A handful of former South Carolina stars are hoping to hear their names’ called in this week’s 2022 NFL Draft.
Ex-Gamecocks defensive end Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare is expected to the the first of those players off the board, while it’s conceivable safety Jaylan Foster, tight end Nick Muse and running backs Zaquandre White and Kevin Harris, among others, could also be selected .
The State spoke with The Athletic’s NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler this week to get the inside scoop on the USC prospects hoping to begin their professional football careers in the coming days.
Note: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity
Ben Portnoy: JJ Enagbare entered the year seeming like a pretty good bet to be a Day 1 or early Day 2 pick. Where do you see him falling now and why?
Dane Brugler: I think Enagbare will be drafted somewhere in the 50-100 range. It’s a loaded class of edge rushers and that might push him down further than originally expected. Enagbare wasn’t super productive as a senior and most teams are looking for more speed when investing a high pick in the position.
BP: Sticking on Enagbare, how much, if at all, did his NFL Combine performance and/or Pro Day numbers have anything to do with where he’s slotted now?
DB: It’s part of the equation, but I think it confirmed what evaluators see on tape. Engabare isn’t a quick-twitch speed rusher. He’s more of a long, heavy-handed power rusher. So while the 4.87 (second) 40-yard dash at 258 pounds at the Combine is a below average number, I don’t think it was completely unexpected. The 7.51 (second) three-cone at the pro day was also below average by NFL standards.
PO: Who do you see as the better pro prospect between South Carolina’s pair of running backs in this year’s draft between Kevin Harris and Zaquandre White and why?
DB: I think Harris has the better chance because he is built like an NFL back and offers the vision and ball security that NFL coaches will appreciate. But I think White is the most intriguing prospect and has the higher ceiling. He is a springy athlete with elusive cutting skills and strength through contact. Although he tends to be erratic because his patience and tempo are inconsistent, White forces missed tackles with his start-stop athleticism and urgency.
BP: Harris was obviously banged up in 2021, how much can scouts look past that given what he did in 2020 when healthy and how might the back injury factor into his evaluation as a prospect?
DB: The back injury is an important part of Harris’ evaluation and will be interpreted differently by each team. He doesn’t have the creativity or burst as a runner, regardless if you’re studying the 2020 or 2021 tape. But his run strength and balance while keeping his pads square to the line are positive to his game. Regardless, he needs to be more consistent on passing downs to make it in the NFL.
BP: After an All-American season virtually out of nowhere, where does Jaylan Foster fit into the NFL Draft and is he someone that can stick on a roster?
DB: Foster is considered a potential late rounder or priority free agent by teams. He put himself on the NFL map with his senior year, specifically that Georgia tape early in the season. But his inconsistencies later in the season, specifically in coverage, stood out on film. For an undersized safety (5-10, 185 pounds), his athleticism is only average and his testing backed that up.
BP: Nick Muse’s receiving totals were down this year, but what about his game either makes him draftable or a candidate to hang around in the NFL?
DB: Muse is an interesting talent who could be drafted late. He has more drops than you want and his routes need continued refinement. But he is a “make it” competitor and tested really well with a 4.70 40-yard dash at 258 pounds at the Gamecocks pro day. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Muse earn a back-up role as a rookie.
How to watch the NFL Draft
When: Thursday, April 28 (Round 1); fridayApril 29 (Rounds 2-3); Saturday, April 30 (Rounds 4-7)
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: NFL Network, ABC, ESPN