The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and C-USA was represented well yet again. 10 players were taken from the conference this year, up from nine in 2017. Southern Miss led the way with three picks. WKU had two players selected. UTEP, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and FIU had one each. UTSA’s single pick was also the lone first round pick from C-USA.
C-USA’s 10 picks was good for 2nd among G5 leagues. Only the American had more players drafted (18). The Mountain West had nine, the MAC had five, and the Sun Belt had three.
As for NFL teams, the Saints and 49ers each took two players from the conference. The Giants, Bears, Falcons, Cowboys, Dolphins, and Seahawks took one each. Interestingly enough, only one player (Cornell Armstrong) went to the AFC, with the other nine all going NFC. Three went to the NFC South, three to the NFC West, two to the NFC East, and one to the NFC North.
Let’s take a look at each pick.
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA Roadrunners - Round 1, 14 overall, New Orleans Saints
The Saints made some waves when they traded up from 27 to 14 to grab UTSA’s first ever first round pick. Davenport has a chance to come off the edge opposite Cam Jordan, creating the potential for a very scary pass rush for the reigning NFC South champs. For a team that was known as a Big XII-esque “pass first and hope you outscore them” team just two years ago, they have really made strides on the defensive side, and Davenport can be a huge asset to help them win now before Drew Brees retires.
Will Hernandez, G, UTEP Miners - 2, 34, New York Giants
Hernandez fell to the second round, but just barely. He joins a team with a great quarterback that just drafted the best running back in college football last season. The Giants haven’t been too successful recently, but they’ve got some good pieces in Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley, and Odell Beckham Jr. With additional help like Hernandez coming in, the Giants could be winning again pretty soon.
Tarvarius Moore, DB, Southern Miss Golden Eagles - 3, 95, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers haven’t even been decent in the years following Jim Harbaugh’s return to college, but they look like they have their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo. Now it’s just a matter of putting other pieces into place. Moore will have a chance to prove his worth and be one of those pieces in the secondary. At worst, he should be able to make an early impact through special teams.
Joel Iyiebuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers - 4, 115, Chicago Bears
Easily one of the best names in the draft, “Iggy” is headed north. The Bears need all the help they can get right now, so he’ll have an opportunity to prove himself and make an impact in some role.
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss Golden Eagles - 4, 126, Atlanta Falcons
The first offensive skill player off the board for C-USA was Ito Smith. He goes to the Falcons who were in the Super Bowl just two years ago. The Falcons are pretty set at running back for the moment, but the Saints struck gold with a rookie running back a year ago. Perhaps the Falcons hope to do the same. If he does see playing time right away, we could see Southern Miss (Smith) vs UTSA (Davenport) play out on an NFL field twice a year.
Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers - 5, 171, Dallas Cowboys
The first C-USA quarterback off the board was Mike White, but don’t expect to see him on the field very soon. Dak Prescott pushed out franchise quarterback Tony Romo just two seasons ago, so he’s gonna be around for awhile. White joins a somewhat crowded quarterback room, so it’s going to be a struggle to just make QB2. But when you have a young franchise QB, you don’t draft a signal-caller for no reason.
Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - 6, 201, New Orleans Saints
Make that TWO C-USA running backs headed to the NFC South. Scott would be, at best, RB3 behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. His best opportunity to see immediate action would be special teams, but as a former walk-on, he’s not afraid to take the less glamorous road.
Cornell Armstrong, DB, Southern Miss Golden Eagles - 6, 209, Miami Dolphins
The lone player to be drafted by an AFC team, Armstrong became the third Golden Eagle and second USM defensive back to be drafted. It will probably take some time for Armstrong to see the field, but USM fans can still hope he’ll get playing time soon enough to perhaps pick off Tom Brady once before he retires. Despite their struggles overall, the Dolphins have been pretty good against the Patriots in Miami...
Alex McGough, QB, FIU Panthers - 7, 220, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are at an interesting place. They are obviously set for a while with Russell Wilson under center, but it looks like they’re headed into rebuild mode. McGough will have an opportunity to compete for the backup role, and from there, you never know what can happen.
Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders - 7, 240, San Francisco 49ers
The final C-USA player to be drafted was James, the star receiver from MTSU. He joins former Bulldog Trent Taylor and will have an opportunity to give the 49ers’ receiver corps a certain C-USA flavor. San Francisco is a team on the rise in the NFC West, and if the cards fall right, we might start to hear his name more and more.
Biggest Surprise: Boston Scott
Because of his small size, I honestly didn’t expect Scott to be drafted, and especially not by the Saints. However, New Orleans clearly saw potential in him. It will be interesting to see how his career plays out.
Biggest Disappointment: Will Hernandez
It’s pretty hard to be disappointed by a second round pick, but he was so close to going in the first. There were six lineman drafted in the first round, but only one was listed as a guard like Hernandez. It would have been nice to see two C-USA players go first round, although I’m sure UTEP fans won’t complain about 34th overall.
Most Likely to Contribute Early: Marcus Davenport
Probably a no-brainer here. You don’t trade up from 27 to 14 (which includes trading away next year’s first round pick) to take a guy you don’t expect to put on the field right away. NFC South offensive lines may be doubling teaming Cam Jordan, opening up opportunities for Davenport to introduce himself to Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Marcus Mariota.