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Breaking down Cal's prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft

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APRIL 26, 2016

With Jared Goff likely to go first in Thursday’s NFL Draft, Cal has been mentioned throughout the draft process. But what about everyone else?

Kenny Lawler

Cal’s top wide receiver this past season, Lawler declared early for the draft, forgoing his senior season. He takes with him an impressive statistical profile, highlighted by his 27 career touchdowns, which is tied for second in program history.

He was Goff’s top target in the endzone for the past two seasons, pacing the team in touchdowns in both years with nine as a sophomore and 13 this past season. Lawler brings an interesting skillset to the table, highlighted by his ability to make spectacular catches, earning him the nickname “Vicinity Kenny.” His proficiency at making such plays should carry over to the NFL, giving him the opportunity to be a big play threat and a viable option in the redzone.

Lawler has impressive hands and excels at contorting his body in order to catch off-target passes, which could also have him destined for a job as a possession receiver in the slot. But he made a habit of losing concentration on some passes thrown his way, leading to some bad drops. He also won’t be anywhere near the fastest receiver on the board — he notched a disappointing 4.64 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine — and that, along with his lack of strength, will make it difficult for him to get open consistently.

He also isn’t great at beating people in space, which along with his speed and thin frame, could hold back his ceiling. Lawler’s hands, size — 6 feet and 2 inches — and agility, however, still make him a solid receiver prospect.

Projection: fourth to fifth round

Daniel Lasco

Before the combine, Lasco wasn’t high on many people’s boards. And then Lasco had himself a performance. He ran his 40 in 4.46 seconds a top-five time among running backs — and proved to be a physical freak with a 41.5-inch vertical leap and a 135-inch broad jump, both easily best among his position group. Since that spectacle, Lasco’s name has risen up draft boards, from borderline draftable to a mid-round pick.

Lasco also boasts some intriguing facets to his game. Looking back at 2014, Lasco’s junior season, one can see reason for optimism about the running back. He rushed for 1,115 yards that season on 210 carries to go along with 356 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. The running back had his 2015 campaign marred by injury, however, and though he appeared in nine games, he only carried the ball 65 times for 331 yards and three touchdowns. These injuries may be a concern moving forward.

Additionally, Lasco’s vision is not a strength. He’s merely adequate at finding holes if the first one isn’t open.  Lasco is impressive, however, in his versatility. He’s strong enough to get yards inside, fast and elusive enough to run outside and is going to be a positive presence in the passing game from day one, both as a receiver and a blocker.

If Lasco can avoid injuries and shed his fumble issues — a big if, because he had a far-too-high fumble rate of 2.2 percent in college — he should be a solid contributor at the next level.

Projection: fourth to fifth round

Stephen Anderson

Anderson was a flex tight end at Cal but essentially functioned as a wide receiver. He had 87 catches for seven touchdowns in the last two seasons. He’s a reliable route runner, especially in the short-passing game, and was impressive at boxing out his defenders to make catches. Anderson’s hands were shaky, however, though his improvement there is promising.

He rarely blocked in college and is certainly not built to hold up in such a role in the NFL. Anderson’s size and blocking have him more suited to play exclusively as a wide receiver. But with so many pro teams spreading tight ends out on most plays, Anderson still may find a role, as a tight end in name at least.

Projection: sixth to seventh round

Trevor Davis

Davis’ best chance of carving out a role in the NFL may be as a kick returner, where he averaged 24.7 yards per return in the last two seasons to go along with two touchdowns. Those numbers are somewhat skewed by an excellent 2014 season during which he averaged more than 30 yards per return.

As a receiver, Davis could use a lot of work. He can make people miss, so he may be a good option in the screen game, but his speed doesn’t come in as handy in the vertical passing game, where Davis sometimes struggled to track the ball. His route running has a lot of work to do, and Davis is not yet playable against press coverage, but his speed and body — he’s 6 feet and 2 inches and 185 pounds — make him an intriguing prospect.

That, along with his prowess as a returner, will likely give Davis a chance to get on NFL teams’ radars.

Projection: seventh round to undrafted free agent

Here are Cal’s other notable draft-eligible players, all of whom are most likely to go undrafted: Bryce Treggs (could be drafted late or signed as a free agent), Maurice Harris, Kyle Kragen, Darius Powe, Stefan McClure, Mustafa Jalil and Darius White.

Hooman Yazdanian is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian

APRIL 26, 2016

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