FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — After the way last season ended, one of the furthest things from Arkansas Razorbacks minds is probably the 2018 NFL Draft. After all, we are nearly a full calendar year from the draft and a whole lot can happen between now and then.
Still, it’s a fun thing to think about, especially in the dog days of the football offseason. So in that spirit, here is a look at Arkansas’ top-5 2018 NFL Draft prospects. This is a seniors-only list. Obviously, with a big season, juniors like Dre Greenlaw or Ryan Pulley could enter the draft, but we’ll stick for now to players we know will be draft hopefuls in 2018.
Arkansas has only 12 scholarship seniors entering this season.
Frank Ragnow, C
Ragnow enters his senior season as a legitimate All-America and Rimington Trophy candidate. He strongly considered entering the 2017 draft before deciding to return. His Arkansas coaches and teammates were thrilled by the decision — the Razorbacks offensive line badly needs Ragnow — but it is also a choice that could result in him becoming a first-round pick.
The Minnesota native has started 26 consecutive games heading into 2017 and has played both guard and center. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has said Ragnow is versatile enough to play tackle, too, if that was needed.
Austin Allen, QB
At times last season, Allen looked like a star. He displayed his toughness in the Hogs’ early-season win at TCU and had some big passing games throughout his junior year. He also was constantly under pressure because of a struggling offensive line.
Still, Allen’s performances — especially late in the schedule — left much to be desired. His erratic play contributed heavily to the Razorbacks’ consecutive second-half meltdowns to end the season.
Everyone praised Allen’s improvement throughout the spring — especially as a leader — but his potential for an NFL future will be determined largely by how he plays through his senior year. With an almost entirely new group of receivers, Allen will be tested.
Jared Cornelius, WR
Like Ragnow, Cornelius considered entering the 2017 NFL Draft but chose to return. He battled some injury problems last season, missing an early-season game against Texas State with a back issue and then the Belk Bowl because of a bum knee.
Then he was held out of lots of spring drills because of a hamstring injury.
Cornelius was third on the team last season with 515 receiving yards. He also caught 4 touchdown passes. At one point in the middle of the season, he went over 100 yards receiving in three straight games.
With Drew Morgan and Keon Hatcher gone, Cornelius will become Arkansas’ No. 1 receiving target in 2017.
Henre’ Toliver, DB
Toliver began last season as a starting cornerback but moved to nickelback after Kevin Richardson II’s season-ending pectoral injury in the team’s opener. Toliver has started 20 games over the last two seasons and went through the spring as a first-team corner.
He’s shown impressive ability, and with a big year, could put himself in position to be drafted. Toliver has intercepted 5 career passes and broken up another 15.
Bijhon Jackson, DT
Jackson is a bit of a sleeper pick here. He’s never started a game during his Arkansas career but has appeared in 38 contests.
The El Dorado, Ark., native makes this list because of his potential in the Razorbacks’ new 3-4 defense. Jackson has the perfect body to be a very good nose guard in that system and after the spring, was atop the depth chart at that position.