The 2018 NFL Draft is just days short of an entire year away, but it’ never too early to project which college stars will hear their name called next April.
Many outlets around the industry are doing just that, including us at SB Nation, with the earliest predictions focusing on the first 32 talents expected to be selected as part of next year’s draft class.
Included in the various mocks are a pair Longhorns that headline their respective units in Texas Longhorns left tackle Connor Williams and linebacker Malik Jefferson. Of course, there’s still an entire season left to play, but here’s where the two standout juniors are currently projected to be drafted.
*FOX Sports is the only outlet we noted that currently includes a 2nd round.*
Connor Williams, LT, JR
- SB Nation: N/A
- 247Sports: 7th
- CBS Sports: 17th
- Bleacher Report: 4th
- FOX Sports: 24th
- Walter Football: N/A
- Sporting News: N/A
A former three-star recruit, Connor Williams entered Austin ranked outside of the top 400 nationally and top 40 at his position. Two seasons later, after serving as an immediate starter at left tackle, Williams has Freshman All-American and consensus All-American honors to his name and is slated to enter what many project to be his final effort on the Forty Acres in 2017, and understandably so. All the tools are in place for Williams to blossom into a day one contributor at the next level, as well.
How good is Williams? Different mock drafts alternatively cite his superior pass blocking and success in the running game — pick whichever talent you like better, Williams is unusually good for such a young player in both aspects.
Malik Jefferson, LB, JR
- SB Nation: 26th
- 247Sports: 30th
- CBS Sports: 7th
- Bleacher Report: 10th
- FOX Sports: 33rd
- Walter Football: 12th
- Sporting News: 13th
Some will argue that the former Under Armour All-American hasn’t quite lived up to the hype and to an extent — there’s validity to that claim. There’s also validity to claiming Malik Jefferson has been poorly utilized out of position in the middle during his two seasons under Vance Bedford and Charlie Strong, but his sheer athleticism and upside remains off the charts.
While he’ll certainly need an improved junior campaign to evolve into the first round selection he’s currently projected as across the industry, there’s plenty reason to believe Tom Herman’s first season in Austin serves as the last for Jefferson.