2014 NFL Draft: Pac-12 early entry winners and losers

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon scored big while Stanford, USC and Cal took major shots.


Oregon - The Ducks dodged more big early entry bullets than maybe any team I have ever seen in the conference with Marcus Mariota (Projected Top 5 pick), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Projected first round pick) and Hroniss Grasu (Projected second round pick) all returning. Those three returning, particularly Mariota, make the Ducks a likely Top 5 preseason team in 2014 as opposed to just a Top 15 team and all three are players that had a lot of reasons to head to the NFL. Without their return, the Ducks, particularly Mariota, the Ducks' supremacy in the Pac-12 would have been a lot more vulnerable.

The Ducks did lose De'Anthony Thomas and Terrance Mitchell, but of the five guys on their team that likely considered declaring, those were the two that they could afford to lose the most.

UCLA - The Bruins took a bit of a hit losing guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, but he was old for his class, so it couldn't have been a surprise at all and getting Brett Hundley to return might have been the biggest score any Pac-12 team got during declaration season (I would say that Hundley's return might be bigger than Mariota's since I think there was a much better chance that Hundley would declare). Without Hundley the Bruins were a question mark, with him they are the clear cut favorites in the South going into 2014 and a potential Top 10 preseason team nationally.


Stanford - Stanford has to do a lot of reloading next year, as the bulk of, and the best of, their players "seniors" that could have came back for another year left. The Cardinal have a lot of talent waiting in the wings, but it is very, very unlikely that they have guys that can immediately fill the shoes of talents like David Yankey, Cameron Fleming and Ed Reynolds, especially since they are also losing so much talent to graduation. If Stanford's young talent can't step in for these guys, they are at risk for taking a step back next season.

USC - The Trojans were hit hard by early declarations as they lost five players who they really need, especially because of their scholarship limitations. It wasn't a huge surprise that they would lose a good number of players with their talented roster and coaching change, but it hurts that they lost some guys that aren't slam dunk, high draft picks like Xavier Grimble, Marcus Martin and George Uko.

Cal - Ouch, the dumpster fire in Berkeley just keeps burning as the Bears lost four players who shouldn't be declaring to the draft. The Bears were woeful on defense last season, so it's hard to imagine how bad they will be in 2014 after unnecessarily losing three of their most talented players in Khairi Fortt, Kameron Jackson and Viliami Moala. It's painful that the team that could afford the least to lose talent in the Pac-12, lost so much.

Oregon State - Not a huge, huge hit, but I was thinking that the Beavers would get one of their junior stars (Brandin Cooks and Scott Crichton) to come back and they lost both. Getting Sean Mannion back takes the sting off a little bit, but I question just how high his NFL stock was considering he was somewhere between the fifth or seventh best quarterback in the conference in 2013.

Quarterback-needing NFL teams - 2014 was looking like it was going to be one of the most heavily-stocked quarterback classes in a long time, and that was great news for the bevy of NFL teams who desperately need to draft quarterbacks. Then, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley stayed in school and greatly lowered the level of quarterback talent in the draft, really hurting teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota and Tennessee who will either have to take lesser quarterbacks or go with another position in the first round this season.

(Potentially) elite Pac-12 quarterbacks returning - How many times have we seen this now... heralded, guaranteed Top 5 pick Pac-12 quarterback returns to college to great fanfare, only to have an underwhelming following season? Okay, three times recently in my recollection (Matt Leinart, Jake Locker, Matt Barkley), and Leinart and Locker still ended up as high draft picks, but you have to wonder if Hundley or Mariota might end up hurting their stock by returning for another year. It worked for Andrew Luck, but he was a flawless prospect, and Hundley and Mariota are much closer to the three guys who it hurt, who have great tools, but major holes in their profiles. Also, with how many NFL teams desperately need quarterbacks this season, this may have been the year to strike while the iron is hot.

We won't know about this one until this time next year though.

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