Despite a brutal showing to close the 2017 season, the Pac-12 sent a solid corps of prospects into the NFL via the 2018 draft. Another class of future pros will headline the conference again this season, with opportunities to improve their outlooks for the 2019 draft.
As was the case a season ago, a quarterback heads the class. However, the real story of the 2019 draft class in the Pac-12 is just how much potential pro talent appears on three rosters: Stanford, USC and Washington.
1. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (Jr., 6-6, 225)
A year after two other Pac-12 quarterbacks – USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen – both went in the top 10, the conference could produce the first quarterback taken in the 2019 draft. Herbert's size, arm and athleticism combine to make him one of the top prospects at his coveted position next season. Coming off a collarbone injury that sidelined him much of 2017, Herbert (above, right) will have much to prove – and will face a hefty decision about his future come season's end.
2. Trey Adams, OT, Washington (Sr., 6-7, 325)
Adams was one of the best offensive linemen in the Pac-12 ahead of the 2017 season, but an injury prevented him from being able to make the early jump to the NFL. He'll return as the anchor of an outstanding line for College Football Playoff-contending Washington in 2018, and could move into the first round of next spring's draft.
3. Marvell Tell, S, USC (Sr., 6-2, 195)
Whatever box a defense needs checked from its safety, Tell addresses it. He combines size, speed and a ball-hawking ability to make plays in the Trojans’ secondary. Tell covers the field adeptly and reacts to offenses quickly, utilizing his length to make plays other safeties might not. He's capable of playing either free or strong safety, adding to his draft prospects.
4. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State (Jr., 6-4, 216)
Deep-ball threat? Red-zone target? Reliable possession receiver? Whatever need a team might have at wide receiver, Harry has the skills to address those concerns. Harry caught 82 passes for 1,142 yards last season with eight touchdowns.
5. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford (Sr., 5-9, 196)
The 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up surprised plenty of pundits with his decision to return to Stanford for one more year. As a result, Love will enter 2018 a (if not the) front-runner for the Heisman, and could garner first-round draft consideration from NFL franchises. Love isn't the prototypical NFL back, but with more organizations utilizing multi-purpose backs – like Love's former teammate, Christian McCaffrey – the Stanford running back should appear high on 2019 draft boards.
6. Cameron Smith, LB, USC (Sr., 6-1, 245)
Smith (right) has started at interior linebacker from Day 1 at USC. A savvy student of the game, Smith has continuously added qualities to his game. He's terrific against the run, defends pass catchers and can apply pressure as a rusher. He could be one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the 2019 class.
7. Chase Hansen, S, Utah (R-Sr., 6-3, 220)
Hard-hitting and athletic, Hansen is a defensive dynamo for Utah. He plays with an aggression that translates against both the run and pass, making him an effective asset in the secondary, and almost like an additional linebacker when situations dictate more support is needed on the ground.
8. Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon (Sr., 6-6, 245)
Rangy and explosive, Jelks was dynamic for a dramatically improved Oregon defense in 2017. Another season adding some weight to his long frame should make Jelks a potential first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He could have a rise similar to 2018 draft breakout sensation Marcus Davenport, another lengthy defensive end with remarkable speed and athleticism.
9. Greg Gaines, DT, Washington (Sr., 6-1, 322)
Washington has been something of a factory for standout defensive linemen in recent years, including 2018 first-round selection, Vita Vea. Gaines, Vea's partner on the interior, has the opportunity to play his way into first-round status come 2019. Gaines is a space-eater, powerful at the point of the attack, and agile for his size.
10. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington (Sr., 6-6, 318)
The Washington offensive line stacks up with the nation's very best in 2018; having two 2019 draft prospects as anchors serves as a pretty good indicator of just how good this unit will be. Teammate Trey Adams has earned more plaudits, but McGary should earn comparable NFL interest as the season progresses.
11. Christian Rector, DE, USC (R-Jr., 6-4, 276)
The surprise, breakout star of USC's defense in 2017 was Rector. He filled in capably on the interior of the line and at linebacker in a testament to his versatility. He primarily played defensive end, however, which is where he will draw the majority of NFL interest. Rector can play end in a 4-3 or linebacker in a 3-4 with equal effectiveness.
12. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington (Jr., 6-0, 202)
The 2016 Pac-12 Championship Game MVP and 2017 first-team All-Pac-12 honoree is an elite playmaker, and has only shown signs of further improvement in his first two seasons as a Husky. Rapp will be a central part of Washington's defense in 2018. Look for him to be among the most productive defensive backs in the nation, showing off a knack for turnover creation that will improve his standing on draft boards throughout the fall.
13. Porter Gustin, DE/OLB, USC (Sr., 6-5, 260)
Various injuries sidelined Gustin for much of 2017. When he was on the field, however, Gustin was one of the most dominant defenders in the Pac-12. Gustin's physique, which resembles a chiseled Greek statue, will surely wow NFL scouts. A senior season-filling game tape with his speed and aggressiveness could elevate Gustin into the first round.
14. Nate Herbig, OL, Stanford (Jr., 6-4, 348)
"Big" is right there in Herbig's name, and is it ever fitting. At around 350 pounds, Herbig is among the largest prospects for the 2019 draft class. He earned Freshman All-American recognition in 2016, and was an All-Pac-12 selection in ‘17. Look for him to have an All-America-caliber campaign opening up holes for the prolific Stanford ground attack in 2018.
15. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford (Sr., 6-3, 222)
The Pac-12 may not have had a more exciting wide receiver in 2017 than Arcega-Whiteside. HIs ability to get past cornerbacks and deeper than safeties made him the Cardinal's top big-play threat. He excels against tough coverage, as well, showing off a vertical leap and uncanny ability to snag passes with defenders draped all over him. With his size and athleticism, Arcega-Whiteside could be the sleeper pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
16. Evan Worthington, S, Colorado (R-Sr., 6-2, 200)
Colorado has an impressive run of NFL-bound defensive backs over the last few years; Worthington's primed to continue that roll into the 2019 draft. Worthington emerged as one of the Buffaloes' two leaders in the secondary last season along with Isaiah Oliver. His three interceptions led the way for Colorado. Though his size and experiences at CU suggest he's best suited to play safety, Worthington has the speed and coverage instincts to play cornerback as well.
17. JoJo McIntosh, S, Washington (Sr., 6-1, 212)
Despite considerable turnover in the secondary ahead of last season, Washington didn't lose a step. Credit All-Conference performer McIntosh for doing his part. And, opting to return for another season, McIntosh is poised to anchor one of the best defenses in the nation. The talented McIntosh aids in the Huskies’ run and pass defense equally effectively, and his size makes him a promising NFL product.
18. Jesse Burkett, OL, Stanford (Sr., 6-3, 305)
Continuing in the tradition of outstanding Stanford offensive lineman, Burkett readies for 2018 as the anchor of what should be a productive Cardinal offense. Head coach David Shaw spotlighted Burkett as one of the most improved Cardinal heading into 2017, and another season of work has him poised to pave lanes for Bryce Love to put up monster numbers for a second straight season.
19. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington (Sr., 5-9, 190)
Gaskin (right) surprised some with his decision to return to Washington for what will be his fourth season as the Huskies’ starting running back. He will be an important cog in a push for the national championship, and an intriguing NFL prospect to boot. College running backs with a lot of carries to their name are not necessarily high on franchises' draft wish lists, which could drop Gaskin's standing. However, he's been injury-free at Washington and productive for three straight years. He'll be a talented gem for some organization.
20. Nate Meadors, CB, UCLA (R-Sr., 6-1, 194)
Meadors came on strong late in the 2017 season, but shot down talk of early entry into the NFL draft. He will be an anchor for the Bruins’ new-look defense in 2018, with an opportunity to turn heads among the pro ranks. Meadors is an intriguing prospect with height not always seen from the cornerback position. He can match up with bigger wide receivers, but also has the speed to keep up with long-ball threats.
21. Jake Browning, QB, Washington (Sr., 6-2, 210)
Browning never quite regained the Heisman Trophy-contending form he demonstrated in 2016, prior to a late-season shoulder injury. He was effective if unspectacular in 2017, so his senior campaign is pivotal. Browning is somewhat small compared to the prototypical NFL quarterback prospect, but he's demonstrated a big arm.
22. Joey Alfieri, OLB, Stanford (Sr., 6-3, 240)
The 2018 campaign could be Alfieri's opportunity to break out for Stanford. With Harrison Phillips gone, the Cardinal need a new pass-rushing leader to emerge; Alfieri showed signs of developing into just that in 2017. Taking the next step in his production is key, as Alfieri already has the measurables needed to impressive NFL draft scouts.
23. Toa Lobendahn, OL, USC (Sr., 6-2, 295)
Entering his fourth year as a starter on the USC offensive line, Lobendahn has played just about every position across the front five – and performed well. His versatility bodes well for his draft prospects, though he may be best suited to play center, lacking the frame typical of an NFL tackle.
24. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, S, Arizona (Sr., 6-2, 205)
Arizona's secondary emerged as a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats in 2017. And, much like teammate Dane Cruikshank, Flannigan-Fowles has the potential to grow into a sleeper NFL draft gem. Flannigan-Fowles covers the field in pass coverage adeptly, but also excels in run pursuit.
25. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon (Jr., 6-4, 220)
A Freshman All-American in 2016 and All-Pac-12 honoree last season, Dye may be the most productive defensive player in the conference heading into ‘18. His NFL draft status hinges on his physical development more than production, however. He's slight for an inside linebacker at 220 pounds, instead built more like a rangy pro safety. An additional season in the weight program might benefit his pro prospects, but the sky is the limit for him based on his play.