For the first time in more than a decade, zero Arkansas State or Central Florida players were selected in the NFL draft. Twenty-four players from the two 2016 Cure Bowl participants were chosen between 2005-2015, including former Knights Latavius Murray and Josh Sitton, and former Red Wolves Demario Davis and Derek Newton.
But the two programs who combined for 86 wins from 2010-14 were shut out of the 2016 NFL Draft. Will either team get off the schneid in 2017? Here’s a look at the top 2017 NFL Draft prospects in the Cure Bowl.
Although NFL teams won’t flock to Orlando on Dec. 17, some scouts may have their eye on the trio from Arkansas State, particularly safety Money Hunter and defensive tackle Dee Liner, a former Alabama transfer.
Hunter, the son of Torii Hunter, has transformed from two-star recruit with minimal Power 5 interest to top-20 prospect at his position. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound ball hawk — six interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns, a Sun Belt record — is good in run support and can match up with larger tight ends.
— #FunBelt (@SunBelt) November 14, 2016
Teammate Dee Liner and Jemar Clark will look to join him as a third-day selection — if the former departs after his redshirt junior season. At 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, Liner is big, strong and disruptive anywhere on the line, including between the guards, where he racked up most of his 31 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.
Arkansas State’s best chance for an offensive draftee is Clark, a two-time All-Sun Belt First-Teamer and one of just two conference players to earn First-Team honors in both 2015 and 2016. The 6-foot-6, 307-pound blind-side protector did miss five games this season due to injury but still helped the Red Wolves break the conference scoring mark (40 points per game) while averaging 438.5 yards of offense.
Central Florida, meanwhile, could be shut out for the second straight season after having at least one player selected every year between 2006-15.
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin will be valued by teams as a big (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), versatile defender — starts at both safety and cornerback — with great ball skills — 25 pass breakups and six interceptions over the last two seasons. Late Saturday selection is the best case for the senior from St. Petersburg, Fla.