In these days and times, every college football player is going to leave school early and become a millionaire in the NFL. Some of them actually do become millionaires, but it’s a very small percentage. A lot of them aren’t even picked in the draft. Still others sign free agent contracts with NFL teams. Some of them make it as a undrafted free agent, but most of them don’t.
Some of the guys leaving early have already earned their degrees and those aren’t the guys that this blog is worried about. A lot of them don’t even bother with class because they just know they are going to be a super star in the NFL.
Almost lost in all of the players moving on and becoming the next NFL super stars is the schools they leave behind.
So, which schools took the biggest hits from players leaving early?
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the Polls much of last season, but that was a good ranking. This #1 ranking is not so good.
The Buckeyes lost 9 underclassmen that declared for the NFL. Heading that list was possibly the very top pick in the upcoming draft, Defensive End Joey Bosa.
On the other side of the football, one of the nation’s great Running Backs Ezekiel Elliott is also Michael Thomas is another player that should be popular on draft day. Wide Receiver Jalin Marshall and Quarterback Cardale Jones should also be picked, but the question is when.
leaving. He should also go pretty early in the draft. Wide Receiver
The Defensive Backfield loses 3 out of 4 starters with the declaration of Cornerback Eli Apple and Safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell. Speedy Outside Linebacker Darron Lee is also leaving.
Elliott is a super star at Running Back and replacing him won’t be easy for the Buckeyes. Thomas at Wide Receiver also is a heavy blow. The Defense loses 5 players which is a heavy, heavy hit even if the Buckeyes have plenty of talent to replace them. The Buckeyes have brought in some monster recruiting classes in recent seasons which will help out. They have plenty of heavy hitters waiting in the wings including 5 star incoming recruit Nick Bosa.
2. Clemson: The Clemson Tigers will be most everyone’s #1 team in the preseason Polls and there’s plenty of reasons why. The number one reason for the number 1 ranking will be Deshaun Watson, but there is plenty of other talent available. Like the Buckeyes, the Clemson Tigers have recruiting outstanding talent the past few years.
But, also like the Buckeyes, the Tigers took some heavy hits due to everyone’s quest to be a millionaire.
The biggest loss is All American Defensive End Shaq Lawson. In their game against Notre Dame, Lawson was simply too much for All American Irish Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley to handle and they had to give Stanley some help. Lawson is a beast coming off of the edge. However, he was not the Kevin Dodd really came on last season and was a killer in the two playoff games. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander is one of the best in the country and should be a top round choice. Overall, the Tigers lose 7 players to the NFL with most of them on defense. Defensive Backs Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green are also leaving. Linebacker Travis Blanks has also declared but he was the team’s 8th leading tackler.
only huge loss on defense as fellow Defensive End
Backup Running back Zac Brooks is also leaving for the next level and that’s a real head scratcher.
3. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish only lose 4 early declarations to the NFL, but 2 of them were very good for the Irish the past few seasons. Another was a life saver in 2015 when he moved from Wide Receiver to Running Back and was an instant star.
Jaylon Smith at Linebacker was as good as there was in college football last season. He was the defensive leader for the Fighting Irish over the past two seasons at least. Replacing a Jaylon Smith type of talent is almost impossible.
Over on the other side of the ball, losing Will Fuller will be a huge blow. Fuller had 29 Touchdown receptions the past two seasons.
C.J. Prosise was a God send for the Irish last year with the loss of other Running Backs. The 6-1, 220 Prosise showed a lot of speed and instinct while running for 1,029 yards in eleven games.
Cornerback KeiVarae Russell is also leaving and he was one of the team’s top Defensive Backs a year ago.
Losing Smith and Fuller will be huge blows to the Fighting Irish. Prosise will be missed, but freshman Running Back Josh Adams came on strong late last season and looks like a future star. Plus Tarean Folston should be back the last time I checked which was about 5 minutes ago.
4. Ole Miss: The Rebels are only losing 3 players to early declarations, but they are all 1st round draft picks and very big losses. The biggest loss of all is super junior Wide Receiver Laquon Treadwell. If you follow Ole Miss at all, you will agree that Treadwell is a true difference maker and their best player on Offense the past couple of seasons. You have to admire the man for his valiant comeback from his severe injury against Auburn in 2014 that ruined his season and probably the Ole Miss team’s season as well. Treadwell should be a first round pick for a variety of reasons most of
which he is just really good.
Offensive Tackle Laremy Tunsil is considered the best at his position in the country and he should be the top Offensive Tackle taken. Left Tackles are at a premium and Tunsil should go in the top 5 or 10 picks. He is that good. On the other side of the ball there is Defensive Tackle Robert Nkemdiche. There was talk of Nkemdiche going with the first pick in the entire draft. Then, the incident in Miami happened when Nkemdiche fell out of hotel room onto the concrete below and it turns out he was using a synthetic drug. Nkemdiche may have cost himself hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few moments of being high. But, don’t kid yourself. Teams will still gobble him up with their first pick and he will definitely test very well whether it’s at the NFL Combine or at a private workout. He is super big, super fast and super talented, but he never really produced that well on the field.
The Ole Miss Rebels played well without Tunsil and Nkemdiche, but they did not play well without Treadwell in 2014.
5. UCLA: The Bruins lose 6 players to the NFL with Running Back Paul Perkins and Defensive Lineman Kenny Clark being the biggest losses. Perkins has been a 3 year star for the Bruins and gained 2,148 yards over that time. Plus, he was outstanding at picking up the blitz and protecting his Quarterback. The 6-3, 310 Defensive Tackle Clark has been one of the most productive inside Defensive Linemen in the country over the past 2 seasons.
Myles Jack is also a talent that played both Linebacker and Running Back for the Bruins. He is projected as a 1st round pick by some, but he’s coming off of a serious knee injury.
Wide Receiver Thomas Duarte has declared as well and he was Josh Rosen’s go to guy inside the Red Zone and he will be a big loss for the Bruins offense in 2016.
Offensive Tackle Caleb Benenoch and Offensive Guard Alex Redmond have also declared. Both are long time starters and both could have improved their standing in the draft by returning.
6. Florida: The Gators’ defense took a huge hit when Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves declared for the NFL, but that was expected for the past two seasons, at least. He will be an early pick and be well paid. The Gators play great defense and they have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. But, the offense took a huge blow when 1,000 yard Running Back Kelvin Taylor decided he had had enough of college football and announced he is moving on.
Defensive Back Keanu Neal is also leaving. The strange move was Alex McAllister. The former Gator Defensive End may have had nowhere else to go as the Gators had booted him from the team. So, he’s just going to announce for the NFL. McAllister could probably play Outside Linebacker in a 3-4 type of defense if somebody is willing to take a chance on a guy that got booted from his college team.
7. California: Even though I have been slightly critical of Quarterback Jared Goff in the past, a guy of his talent is hard to replace at the ever important Quarterback position. My main objection was the media comparing Goff to Aaron Rodgers. Even though I don’t believe he’s another Rodgers, and he is very slight of frame, the Golden Bears are going to have a hard time replacing him in one season. The experts have Goff down as the top Quarterback and that should mean a top 5 or 10 pick and big
money so he has to go. His 12,000 plus passing yardage and 96 passing touchdowns are remarkable numbers. Still, I worry about his body taking hits in the NFL when the team that picks him is likely to not be very good.
Wide Receiver Kenny Lawler is an outstanding talent at receiver. He had 13 Touchdown receptions last season while being Goff’s favorite target. Also, like Goff, he is rather skinny at 6-3, 195. But, he is a tough receiver to cover and has great hands.
Cal coach Sonny Dykes and Goff came in the same year and the Bears had a rough season going 1-11. The Bears improved to 5-7 the following season and then 8-5 in 2015. A lot of that was on Jared Goff and Kenny Lawler and they will be hard to replace.
8. Arizona: Sometimes it is quality over quantity. The Wildcats of Arizona lose the heart and soul of their 2014 Pac 12 South champion team and it’s defense in Scooby Wright. I have a different idea about when Wright is drafted than a lot of fans do. Being an outstanding college player doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the NFL and I don’t believe that Scooby Wright will be a 1st round draft pick as many fans do. He will probably more likely go in the 3rd round. Scooby had to miss most of his junior season with injuries and the Wildcats slipped quite a bit from 2014 and finished Cayleb Jones has also declared but the Wildcats have a lot of depth at Wide Receiver while having almost nothing at Linebacker.
with a 7-6 record. Their top Wide Receiver
9. Alabama: The Crimson Tide actually didn’t lose as many guys as I thought they would, but the losses were very important players. Derrick Henry of the Heisman Trophy winning variety is obviously on his way to the NFL. There is a huge difference of opinion in how early Henry will be picked. Some say he will go in the 1st round and others say all the way to the 3rd. I have a hard time believing he won’t be picked at least somewhere in the 1st. On the defensive side of the ball, the Tide loses excellent Defensive Lineman A’Shawn Robinson. He is outstanding, but the reason his loss won’t be felt as much as other players on this list is the incredible depth of the Alabama Crimson Tide at pretty much every position.
I was shocked that Tight End O.J. Howard, Linebacker Reuben Foster and Defensive Back Eddie Jackson decided to return for their senior seasons.
10. Arkansas: The Razorbacks lose both star Running backs in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams which are huge losses. However, I believe this gives huge Running Back Kody Walker a chance to shine, or I would have the Pigs rated much lower on this list.
Tight End Hunter Henry is considered by most to be the top Tight End available in this year’s draft and his loss is a big one. But, the Hogs have a very talented back up in Jeremy Sprinkle and a few more talented guys on the roster.
Perhaps the biggest loss in the Ozarks is Left Tackle Denver Kirkland. The Razorbacks have had a solid Offensive Line and Kirkland has been their best guy the past 3 seasons. Kirkland won’t go that early, but he should find a spot at Offensive Guard in the NFL.