Oklahoma State wins, Washington loses as NFL draft declarations conclude
- Oklahoma State survived NFL draft declaration season by keeping Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Other programs, like Washington, didn't fare so well.
The deadline for draft-eligible underclassmen has come and gone, with some of the biggest names in college football (and some of the smaller names) deciding if they’re going to depart college early. Some will make money off their talent in the NFL immediately, and some will wait another year. The NFL will release the official list on Friday but in the meantime, here’s a quick look at some winners and losers from a college football perspective:
Oklahoma State: Cowboy fans (not to mention coach Mike Gundy) got good news when quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington announced they’d be back for 2017, which means everyone should get ready for more Rudolph-to-Washington touchdowns. The duo combined for 5,560 yards in 2016, with Washington catching 10 touchdown passes and Rudolph throwing for 28 and rushing for six.
Oregon: Royce Freeman, one of the most underrated running backs in the country and a darkhorse Heisman candidate going into 2017, has decided to return for his senior year and Willie Taggart’s first year, giving the new head coach a solid foundation for his debut season in Eugene. Freeman (168 carries for 945 yards and nine touchdowns, 23 catches for 144 yards and one touchdown in 2016) will benefit from running behind a better and older offensive line. Four of the Ducks’ five offensive linemen were redshirt freshmen in 2016.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost their share of talent to the 2017 draft, but that’s life in the upper echelon of college football. (One puzzling inclusion on the early departure list: Wideout Noah Brown.) Still, Ohio State ultimately benefited from quarterback J.T. Barrett’s poor play down the stretch, as he’ll return to improve on an inconsistent 2016 campaign. Barrett completed 233 of 379 passes for 2,555 yards, rushed 205 times for 845 yards and combined for 33 touchdowns. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis (team-leading eight sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2016) is back, too.
Alabama: Yes, senior defensive end Jonathan Allen, a surefire soon-to-be Pro Bowler, is off to the pros along with three key early entrees (offensive lineman Cam Robinson, defensive back Marlon Humphrey, receiver ArDarius Stewart), but the Tide will return running back Bo Scarbrough, who exploded in Alabama’s semifinal win over Washington (19 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns) and, you know, the best coach in college football. Scarbrough broke his right leg in the championship game but once he’s healthy, we’ve seen what he can do. The powerful leg of punter J. K. Scott will also be back in Tuscaloosa next season, too. (Remember, #PuntersArePeopleToo so don’t hate, appreciate. Especially when they average 47.2 yards per punt.)
Washington: Fresh off an appearance in the College Football Playoff, the Huskies lost almost every major draft-eligible underclassmen, most notably dynamic receiver and kick returner John Ross. Safety Budda Baker, cornerback Sidney Jones, defensive tackle Elijah Qualls are leaving, too. In a sliver of good news, defensive tackle Vita Vea will be back in 2017 but there will be plenty to replace.
Oklahoma: While quarterback Baker Mayfield is likely to start the 2017 season as a Heisman favorite, the Sooners lost arguably the best running back tandem in college football with the departure of Samaje Perine (196 carries for 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Joe Mixon (1,274 rushing yards on 187 attempts and 538 receiving yards, with 16 total touchdowns). While Perine was always expected to leave, many believed that Mixon, who was caught on tape punching a woman and breaking her jaw, would return to school to rehab his image.
USC: Forgive Trojans fans if they started imaging what it would be like for Adoree’ Jackson to lead them to the 2017 national championship. One of the most explosive players in college football, Jackson (five interceptions, four touchdowns on kick and punt returns) waited until the last minute to declare for the NFL, joining receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (70 catches) and left guard Damien Mama in those leaving.
Clemson: Can a team really be a loser right after it won the national championship? The Tigers are built to contend for titles for the foreseeable future, but they still lost a lot of firepower to the 2017 draft. To wit: Clutch quarterback Deshaun Watson, receiver Mike Williams (probably the best wideout available), running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Artavis Scott are all gone.