DATONE JONES, DL
Size: 6-4, 283
Expected to go: Late 1st round
You can read more about Jones in today’s story on his draft prospects, but suffice it to say that the talented defensive end will likely become UCLA’s first first-round product since Marcedes Lewis in 2006. He impressed through fantastic post-season performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has even drawn comparisons to seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour. A team like Green Bay at No. 26 or Denver at No. 28 could snatch him up.
JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, RB
Size: 5-11, 195
Expected to go: 2nd round
Franklin reminds me of Shane Vereen, whom the Patriots took as a second-round pick out of Cal. Vereen rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his first regular season. After running atop the UCLA record books, “The Mayor” could easily eclipse those numbers if he ends up on a team that doesn’t use as deep a backfield rotation as New England.
“You can use him in the passing game,” said Chris Burke, NFL writer for Sports Illustrated. “You don’t have to plan to pair him with someone else who’s a better blocker or a pass-catcher. …
“You’re not gonna give him the ball and expect him to move the pile five yards. If you can get him outside, let him find the hole and make the one cut, he certainly has enough speed and shiftiness.”
JEFF BACA, OL
Size: 6-3, 302
Expected to go: 5th round
Baca wasn’t outstanding at UCLA, but did play in every spot on the line at one point or another — including three different spots during the Holiday Bowl. His versatility could attract a team that wants to build some depth on the offensive line, although that team will also have to think that Baca’s myriad holding and false start penalties are fixable.
“He’s the sixth offensive lineman for a team,” said Dane Brugler, draft analyst for CBS Sports. “He can step in at any spot. If someone gets injured, he could start for four to five games. If he ends up being more, then great. At the very least, I’m getting a guy that can be a quality backup.”
JOSEPH FAURIA, TE
Size: 6-7, 259
Expected to go: 5th or 6th round
Fauria was excellent as the No. 1 target for the Bruins last year — grabbing 12 touchdowns and becoming a semifinalist for the Mackey Award — but his subpar blocking skills significantly hurt his draft stock. The 6-foot-7 target will likely end up on a team that not only can find ways to creatively use him in the red zone, but also already has a strong blocking tight end. (Someone like the Chicago Bears’ Martellus Bennett.)
“He’s actually one of the harder guys to project, certainly on the offensive end,” Burke said. “He doesn’t block all that well. He’s sort of built like a wide receiver that’s just lived in the weight room as opposed to a tight end.”
JEFF LOCKE, P
Size: 5-11, 195
Expected to go: 6th or 7th round
Jeff Locke should be the top-rated punter in this year’s class — above Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp and LSU’s Brad Wing — and at least one punter has been drafted every year since 1998. Even if he gets left out of the first seven rounds, the two-time Ray Guy semifinalist should end up on an NFL roster.
“I do think he’ll get drafted. Where, it’s hard to peg that,” Brugler said. “He’s done it for a couple of years now. Obviously, a powerful leg. Setup is clean, transition is quick. I mentioned the leg, it is powerful.”
AARON HESTER, DB
Size: 6-2, 198
Expected to go: 7th round or undrafted
Hester looked awful for most of the season, routinely getting burned in coverage or getting called for pass interference. What keeps him as a draftable prospect, however, is his prototypical size as a cornerback. Hester isn’t fast enough to make up for being out of position, but if he can rid himself of bad habits — wandering eyes, being too hands-on — he could become That potential might be enough for a team to take a late-round flier on him.
“If you look at Brandon Browner in Seattle, he had some issues at Oregon State. He went to CFL, then finally got around to all his changes,” Brugler said, referring to the 2011 Pro Bowler. “There’s definitely a possibility (for Hester). It’s almost a long shot. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes a lot of reps.”
OTHERS: Longsnapper Kevin McDermott won’t get drafted, but coach Jim Mora said 15 NFL teams have come to UCLA to work him out — and all said he was the best in the country. … Receiver Jerry Johnson and cornerback Sheldon Price could get looked at as free agents.
“As soon as the draft’s over,” Mora said, “if our guys aren’t drafted, my job now is now to get on the phone and call teams and get (fullback) David Allen a tryout, and get, maybe (offensive lineman) Brett Downey gets a tryout. At least a tryout if not in camp.”