It’s very likely the Arizona Wildcats will go without having a player taken in the NFL Draft for the second year in a row and third time in five years, though either defensive lineman Roy Lopez Jr. or running back Gary Brightwell could end up hearing their name called this weekend in Cleveland.
At least one draft expert not only expects Brightwell to get picked, he’s got him potentially going much earlier than anyone else.
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah released his top 150 draft prospects on Tuesday, with Brightwell sitting at No. 138. That would translate to late in the fourth round, which would be the earliest a UA player has been drafted since Ka’Deem Carey went in the fourth round to the Chicago Bears in 2014. Carey was also Arizona’s last offensive player to be selected.
Unfortunately, no other draft analysts share Jeremiah’s lofty ranking for Brightwell. And it’s not even close.
Last week The Athletic’s Arif Hasan compiled a consensus big board, using 50 different lists to come up with a composite top 300 prospects. And Brightwell isn’t on there, nor is Lopez, though Hasan said on Twitter that Brightwell would have made the cut if his list was of the top 500 prospects.
Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan ranks Brightwell as the No. 38 running back in the draft, noting his potential thanks to his physical tools while also highlighting the ex-Wildcats’ struggles on pass protection in college. Those things are echoed on Brightwell’s NFL.com prospect page, where it gives him a rating of 5.6 which equates to someone who has a “chance to make end of roster or practice squad.”
Brightwell, an all-Pac-12 honorable mention choice as a senior in 2020, ran for 1,305 yards and nine touchdowns and added 19 catches for 121 yards and a score in his career.
Another NFL.com analyst, Chad Reuter, doesn’t have Brightwell on his 7-round mock draft that was released Friday but he does have Lopez going in the seventh round (No. 238 overall) to the Tennessee Titans. Lopez’s NFL.com draft rating is 5.68.