's fast, strong, runs good routes and can block downfield. Held back by injuries in 2015, he'll look to bounce back in the slot this season.
On the outside looking in for now in terms of getting drafted, Phillips will be the beneficiary of Grant in the slot on the other side of the field. He's also a solid special teams contributor and he will definitely be able to find a home in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Still a redshirt junior, he's been the anchor on the offensive line. The offensive line should see improvement this season, with a whole lot of experience coming back at the skill positions, elevating the offense. You would think if he wanted to declare he would end up drafted somewhere.
Currently ranked 19th among all receivers in the 2017 draft class, Griffey is likely going to be the go-to guy on the deep ball considering his size. He's a huge redzone target and if Anu Solomon or Brandon Dawkins can connect on the deep ball with Griffey, he could have a breakout year and solidify himself as a mid-round pick.
Jones checks in as the 26th-ranked free safety on CBSSports. Some off-the-field issues could arise, and we're still uncertain of his status as we head into the summer. He did not participate in spring practice and Rodriguez has not been opposed to suspending guys for the season opener. But taking over the bandit position full-time will help put him in position to make plays.