When Boston College football cornerback Hamp Cheevers announced that he will forgo his senior season and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft on Jan. 5, the Eagles’ draft class got that much bigger. At the moment, there are seven BC players that have received ESPN draft grades—not including Cheevers, who has yet to be evaluated. All eight could theoretically hear their names called this April. To put that in perspective, BC hasn’t had that many players selected in the NFL Draft since 1977 and never has had more than four drafted in the league’s current seven-round model (1994-present).
Before Pro Day rolls around and NFL Combine invites are sent out, here’s an in-depth look at the Eagles’ top eight prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft—a class that could very well include seven of this year’s All-ACC selections and a pair of Walter Camp All Americans.
DE Zach Allen
ESPN Grade: 88 | Height: 6-foot-4 3/8 | Weight: 284
BC hasn’t had a first-round pick since Luke Kuechly was drafted by the Carolina Panthers with the ninth overall pick in 2012—but Allen will surely put an end to that drought. Since the fall, the do-it-all defensive end has been a projected first-round selection, and for good reason. After stealing the spotlight from Harold Landry in 2017—a year in which Allen was one of just two defensive linemen to rack up 100 or more tackles—the New Canaan, Conn. native decided to return for his senior season and more than lived up to expectations. In fact, Allen recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks. But he’s more than just an edge rusher: He’s one of the most complete defensive ends in college football. Allen can also stuff the run, bat down passes at the line of scrimmage, block kicks, and intercept passes—that kind of versatility is rare at his position.
OG Chris Lindstrom
ESPN Grade: 68 | Height: 6-foot-3 1/2 | Weight: 307
Chris Lindstrom is as consistent as it gets. The Shepherd Hill High School product started his final 47 games in a BC uniform, receiving All-ACC honors in each of his final two years on the Heights. At the moment, Lindstrom is ranked as CBS Sports’ second-best offensive guard in the 2019 NFL Draft. Renowned for his quick feet and hand placement on the block, the 307-pound guard is expected to come off the board and bolster an NFL offense as a rookie, thanks to his bevy of college experience. Lindstrom is a bit short-armed, but his ability to fire off the snap and keep his head up while making adjustments mid-play, should turn NFL scouts’ heads.
TE Tommy Sweeney
ESPN Grade: 63 | Height: 6-foot-4 ⅝ | Weight: 259
Over the course of the 2018 season, BC rolled out five tight ends, but Tommy Sweeney stood out the most. A John Mackey Award semifinalist, Sweeney hauled in 32 receptions—one shy of the team lead—for 348 yards and three touchdowns en route to First Team All-ACC honors. The year prior, the Ramsey, N.J. native topped the Eagles’ receiving chart with 36 catches and 512 receiving yards, as he became the first BC tight end to be named to an All-ACC team since Ryan Purvis in 2008. Sweeney’s stats don’t jump off the page compared to some other college tight ends, but his soft hands and ability to slip open in coverage are what make him so valuable in today’s NFL—that and the fact that he is a capable blocker.
FS Lukas Denis
ESPN Grade: 79 | Height: 5-foot-11 1/4 | Weight: 181
Whenever you finish the regular season tied for the national lead in interceptions, it’s almost impossible to come back with a stronger campaign the following year, at least in the eyes of general public. Yet Lukas Denis—who picked off seven passes in 2017—decided to return for his senior season last winter, acquiring one more year of experience before making the jump to the pros. Unfortunately for the free safety, his stock took a bit of a hit, due to somewhat of a mediocre season. Denis—a 2017 Walter Camp All American—failed to earn All-ACC accolades this year and missed a number of tackles in the back end. That said, he certainly had his fair share of highlight-reel plays and showcased his ability to play both corner and safety when necessary. Denis’ coverage skills, raw athleticism, and high football IQ should be enough to sway scouts.
SS Will Harris
ESPN Grade: 63 | Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 205
Will Harris has all the makings of a rover, similar to that of the Arizona Cardinals’ Deone Bucannon or the Los Angeles Rams’ Mark Barron—players that were drafted as safeties but then converted to the linebacker position. Harris, who finished the past two seasons with the fourth-most tackles on BC’s roster, is a hard-hitting machine that has a knack for filling gaps and stopping the run. What he lacks in coverage, he makes up for in the open field. Safeties playing the linebacker position in the NFL are becoming more and more common by the year. If Harris can work his way onto the field, he could very well fit the build.
DE Wyatt Ray
ESPN Grade: 68 | Height: 6-foot-3 1/8 | Weight: 251
In many ways, Wyatt Ray resembles his predecessor, Harold Landry. Light but ferocious, Ray was one of the better edge rushers in the FBS this season. Yet his nine-sack total is a little misleading, considering that seven of those sacks came in two games—but that fact alone just goes to show how much potential the Boca Raton, Fla. native really has. At any point in time, he has the skillset to completely terrorize a backfield and take over a game. Most of all, Ray is a raw talent. He has had issues timing snaps out of the two and three-point stances—potentially a reason for teams to convert him to the outside linebacker position, depending on scheme—in addition to struggling to counter back inside the pocket when stopped on the edge. His ceiling is high, but he’s not nearly as polished as Landry was coming out of BC.
CB Hamp Cheevers
ESPN Grade: N/A | Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 180
Leading the nation in interceptions does not guarantee a player a spot in the NFL Draft. Just look at Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden. The 6-foot-2 cornerback, who tallied eight interceptions in the 2016 season, went undrafted last year and ended up signing with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent. Cheevers—who finished the year tied with Syracuse’s Andre Cisco for the most picks in college football—will be up against the same challenge: proving that he’s more than just a ballhawk. There’s that and his size: Cheevers is only 5-foot-10 and about 180 pounds. Gaining some muscle mass could help the shifty defensive back—after all, he has the numbers to back up his play. He only allowed 35 receptions for 433 yards on 74 targets this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
LB Connor Strachan
ESPN Grade: 31 | Height: 6-foot-0 1/8 | Weight: 238
Connor Strachan has a nose for the ball, there’s no question about that. The graduate student totaled a career-high 91 tackles this season, eight of which were for loss, after recovering from a knee injury that cost him the final 11 games of the 2017 campaign. Strachan is a bully of a linebacker and as tough as nails. Even though he doesn’t have the coverage ability of many prospects at his position, he has no trouble closing gaps, stopping the run, and occasionally rushing the passer. In all likelihood, Strachan will be a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent that’s given a chance to earn a roster spot in training camp. From there, anything can happen.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff