• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado receiver Juwann Winfree has the size and talent that NFL teams look for in the draft.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Colorado's Evan Worthington could be the next CU defensive back drafted and possibly CU's top prospect next year.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado safety Nick Fisher has had some great moments at CU, but has never been a full-time starter.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado quarterback Steven Montez could declare for the NFL draft after his junior season if he has a big year.



Yet another NFL draft has come and gone, with the Colorado Buffaloes having a small part in the weekend.

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver, a second-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons, was the only player from CU selected. That’s not too much of a surprise, although there was plenty of hope going into the weekend that running back Phillip Lindsay would hear his name, as well.

With the exception of 2017, the NFL hasn’t taken a chance on many CU players in recent years. A grand total of six Buffs have been drafted in the past five years, with four of them going in 2017. That’s quite a change from the days not too long ago when CU annually had a handful of players drafted.

Could the trend change in 2019?

While it’s still very early, and knowing that plenty of things could change between now and next April, let’s look at CU top draft candidates for next year. This list includes mainly seniors, but also a couple of juniors — and one sophomore — who could declare early with a great season. This list is in order of draft potential (purely opinion and speculation at this point, of course):

1. S Evan Worthington (6-foot-2, 205 pounds): He hasn’t been the ball hawk that Tedric Thompson (2017 fourth-round pick) was at CU, but Worthington might be a better athlete and has proven himself to be good against the run and in pass coverage. If Worthington can take his game to another level this year, he should be the next CU defensive back drafted and possibly CU’s top prospect next year.

2. WR Juwann Winfree (6-3, 210): CU had a talented trio of receivers that went undrafted this year, but Winfree is more physically gifted than all of them. He’s a big, strong and fast receiver who is possibly CU’s best pro prospect at the position since Paul Richardson was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.

3. ILB Drew Lewis (6-2, 225): Arguably the best athlete on the team, Lewis was highly productive in his first season as a starter last fall, and even flashed his ability to rush the passer. A much more consistent season from Lewis this year would not only help the Buffs, but also his draft stock. He’s sure to put up some impressive workout numbers next spring.

4. RB Travon McMillian (6-0, 210): Not a Buff until he arrives on campus this summer as a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, he’s got a good shot to start at tailback. CU hasn’t had a tailback drafted since Chris Brown in 2003, but McMillian could end that drought. At his size, he fits the NFL mold better than Lindsay. The NFL loves big backs, and if McMillian even has a solid season (700-plus yards, around 5 yards per carry), he could get the call.

Others to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order):

NT Javier Edwards (6-3, 340): He’s got the size, but has to improve quite a bit to be as good as Josh Tupou was for the Buffs in 2016, and even Tupou wasn’t drafted. Edwards would likely need to make a monster jump this year to have a chance at the draft.

WR Kabion Ento (6-3, 190): So far, Ento’s best work has come in the offseason, so he needs to prove himself this year. He’s got the height and athleticism, but likely needs to add some strength. A big season could open some eyes around the NFL.

S Nick Fisher (6-0, 190): He’s on the small side for an NFL safety, but has also played some corner and that versatility could be attractive to scouts. Fisher has had some great moments at CU, but has never been a full-time starter. He first needs to show that he can be a dominant player over the course of a full season.

ILB Rick Gamboa (6-0, 240): His speed is sometimes an issue in the Pac-12, which means it will certainly be an issue in the NFL. However, he’s got the experience, production and football IQ to potentially get a look from scouts.

P Alex Kinney (6-1, 205): There were four punters drafted this year, but only 20 in the last 10 years combined. Kinney may not get drafted, but if he can put together his best season, he’s got a shot to get an opportunity.

G/C Tim Lynott, Jr. (6-3, 300): He’s a junior coming off a torn Achilles, so he may not be a likely candidate to declare early. But, if he proves he’s healthy and has a great year, his versatility on the interior line could make him an attractive prospect.

QB Steven Montez (6-5, 230): He’s just a junior, but if he has a big season, it’s not out of the question that he’d declare early for the draft. He certainly has an NFL-type body, but needs to show improvement with his decision making and reading of defenses.

DL Chris Mulumba (6-4, 275): If he makes the type of jump he made in 2017, Mulumba could get into the draft discussion. He’s got exceptional athletic ability and also maturity, as he will be 26 in October.

PK James Stefanou (6-1, 195): The 31-year-old Stefanou could be the rare true sophomore that declares for the draft (players must be three years removed from high school to enter the draft). He had a solid year in 2017, and if he’s even better this year — and gets a chance to prove he can handle kickoffs — he could find himself in the NFL in 2019.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33