Okay, so before we get into the meat of this article, can we acknowledge for a second how well the the NFL Draft went? There are already a lot of people talking about the danger that this process poses to future events, because this was way smoother than anybody saw coming and might have actually run better than the weirdness that usually defines Days 2 and 3 of the draft. I think a lot of people were looking at this remote draft to see how some things might be changed permanently in a post-coronavirus world where we might be reducing crowds generally, and fortunately, it didn’t feel disrupted at all. Maybe the world’s changes, if they happen, won’t be as drastic as we fear.
On to the real reason you’re on Tar Heel Blog, though: the Tar Heels. In summary, the two players from the 2019 squad expected to be drafted were indeed drafted, though not in the order we might have expected. Charlie Heck was the first to hear his name called, by the Houston Texans with their fourth-round (126th overall) pick. His teammate Jason Strowbridge didn’t have much longer to wait, getting picked up 28 picks later by his hometown Miami Dolphins in Round 5. These things will play out, but so far the consensus seems to be that Heck was a bit of a reach (but deserved to be drafted and could turn into a starting tackle for a line that badly needs one) in a very bad Houston draft and Strowbridge an excellent value pick in a very good Dolphins draft. Interestingly, the Dolphins then drafted another undervalued defensive line player in Curtis Weaver out of Ohio State. Our quick articles on those picks are linked above, with further links to film breakdowns on each player.
The draft process isn’t over when Mr. Irrelevant gets picked, though: 30% of the NFL is made up of undrafted players, and the Heels had quite a few of those, including everybody in my “everybody else” list. The quickest was Antonio Williams, who almost immediately after the draft announced that he was signing a UDFA deal with the Buffalo Bills:
Williams is an efficient runner who will get what’s blocked for him and has good vision to bounce when necessary, which is valuable to have for cheap. He’s got a chance to stick.
Myles Dorn had also clearly been on some NFL radars, as he also got scooped up fairly quickly. He joined one of the NFL’s biggest rookie classes in Minneapolis:
Former Big 22 player to watch & Vance standout Myles Dorn is signing with the Minnesota Vikings pic.twitter.com/wNlx2jXk3v— Matt Harris (@MHarrisWSOC9) April 26, 2020
As I wrote less than a week ago, Dorn’s ability to stick will be contingent on his speed being NFL-quality. He’s got the instincts, the drive, and the play demeanor for the big leagues.
The third person on my list, Aaron Crawford, is apparently signing with the Baltimore Ravens, according to UNC Football’s Twitter:
He hasn’t mentioned it at all on his own social media, though, just this Tweet that suggests he’s not going to be celebrating or even accepting any mention of him being a pro until he makes a 53-man roster:
When there’s something to celebrate I’ll let y’all know but until then we’re right back to work.— Aaron Crawford (@ACraw92) April 26, 2020
Like Williams, Crawford should play a valuable run-stuffing role for cheap, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick as a backup nose tackle. The Ravens are a smart organization.
Two players who didn’t make my list also got picked up by NFL squads for camp season. The first was tight end Jake Bargas, who’ll be joining Dorn in the Vikings’ camp:
The 6’2, 250-pound Bargas didn’t see a ton of use in the passing game at UNC, thanks to offensive systems that don’t use the position as a primary receiver a whole lot. He did some good work his junior year as a safety valve for Nathan Elliott, but did most of his most notable work as a special teams player. He’s a long shot to make a roster, but you never know.
And finally, linebacker/defensive back Dominique Ross is also going to be in an NFL camp, according to UNC Football’s Twitter and his own comments:
The Giants haven’t announced Ross as an undrafted free agent, so it’s likely that this is a camp invite and not an actual UDFA deal with money up front. It’s possible the same is true for Crawford, hence his waiting to celebrate, as well as others on the list: things will get a little clearer as we move into summer. Ross is a solid player, though; he handled a lot of different responsibilities well in his last year and can play both in the box and roaming the secondary. He’s a linebacker in the NFL, but one who can cover reasonably well.
Looking ahead, next year’s Carolina class looks even more stacked than this one, and getting 7 guys into NFL camps is not a small feat. Bryson already started previewing next year’s class of potential draftees, including Chazz Surratt, Dazz Newsome, Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, Tomon Fox, and Myles Wolfolk. Of those players, Surratt (#77), Carter (#160), and Newsome (#259) are all already on The Draft Network’s 2021 Prospect rankings, (and so is Dyami Brown at #222) as rising seniors with significant bodies of work. Usually, underclassmen can start generating buzz when their upperclassmen have Pro Days, as was the case with M.J. Stewart in 2016. Fox, Wolfolk, and Williams haven’t had that opportunity yet, and neither has Brown, so their stock stands to rise significantly with the momentum that UNC’s 2020 season is coming off. Nickel corner Trey Morrison might have a chance to rise with a healthy year as well. And draft picks and NFL success, of course, beget more draft picks, which means more talent coming through Chapel Hill. We wish all the Tar Heels on professional rosters/camps the best as they start their professional careers, and hope that we can keep watching both their success and a legacy of success they leave behind.