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Jon Wilner, others take stock of WSU players in the NFL draft

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Pac-12 scribe’s sources see four Cougars being selected.

Washington State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

With the NFL combine starting next weekend the draft prospects of this year’s class are starting to come into focus. Pac-12 writer Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News decided to take a shot at evaluating the draft prospects coming out of the Pac-12 with the help of trusted sources.

The first player he sees going from WSU is quarterback Luke Falk in the third/fourth round range. Peter King of Sports Illustrated is even more bullish on Falk predicting that he could land with the Saints with the 27th pick in the first round as a replacement for Drew Brees.

Peter King: “I can’t see Drew Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67% accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development.”

Fit: The last QB the Saints drafted to marinate behind Brees was Garrett Grayson, who posted completion rates of 62.1% and 64.3% in his two years running a pro-style offense at Colorado State before heading to New Orleans in the third round of the 2015 draft. Falk should be given a longer look than some of his Washington State predecessors who have struggled to stick as pros after lighting it up in Mike Leach’s Air Raid-based offense. He compares favorably in stature to Grayson, whom the Saints cut last summer after only two years—not that a quarterback’s size has ever held the New Orleans offense back.

Most draft analysts are with Wilner pegging Luke to go late third/early fourth.

Wilner also shows Hercules Mata’afa in the same range. Wilner also thinks that Mata’afa has the potential to fall in the draft in particular. Hercules seems to one of the most polarizing players in the entire draft due to a lack of defined position. Some draft experts such as Jonah Tuls see him as a slam dunk first rounder while others see him as more in the middle rounds. The combine will huge in influencing his draft stock. Bleacher Report sees a potential Soloman Thomas-like rise if he has a great workout.

The projection of Mata’afa is similar to third overall pick Solomon Thomas’ last year. He’s a super-athletic edge-defender who produced at a high level as a defensive tackle for a West Coast school and declared early. The only issue is that Mata’afa is even smaller than Thomas, making his projection even hazier.

Because of this, Mata’afa needs to have a big week at the combine. If the last two years of film are any hint, he’s going to test similar to a Vic Beasley-style pass-rusher. Athleticism is how he wins, so it should come as a shock to no one when he cements himself as a Day 2 prospect, or even more, after the week.

Cole Madison checks in at the fourth/fifth round range after a strong Senior Bowl showing. Wilner lists Madison as a guard as he will likely have to switch from tackle as he heads to the pros. Cody O’Connell was listed as 7th round selection as the All-American’s lack of quickness seems to have lowered his stock. Tavares Martin Jr. was absent from the list, but that could change with a good performance at the combine.

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