Miami Hurricanes DT Gerald Willis’ stock falling among national NFL Draft experts

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Perkins #3 of the Virginia Cavaliers stiff arms Gerald Willis III #9 of the Miami Hurricanes in the first half during a game at Scott Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Perkins #3 of the Virginia Cavaliers stiff arms Gerald Willis III #9 of the Miami Hurricanes in the first half during a game at Scott Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle Gerald Willis has seen his stock fall in the final mock drafts from national experts. Originally thought to be a second or third round pick, the projections now have Willis being selected in the third or fourth round.

Defensive tackle Gerald Willis is the most intriguing prospect from the Miami Hurricanes in the 2019 NFL Draft. Willis was dominant last season and selected as second-team by the ACC and on the Sports Illustrated All-American teams. In spite of that Willis’ stock seems to be falling for the NFL draft.

The Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller did the most extensive preview of the NFL Draft. He gave a scouting report on the top 400 players coming out of college this year. Only 254 players will be selected between Thursday and Saturday nights. Miller is high on Willis and projects him to make an impact as a rookie.

CanesWarning has examined four NFL Mock drafts to get an idea of where each of the Miami Hurricanes alums could potentially be selected. We examined NFL Mock Drafts from Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, our parent site FanSided and NFL.Com. Willis’ average draft position was 103.75.

The 103.75 average would put Willis at the top of the fourth round to the Arizona Cardinals or San Francisco 49ers. Seeing Willis fall past day two would be surprising given the earlier projections of being a second or third round pick. Some mock drafts had Willis going as high as late in the first round.

Willis’ past might be catching up with him. That teams would shy away from Willis because of incidents in the past would be questionable. They have known about his issues for years. Willis proved in 2018 he put the past behind him and had a dominant season. He was named second-team All-American and ACC.

Miller’s summaries of the top 400 players were in separate posts broken down by position. He ranks Willis as the nation’s 14th best defensive lineman. Edge rushers like Willis’ former Miami Hurricanes teammate Joe Jackson were ranked separately. Miller’s summary of Willis is below.

"14. Gerald Willis III, MiamiSTRENGTHS—Had a dominant, productive 2018 season in which he produced 18 tackles for loss and showed Day 1 impact as a 3-technique pass-rusher.—An agile and active rusher who shows good burst through the line and has the speed to close on the ball when chasing players down the line or in the backfield.—Has a stunning ability to win with his first step when lined up in one-gap situations and is asked to get into the backfield.—Spent the 2017 season on the scout team and used it to develop extra pass-rushing moves. Can beat blockers with a rip and swim move.—Scouts see him as having upside and some developmental potential thanks to his athleticism and limited reps in college.WEAKNESSES—A little shorter than you’d like at 6’2″ and 302 pounds but somehow plays too tall in his pad height.—Dismissed from University of Florida for rule violations and a reported fight with a teammate; spent the 2017 season at Miami on the scout team after sitting out to take care of personal and family issues; sat out the bowl game in 2018 because of a hand injury.—Goes through extreme highs and lows within a set of downs. Can dominate and then get washed down the board and frustrates with inconsistency in his pad height and hand play to disengage.—Doesn’t have power in his hands to split double-teams and can too easily be neutralized by combo blocks.—Surrenders downs with inconsistent and lazy pad height that makes him an easy target for blockers. At his height, he should be able to play low and shoot gaps, but in the running game, he stands up after his first effort and is taken out of plays.OVERALLGerald Willis III’s time away from football in 2017 helped him become a better player, which showed in 2018 as he took over games for the Hurricanes. As a 3-technique prospect, he’s intriguing as a middle-round prospect who could hit and become a starter or at least contribute as a rotational pass-rusher.GRADE: 5.99 (ROUND 3-4 — ROOKIE IMPACT)PRO COMPARISON: Akeem Spence"

Akeem Spence spent the first four years of his NFL Career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before a year in Detroit and then being traded to the Dolphins. Spence started all 16 games for the Fins last season.

The projections for Willis are consistent. FanSided’s Joe Romano has the highest projection of the four seven-round NFL Mock drafts we examined. Romano has Willis going to the Cowboys in the third round with the 91st overall selection. CBS Sports also had Willis going to Dallas, but with the 136th overall selection.

Willis would be an interesting selection for Dallas. The Cowboys were exceptional against the run last season. Dallas allowed 3.8 yards per carry. That was fourth in the NFL. They were only 17th in sacks. Willis could give them a consistent pass rush up the middle.

Willis to the Cowboys would be reminiscent of Russell Maryland playing on three Super Bowl winning teams with Dallas in the 1990s. The Cowboys selected Maryland with the first overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft.

Gerald Willis NFL Draft Projections

"CBS-Cincinnati-4 110 DTNFL– Dallas 4-136Bleacher Report– 3-100. Carolina PanthersFansided– 3-91. Dallas CowboysAverage 103.75-103. Cardinals, 104. 49ers"

The range in projections for where Willis will be selected between FanSided and NFL.Com are 45 picks. That’s a round and a half. Willis is being undervalued. Teams are judging him more for past indiscretions than what he did on the field last season.

Miller has nailed it with Willis. In the right opportunity, he can make an impact in 2019.

Next. Opinions differ one who Miami Hurricanes starting QB will or should be. dark

Long term Willis should be a solid NFL Starter. His ability to get into opposing backfields at a constant rate show that Willis has the ability to play and contribute in the NFL. He needs to make more of the chance he gets in the NFL than he did early in his college career.