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Revisiting the draft's Pac-12 early entrants

5/4/2015

With 39 selections in the NFL draft, including 30 in the first four rounds, it was a widely successful draft for Pac-12 credibility. It also reflected well on decision making from an early-entry standpoint as 13 of 16 players who declared for the draft with eligibility remaining were picked and only two of those players -- UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (5th) and USC running back Buck Allen (4th) -- lasted past the third round.

Here's a look at the 16 players who could have returned to school, but opted to pursue professional football.

DRAFTED

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

First round, pick No. 2

Tennessee Titans

Reaction: As much as Mariota maintained throughout the year that he had a lot to think about in regards to turning pro, there was never really any doubt what decision he would ultimately come to. Just as Andrew Luck has converted a large portion of the Stanford fan base into Indianapolis Colts fans, the same will happen here with Oregon/Tennessee.

DE Leonard Williams, USC

First round, pick No. 6

New York Jets

Reaction: Like Mariota, Williams' decision was made knowing the chances of falling out of the top-10 were slim to none. He'll be expected to be a difference maker for the Jets from Day 1.

OT Andrus Peat, Stanford

First round, pick No. 13

New Orleans Saints

Reaction: When Peat committed to Stanford in 2012, it was assumed on the Farm he would A) play his first three years and B) be a first-round pick in 2015. Rarely do players meet such lofty expectations, but there few moments during his career where anything else seemed likely. He should have a relatively easy transition in the Saints' West Coast offense, which, although is far more pass-heavy, shares many of the same concepts employed by Stanford.

DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

First round, pick No. 17

San Francisco 49ers

Reaction: Armstead's relative lack of experience and statistical production might have scared some teams off, but his physical gifts have never been questioned. Landing in San Francisco -- where new coach Jim Tomsula was elevated from defensive line coach -- should be good for his development. GM Trent Baalke indicated Armstead won't need to play a major role as a rookie, which is an ideal situation for the Sacramento, Caliornia, native.

CB Marcus Peters, Washington

First round, pick No. 18

Kansas City Chiefs

Reaction: It feels a bit strange to include him here considering his career ended by getting kicked of the team, but did have another year of eligibility. Any flags raised by how his career ended didn't matter in the draft.

WR Nelson Agholor, USC

First round, pick No. 20

Philadelphia Eagles

Reaction: While Agholor was regularly projected as a potential first-round pick, it was a deep draft for receivers (see: Strong, Jaelen) so it wasn't a sure thing. This feels like a best-case scenario in terms of how early he was picked, but if there was a drawback it's that there's an unsettled quarterback situation (which includes former Trojans Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley).

LB Shaq Thompson, Washington

First round, pick No. 25

Carolina Panthers

Reaction: He might have been the draft's most versatile player, but because teams were split on what position he should play it felt like a double-edged sword at times. He'll begin his career at linebacker, but could still wind up at safety or a hybrid of the two. It's also time to put the talk of running back to rest. He's talented enough to do it, but it's just not going to happen.

OT Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah

Third round, pick No. 2 (overall No. 66)

Tennessee Titans

Reaction: For me, Poutasi was one of the stranger early-entry candidates. Not necessarily because he didn't have the potential, but his time at Utah just didn't generate much buzz. Apparently it should have. Going here completely justifies the decision and now he'll block for Mariota.

WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

Third round, pick No. 6 (overall No. 70)

Houston Texans

Reaction: Of all the Pac-12 players selected last week, Strong feels like the best value for where he ended up. He played like a potential first-round pick at Arizona State, so for him to go 50 spots lower than Agholor was a surprise.

CB Alex Carter, Stanford

Third round, pick No. 16 (No. 80 overall)

Detroit Lions

Reaction: This article from the Detroit Free Press lists several reasons that make Carter a good fit in Detroit. He got sound advice from his father, Tom Carter, who works for the NFLPA and served as his adviser. Carter played just three years at Stanford, but should compete for a starting job.

DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State

Third round, pick No. 32 (overall No. 96)

Cleveland Browns

Reaction: Like Poutasi, Cooper's decision to turn pro was a bit of a surprise, but was completely justified when Cleveland -- which drafted seven Pac-12 players -- grabbed him in the third.

RB Buck Allen, USC

Fourth round, pick No. 26 (overall No. 125)

Baltimore Ravens

Reaction: Allen might have been able to improve upon the fourth round next year, but running back was a position of need for the Ravens and he'll be in a good position to compete for playing time right away behind starter Justin Forsett.

QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

Reaction: Much of the post-draft buzz indicates a general belief that Hundley's decision to leave turned out to be a poor one. That comes off very shortsighted. Would he have gone earlier in the draft if he left after his sophomore year or senior year? Maybe, but that's not always the best way to evaluate what's best for a quarterback. In Green Bay, Hundley will be in a place where he can develop without any public pressure or expectations to play. He won't make as much money immediately as he undoubtedly hoped, but long-term it's easy to see how this could work out better.

UNDRAFTED

WR George Farmer, USC

Reaction: This was easy to see coming. After catching five passes over his first two seasons and missing 2013 with a torn ACL and MCL, 25 receptions in 2014 wasn't enough to turn Farmer into a draftable player. Several reports have him headed to Dallas as an undrafted free agent, but he has some work to do if he expects to stick.

WR Chris Harper, Cal

Reaction: Harper foresaw a diminished role in a talented group of receivers at Cal, so he opted to play at a higher level and compete against better players. Nicely put, it was confounding logic. He was very productive at Cal, but stats can build a false sense of worth and that appears to be the case here. He got bad advice (was told he could go as early as the third round) and didn't consult with the Cal coaching staff when making the decision. He announced he was signing with New England shortly after the draft.

DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA

Reaction: After McCarthy served as a backup on the line for the Bruins, there was no real expectation for him to get drafted. He's headed to Miami, where he'll need to improve significantly between now and camp to have a shot at making the roster.