Quarterback Brian Lewerke's return is a big reason for lofty expectations this season at Michigan State.
For a few, Lewerke is a Heisman Trophy "darkhorse." For the Sporting News, the junior is also a high first-round NFL Draft prospect — as early as 2019.
The Sporting News has the Miami Dolphins selecting Lewerke at No. 7 overall in its first 2019 NFL mock draft, posted Wednesday.
Lewerke would have to forgo his senior season at Michigan State to enter the draft. As a sophomore, Lewerke threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, while completing 59 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 559 yards (4.5 yards per carry), which ranked second on the team, and five more touchdowns.
"If the Dolphins finish with a bottom-10 record in 2018," writes Eric Galko, a Sporting News contributor who also is owner and the director of scouting at Optimum Scouting, "they will have to consider moving on from QB Ryan Tannehill (and maybe coach Adam Gase). If Lewerke is not considered a top QB prospect yet, then he should be."
Galko has the Lions selecting Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat with the No. 11 pick, which is based on current Super Bowl odds. Sweat spent 2014 at Michigan State before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College, and then to Mississippi State.
"The Lions will have plenty of defensive line options in the 2019 NFL Draft," Galko writes. "Sweat is a high-upside, versatile edge player who has an ability to generate pressure in isolation. That’s ideal for coach Matt Patricia’s defense."
Also making the Sporting News' first round: Ohio State offensive lineman and former Plymouth standout Michael Jordan, who is slotted to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 28, and Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, who is targeted for the Los Angeles Rams at No. 31 as a junior.
"The Rams are loaded … except at defensive end and linebacker," Galko writes. "Those weaknesses might be less concerning thanks to the team’s DT and DB talent, but LA needs to upgrade both spots moving forward. Bush is a bit of a strong safety/linebacker tweener, but he’s too special to fall out of Round 1."
Absent from the Sporting News mock is Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, who like Lewerke and Bush would have to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Gary's name has been all over 2019 draft boards, including a rank of third overall on ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's top 32 players for the 2019 NFL Draft.