Less than four weeks remain until the football world turns its attention to Nashville, Tenn. for the 2019 NFL draft.
TCU football had its fair share of representation at the event one year ago as three Horned Frogs — linebacker Travin Howard and offensive linemen Matt Pryor and Joseph Noteboom — were drafted. An additional 11 TCU players signed NFL deals as undrafted free agents in the days following.
With the senior bowl, the combine and TCU’s pro day now all in the rear-view mirror, it’s increasingly clear which Horned Frogs have a chance at making noise in this year’s draft. At least one impact player from the team’s 2018 campaign has been projected as a first-round pick by some following an impressive offseason.
For those who have kept up, it’s not exactly a secret as to who from TCU has been drawing interest among NFL teams. But to make sure we’re all caught up to speed, let’s go ahead and run through the trio of Horned Frogs who are most likely to be selected, in order, once NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hits the podium in the Music City.
1. L.J. Collier, DE
The 6-foot-4, 283-pound defensive end from Munday, Texas rapidly has rapidly progressed from being a first-year starter on TCU’s defensive line just last season to the hottest commodity this spring among the potential draftees out of Fort Worth. Though he had 42 total tackles and 4 pass breakups for the Horned Frogs as senior in 2018, it wasn’t until strong performances at both the senior bowl and combine earlier this year that Collier began to garner widespread praise from scouts and draft analysts for his instincts.
Collier said at TCU’s pro day on Mar. 29 that he had a plethora of workouts scheduled with NFL teams, including a private session with the Dallas Cowboys in early April. Houston, Arizona, Baltimore and New Orleans were among the others mentioned. Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was also in attendance for Collier’s pro day session in Fort Worth.
What the experts are saying: Though his projections have varied, the consensus is that Collier will be the first to go among TCU’s draft prospects — and potentially somewhat early.
Former Dallas Cowboys VP of player personnel Gil Brandt tweeted following TCU’s pro day that Collier’s showings since the start of 2019 could land him on the “back end” of the first round in the draft. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, meanwhile, rated Collier as the No. 65 overall draft prospect as of March 15, with praise for his “powerful hands” and quick reaction-time to plays. Elsewhere, NFL.com’s Chad Reuter projected Collier as a third-round pick to Seattle in his Mar. 28 mock draft, while CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson had him going as a second-round pick to Philadelphia.
Prediction: Early-to-mid 2nd round
2. Ben Banogu, DE
No surprise that the Horned Frogs’ top two draft prospects this spring are both defensive ends, considering past TCU greats among the likes of Jerry Hughes and Bo Schobel that went on to play in the NFL. It took several weeks into the season for Banogu to get fully going last fall after a breakout 2017 season — his first playing for TCU — but the former Louisiana-Monroe transfer picked things up in a hurry en route to 52 total tackles and a pair of both forced fumbles and fumble recoveries on the year. The 6-foot-4, 256-pounder also tallied 8.5 sacks for a second straight season in 2018, and had a team-high 18 tackles for loss.
Like Collier, Banogu was also a participant in both the senior bowl and combine, where he continued to impress scouts. Banogu’s broad jump of 11 feet and 2 inches at the combine was the longest by a defensive lineman at the event since 2003. Banogu said at TCU’s pro day that upcoming visits to the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers were on his itinerary and that he would participate in the Dallas Cowboys’ “Dallas Day” this month. Banogu was also seen chatting one-on-one with Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair at pro day following his workout.
What the experts are saying: Several pundits have offered up their takes on Banogu ahead of the draft. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein praised Banogu for his athleticism, but had this to say about concerns over how his college success would translate to the NFL:
“His quickness created opportunities with inside moves and twists in college, but NFL tackles will shut and lock that interior door on him until he proves he can threaten them around the corner. Banogu could challenge for a nickel rush position in the future, but he still needs work.”
Of course, impressive showings for Banogu at the senior bowl, combine and most recently, pro day, did him plenty of favors in alleviating any concerns teams may have had over his NFL skillset. Both CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson and NFL.com’s Chad Reuter had Banogu as a third-round selection, headed to Pittsburgh and Chicago, respectively.
Projection: Early-to-mid 3rd round
3. Ty Summers, LB
If you want to find a player that perfectly fits the mold of the under-recruited and then radically transformed Gary Patterson product at TCU, look no further than Summers, who was a quarterback in high school before making the jump to linebacker in college. Not only did he take on a completely new frontier as a Horned Frog, but he thrived, finishing as TCU’s second all-time leading tackler in the Patterson era (317). Summers had a career-best 121 total tackles as a sophomore in 2016, and even an injury-plagued senior campaign didn’t stop him from posting 46 total tackles with 4 sacks in 2018.
Though Summers didn’t join Collier and Banogu at the senior bowl, he did earn an invite to the combine, where he was among the fastest linebackers at the event with a time of 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash. It was a similarly impressive scene at pro day, as Summers matched his time from the combine in the 40-yard dash while also running a 7.00 in the 3-cone drill. Both times were the fastest of the day, and only further improved his stock with representatives from all 32 franchises on hand.
What the experts are saying: Summers is still largely an under-the-radar draft candidate — at least compared to Banogu and Collier, in terms of attention — but that can change as scouts and draft analysts continue to review his latest performance from pro day on Friday. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein suggested that Summers could go as a late round pick later this month. And that can make him a potential steal if Friday’s performance is any indicator of what he can bring to the next level:
“Inside linebacker possessing the physical qualities of an NFL player but lacking the necessary instincts and feel to make plays on his terms. While Summers won’t always play to his top speed, he could very well run a pre-draft sub 4.6 40, which could make him a late-round target for teams who view him as back-end depth and a potential core special teamer.”
Projection: 6th or 7th round
Other names to watch
LB Alec Dunham
LB Arico Evans
LB Jawuan Johnson
S Ridwan Issahaku
WR Jarrison Stewart
WR KaVontae Turpin (dismissed in October, held separate workout on Mar. 29)