Buckner, Goff among top NFL prospects from the Pac-12

Kevin Connaghan identifies the best next-level talent coming out of the Pac-12 conference.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Buckner, Goff among top NFL prospects from the Pac-12

As draft season rolls along, here at PFF we’ll be taking a look at the top prospects in each conference. While the Pac-12 may have missed out on the College Football Playoff playoff, the conference wasn’t suffering from a shortage of next-level talent — in no specific order, here are nine of the best among the conference:

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

A disruptive pass rusher, Buckner is firmly in the conversation to be the best prospect in the 2016 draft class. Buckner was excellent in 2014, when he outperformed team mate Arik Armstead, a first-round draft pick for the 49ers who had an impressive rookie season. However, he took his game to another level in 2015, generating 12 sacks and 68 total pressures, and played the run at a similar level. While a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end, Buckner has traits that translate to any front.

Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff is arguably the best QB prospect in this class, and should hear his name called early come draft time. An excellent downfield passer. Goff had the highest grade among Power-5 quarterbacks, and graded well when pressured. His decision making needs to improve, and like most QBs coming out of college, he could benefit from some development time before starting, but is likely to go too early to be afforded that luxury.

Su’a Cravens, S/LB, USC

Cravens began his Trojans career as a safety, before spending the past two seasons as a linebacker with expanded slot coverage duties. He thrived in that hybrid role, showing the ability to set the edge and play the run at a high level, and also contribute as a pass rusher. As befitting a converted defensive back, Cravens excelled in coverage, holding quarterbacks targeting his coverage to a 52.3 passer rating over the past two seasons.

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jack missed most of the 2015 season with a knee injury, but we saw more than enough from him in 2014 to know what he brings to the table. A terrific athlete, Jack has rare cover skills for the position, so much so that when the Bruins hosted USC in 2014, they were willing to use Jack as part of their coverage plan against future first-rounder, WR Nelson Agholor. Agholor finished the game with two catches for 19 yards, neither of which came when covered by Jack.

Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

The Bruins powerful Kenny Clark had a fine season, and is one of the best defensive tackle prospects in this class. Outstanding against the run, Clark had the fifth-highest run defense grade among interior defensive linemen in 2014. This season he developed into a more complete defender, recording seven sacks and 40 total pressures, more than doubling his 2014 tally.

Devontae Booker, HB, Utah

A productive running back, Booker finished the season with the eighth-best run grade among all backs, and the third-highest in this draft class. Booker makes quick cuts, and has the balance and vision to make the most of the gaps available to him. He also contributes as a receiver out of the backfield, with 80 receptions over the past two seasons. He will be a 24-year-old rookie, and has been dinged up, but his all-round skill set will be coveted in the NFL.

Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford

Garnett really blossomed at left guard for the Cardinal in 2015, finishing the season with the second-highest overall grade among Power-5 guards, and the second-highest run blocking grade. Garnett was able to physically dominate most opponents that he faced, yet, he found the going tougher when up against some of the elite defensive linemen in college, earning notable negative grades against Buckner, and Notre Dame’s Sheldon Day.

Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona

After spending the bulk of the season battling injury, Wright has little 2015 tape, however, his extremely productive 2014 campaign should ensure he garners attention. In 2014, Wright earned a +50.6 grade, second among all off the ball linebackers, was excellent against the run and contributed 14 sacks and 48 total pressures. Wright finished 2015 by showing something of his best form in the Wildcats bowl game, racking up 12 defensive stops on his way to a +4.2 grade.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins flashed talent in 2014, but was inconsistent – as memorable as his 187 yard game against Oregon was, it was one of the few where he graded at a high level. One year later and consistency is no longer a concern, as Perkins graded positively in all bar one game. That transformation is borne out statistically, Perkins averaged 3.6 yards after contact, and forced 86 missed tackles in 2015, compared to 2.9 and 41 the year before.


| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

  • Mike J.

    Greg Gabriel says Buckner is very good now, yet still has ”unlimited upside.” G.G. says Deforest’s only weakness is he doesn’t have a twin.