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While some of you are plowing your way through your league’s playoffs, others have unfortunately been eliminated. Whichever boat you are in, only the irresponsible manager hasn’t thought about what may be on the horizon, and who might not be on the roster at this point next season. In the coming weeks we’ll preview those who might depart, who's graduating and those who may step into the limelight as a result. So, in the first of a multi-faceted piece, let’s start guessing who’s bidding adieu to the collegiate ranks with the promise of riches on Sundays.
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma – Still has a year left, but we already know his intentions…we all wish things had played out better this year for Bradford, and hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame – As often as Clausen drops back and slings it around, you’d think he is Tom Brady running the Pats offense. Clausen has really blossomed in his junior season, and it’s hard to imagine his stock rising any higher. Add in the coaching turmoil in South Bend, and Clausen is as good as gone.
Jake Locker, Washington – Locker’s season has been marked with inconsistency, but he has the size, arm, and mobility to make scouts drool. Locker figures to test well, and if he can finish the season strong, the potential is enough to make him a top pick. His amateur days are probably coming to an end.
Jevan Snead, Ole Miss – Coming in to the year, Snead was a hot name in NFL draft circles, and it seemed safe to say this would be Snead’s last in Oxford. But Snead has struggled this year and has already matched his INT totals from last year, making this an interesting decision.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas – This one could be interesting. Mallett has great size and can throw the football a mile. He’s also looked more mobile than I expected, and has only thrown three INTs through week 10. While I don’t expect Mallett to be in the draft, if he learned anything from Jevan Snead, maybe he’d be wise to take a different path to the pros.
Others to watch: Case Keenum/Houston, Christian Ponder/FSU, Colin Kaepernick/Nevanda and Jerrod Johnson/Texas A&M
Prediction: Clausen, Bradford, Locker – Gone. Snead – 50/50. Mallett returns.
Jahvid Best, California – Sadly, this one seems pretty simple. It's great that Best is back on campus as he continues to recover from last week’s terrifying fall, but that play has to be enough for Best to realize what’s at stake every time he takes the field. It’s a shame that will probably Best’s last carry as an amateur.
Ryan Mathews, Fresno State – Mathews has battled durability issues throughout his career, and until last week he had avoided the injury bug while having an absolutely huge 2009 season. His stock can’t get any higher and last weekend's concussion is a reminder of just how fragile one can be…say adios!
Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech – Dwyer has the size and burst to be an elite running back in the NFL. He is coming on strong as the season closes out, and the GT system shouldn’t hurt his draft position. I think he is a 1st round pick whenever he comes out, and that’s probably sooner than later.
Charles Clay, Tulsa – Clay's biggest asset is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something NFL scouts love. The question with Clay is his position. Assuming he plays fullback, he has a chance to be the first off the board. I’d probably draft Clay over Tommy Vardell, so that should be enough ammo for Clay to ponder.
Joe McKnight, USC – After two seasons of mediocrity, McKnight has blossomed as a junior. More consistent opportunities have certainly helped. He should have even more opportunities next season, if there is a next season.
Graig Cooper, Miami – Cooper submitted his name last season to the Draft Advisory Board. As a die hard Miami fan, I can be overly critical sometimes, but Cooper has shown improvement this season hitting holes. While I doubt he will ever be an every down NFL running back, something seems odd here. A quick look at Miami’s roster and their incoming recruiting class, and methinks Randy Shannon is prepping for life after Cooper.
Daniel Thomas, Kansas State – The question here is whether one year of tape is enough to vault Thomas into the early rounds of the draft? Thomas’ production speaks for itself, and he has the size to take the pounding the NFL game brings. Thomas wouldn’t be the first to take one year of success and run (Shonn Greene anyone?), so it’s not a stretch to see this happening.
Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech – Allen has to ask himself one question, “Would I be better off as a third or fourth round pick this year, or waiting a year, being the man for the Yellow Jackets and trying to improve my position?” Fantasy owners know how they would answer that question. Unfortunately we aren't the ones to decide.
Others to consider: John Clay/Wisconsin, Harvey Unga/BUY, DeMarco Murray/Oklahoma, Kendall Hunter/Oklahoma State, Derrick Washington/Missouri, Evan Royster/Penn State and Noel Devine/WVU
Prediction: Dwyer, Best, Mathew and Cooper – Gone. Clay, McKnight, Allen, Thomas – 50/50.
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas – Briscoe has battled Coach Mangino off and on for the past two seasons. With Jake Sharp, Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier all graduating, it’s hard to see Briscoe giving things another shot in Lawrence.
Damian Williams, USC – Williams has really come into his own as both a wide receiver and a punt returner this season. It appears to be a weak senior wide receiver class, and Williams’ addition to the pool would certainly bolster the options.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State – Tough break lying to the NCAA. Bryant already declared his intentions to enter the NFL draft.
Golden Tate, Notre Dame – I’m officially calling Golden Tate a liar, while also thanking Alex for teasing this article, and lighting a fire under me to get it done. There have been rumors of Tate not being happy in South Bend for some time. If that unhappiness is the coaching staff, he stays. But if it’s more, or if he doesn’t want to play a senior season with a new coach and new signal caller, he’s gone. There is also the baseball option…
Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech – Thomas has remarkable size, pretty good speed and outstanding production in an offense that doesn’t pass. I think he has tremendous upside and I would love to have him on my NFL team (which is the Vikings for anyone who cares.) His consistency over the past two seasons speaks as much to the player as anything else, but it’s hard to see Thomas putting up the same numbers for three straight seasons. May not have a huge amount of buzz, but he should, and he should be on his way out of the ATL.
Arrelious Benn, Illinois – What a lost season in Illinois. Benn will test well, and has all the tools to be a great receiver, but he has pretty much taken the year off. So, it will be interesting to see where he slots. He’s gone, but something tells me he fits better with the Browns or Raiders than with the Patriots or Colts.
Others to consider: Austin Pettis/Boise State and Titus Young/Boise State
Prediction – Bryant, Benn and Briscoe – Gone. Tate, Williams and Thomas – 75/25.
Aaron Hernandez, Florida – Hernandez has lots of potential as a pass catching tight end. With Superman leaving Gainesville, does he stay in what should be a more open, down the field, passing offense?
Rob Gronkowski, Arizona – The Gronk has stated he will come back to ‘Zona if he doesn’t receive a 1st round grade. It’s hard to see a tight end who has missed the entire season, and a handful of games last year, getting a first round grade. But it’s also hard to see someone with as much talent as Gronk risking another year in college.
Weslye Saunders, South Carolina – Saunders' size should enable him to be an ideal passing/blocking tight end in the NFL, but I can’t see him being ready for that step. South Carolina seems to lose players to the league every season who shouldn’t go anywhere (Emmanuel Cook, Captain Munnerlyn to name a few) and while they are on the other side of the ball, Saunders seems to fit that mold.
Others to consider: D. J. Williams/Arkansas
Prediction: Gronkowski – Gone. Saunders and Hernandez 50/50.
Personally, I think this year is going to present a large number of early entrants. The potential for an uncapped NFL season in 2010 is real, which will probably be followed by a structured rookie salary scale. Translation – leave now or risk being slotted! A few key things to remember as we move forward…
- Players must be three years removed from high school to declare for the NFL draft.
- December 18, 2009 – deadline to apply for evaluation with Collegiate Advisory Committee (players can request evaluation until January 4, 2010, but are not guaranteed a response after 12/18/09)
- January 15, 2010 – deadline to declare
- January 18, 2010 12:00 am ET – deadline to withdraw; players are granted 72 hours to finalize decision
Stay tuned to CFFinsider.com in the coming weeks. For every player that departs, someone else steps in, and we’ll tell you who those might be in the near future!