NFL Draft: USC’s Grimble is area’s best hope to be picked

The 2014 NFL Draft begins its three-day, seven-round run with 32 first round picks starting tonight at 5 p.m. on the NFL Network and ESPN.

But don’t look for anyone with Las Vegas area ties to be drafted before Saturday when rounds 4-7 are held beginning at 9 a.m.

USC tight end Xavier Grimble, who starred at Bishop Gorman High School, is projected to go as high as the fourth round in some mock drafts and as low as a priority free agent in others. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound former Parade All-American bypassed his final season despite catching just 25 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns during an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.

Still Grimble, a 2012 honorable mention all-Pac-12 pick, has a big booster in former interim Trojan head coach Ed Orgeron.

“I think Xavier is going to be an All-Pro in the NFL,” Orgeron told “He has an unusual body size for a tight end that looks like a left tackle. He can block, run and catch and he’s a great young man.”

UNLV hasn’t had a player drafted since 2010 when offensive lineman Joe Hawley was selected in the fourth round with the 117th pick by the Atlanta Falcons. And there’s a good possibility that the Rebels could be blanked again this year.

The Rebels with the best possibility of being chosen are running back Tim Cornett and linebacker Tani Maka.

The 6-foot, 209-pound Cornett, the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,733 yards, helped his stock at the NFL Combine in February by running a 4.48 forty, which tied him for sixth fastest out of 33 backs, and a 11.72 60-yard shuttle, which was fifth best among all running backs.

However, Cornett also struggled in pass-catching drills. That drew the attention of respected draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.

“He’s letting it into his body. He has no confidence in his hands,” Mayock said. Then, after a pass went through Cornett’s hands and bounced off his chest, Mayock added “Cornett has no ball skills.”

Nine NFL teams, including running backs coaches Stump Mitchell of Arizona and Duce Staley of Philadelphia, attended UNLV’s Pro Day in March when Cornett did 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench and added a 36½-inch vertical jump to his resume. ranks Cornett as the 489th best prospect in the 256-pick draft, a likely free agent signing.

The 6-foot, 243-pound Maka was timed at 4.81 in the forty and did 24 reps in the bench at the Pro Day. Gil Brandt, the vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989 who is now a senior analyst for, listed Maka among his 49 “no-name prospects on the rise for the 2014 NFL Draft” last week.

“The question with him is if he can play all downs,” Brandt wrote. “Still, he’ll be a good free agent for camp with a chance to make it onto a roster.”

Former Palo Verde High star Torin Harris, a cornerback from USC who ran a 4.46 forty, also was listed in that article.

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring, UCLA linebacker Keenan Graham, who starred at Silverado High School and Northwestern linebacker Damien Proby and Utah offensive guard Jeremiah Tofaeono, both products of Cheyenne High School, are other local players who are regarded as potential free agent signees.

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