Thursday, December 16, 2010
Who might bolt for the NFL draft early?
By Ted Miller
Third-year players -- juniors and redshirt sophomores -- have until Jan.17 to declare their intentions to enter the 2011 NFL draft, and a number of Pac-12 players are likely to do so.
USC already has lost two: Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
Many of the upcoming decisions -- both to stay or to go -- are going to be surprises. Some certain early draft picks opt to return for whatever reason, including the fact that they will never -- ever -- have as much fun as they did in college. And a handful of obscure players annually decide to enter the draft for whatever reason, including getting bad advice from a know-it-all "acquaintance" who doesn't know a darn thing.
This will not turn out to be a complete list. And our speculation is intentionally vague because it can be nothing else: We don't know what's going on inside these young men's heads.
Note: Though some players have indicated they plan to return, they are included here because, well, you never know -- they might change their minds.
You can review Mel Kiper's "junior" rankings here.
QB Nick Foles, Jr.: Foles would benefit from returning for his senior year and could improve his stock considerably. But his knee injury this year and questions about the Wildcats' offensive line might give him pause.
WR Juron Criner, Jr.: Criner is the best receiver in the country few folks have heard of, but he might want to look at this year's receiver class, which is loaded.
CB Trevin Wade, Jr.: Wade needs to return for his senior season after taking a step back as a junior.
CB Omar Bolden, Jr.: Bolden rejuvenated his career this fall, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors. He also knows what it's like to get hurt and miss a season. The Sun Devils could break through in 2011, and that could greatly benefit his status.
DT Lawrence Guy, Jr.: The general thinking is Guy wants to return for his senior season. He faces a tough choice.
RB Shane Vereen, Jr.: Mel Kiper ranks Vereen No. 5 among junior running backs. The Bears' questionable supporting cast on offense next year might sway him to the pros.
OLB Mychal Kendricks, Jr.: Lots of potential, but he's not ready.
OG Ryan Miller, Jr.: Miller has already said he plans to return next fall, though Kiper ranks him No. 2 among junior guards.
RB LaMichael James, RSo.: Kiper ranks James as the No. 3 "junior" running back. The Ducks' first unanimous All-American must choose between college glory -- Heisman Trophy, (another) national championship -- or getting paid now. Probably won't get picked until the second round because of size and middling skills as a receiver, but his top-end speed is enticing.
TE David Paulson, Jr.: Kiper ranks him No. 4 among junior tight ends. Good bet to return.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Jr.: Rodgers has indicated he plans to return because his brother, James, is likely to get a fifth year via medical hardship because of a knee injury this past season. But Beavers fans are rooting for it to be Jan. 18.
WR James Rodgers, Sr.: It's likely the Rodgers are a package deal: Both stay or both go.
QB Andrew Luck, RSo.: If he enters the draft, he's almost certain to be the No. 1 overall pick. More than a few folks, however, believe he's seriously considering a return for his junior year, particularly if coach Jim Harbaugh remains at Stanford. We'll see.
LB Akeem Ayers, Jr.: Odds are that Ayers will enter the draft. A likely first-round pick.
FS Rahim Moore, Jr.: Odds are that Moore will enter the draft. A likely first-round pick.
DL Armond Armstead, Jr: Armstead has said he plans to return. He should. A healthy season could send his stock skyrocketing.
CB Brandon Burton, Jr.: Burton, second-team All Mountain West, is No. 5 on Kiper's list of junior corners. He's definitely on the NFL radar.
OT Tony Bergstrom, Jr.: It would make sense for the second-team All Mountain West player to return for his senior year.
WR Jermaine Kearse, Jr.: Kearse is highly productive but dropped a few too many balls this year. While he'd benefit from another year, he might be worried about the Huskies breaking in a new quarterback.
RB Chris Polk, RSo: Polk eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season. He's admitted that entering the draft is a possibility.
DT Brandon Rankin, Jr.: It would be wise for Rankin to return for his senior season.