For the first time since 1962, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were not represented during the NFL draft. This isn’t incredibly shocking considering the Big Red's back-to-back 4-8 records and administrative upheaval over that time. Rather, it's an appropriate representation of just how big of a project Scott Frost walked into and how much he has to accomplish in order to lead Nebraska back to relevancy. Now, we've learned that it's not just on a conference level or in the eyes of the national college football universe, but NFL organizations, as well.
If the Huskers are going to start a new draft streak in 2020, it'll be in no small part thanks to Erik Chinander. Frost's offense is still incredibly young across the board as – with all due respect – none of its starters are NFL-ready yet. Some of its best players aren't even eligible. However, if the Big Red has five potential draft picks on its roster for next year, the defensive side of the ball will provide.
Carlos Davis, DL
New defensive line coach Tony Tuioti is already earning his paycheck on the recruiting trail and has created an immediate sense of family among his new charges in Lincoln. He could also have the biggest impact when it comes to showing NFL scouts that the Cornhuskers have prospects worth selecting next year.
The Tuioti/Chinander philosophy is somewhat of a double-edged sword on the surface. Nebraska runs a 3-4 scheme, but their roster is full of defensive linemen who can be swapped across the front. Davis is a perfect example of that. At 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, he seems to project better at nose tackle than a defensive end. However, Nebraska fans can expect him on the edges trying to accomplish what Freedom Akinmoladun struggled with during 2018: generating consistent pressure on the outside. Don’t be surprised to occasionally see him slide to the interior to eat up double-teams.
Darrion Daniels, DL
Daniels has been running his mouth in the best of ways since he transferred in from Oklahoma State. A touted nose tackle, he came to Lincoln looking to shove his baby brother Damion aside in favor of playing time. All reports out of camp indicate that Darrion has done just that. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, he’s built a hint differently from Carlos Davis, but much like the fellow senior, he could be seen swapping positions.
Khalil Davis, DL
Another player giving the Nebraska defensive front a familial feel, Davis – brother of Carlos – was one of the most disruptive Blackshirts in 2018. With 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a forced fumble, it’s no shock why Tuioti wants to get as many of his chippy big men snaps as possible. No. 94 is somewhat lighter than Darrion Daniels or his aforementioned brother at 310 pounds. However, that could aid him tremendously as an edge rusher who’d be a load to handle along with a blitzing linebacker. All of this versatility up front must, of course, be combined with the reinforcement of solid fundamentals. Otherwise, Nebraska may thrive as a team, but these three may not make a strong enough impression to hear their name called next April.
Mohamed Barry, LB
No one can question Barry's intensity or desire to deliver pain. However, his size (6-1, 230) may be what bites him at the next level. Two extremely early comparisons would be 2019 sixth-round picks David Long Jr. (Tennessee Titans) and Akron's Ulysees Gilbert III (Pittsburgh). What Barry must do during his senior season – and what he’ll likely have every opportunity to do – is show he can dominate some of the best offensive linemen in the nation. Fortunately, he plays in a conference that boasts just that. A cherry on top of the metaphorical sundae would be showing off as an edge rusher. However, we likely see him as the force who takes advantage of his defensive linemen opening lanes between guards and centers.
Lamar Jackson, CB
Jackson has had NFL dreams ever since he stepped foot onto campus. If he' going to make them come true, he has to finish what he started during the middle of last season. After returning from a benching versus Purdue, Jackson found a mean streak that made teams opt to pick on Dicaprio Bootle instead. Keep in mind, Bootle had one of the best seasons of any Husker in terms of pass breakups. Clearly, offensive coordinators aren't keen on testing Jackson.
He has impressive size (6-3) for a cornerback but height doesn’t necessarily equate to an elite NFL defensive back. The highest pick with comparable size in the 2019 draft is Houston Texans second-round pick Lonnie Johnson, Jr. (6-2, 215) from Kentucky. Johnson turned in testing numbers that Jackson should be able to mirror as long as he maximizes his potential on and off the field over the next year. It's unlikely Jackson will be taken as Johnson but he may be too good of an athlete to pass up.