The regular season has just wrapped up and one of the first things fans should start thinking about now is which underclassmen on their favorite teams might declare early for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Here are the draft-eligible Pac-12 underclassmen who I think will be heavily considering entering the draft in the next couple of months.
Nick Wilson Jr. RB - Wilson looks like an All-American when he is healthy, but he has barely been healthy the past two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to give the NFL a go now that he has a shot. Prediction: I think Wilson comes back for another year though in hopes that a healthy season where he goes for 1,000 yards can push him up in the draft and guarantee him a selection. Range: 7th round-UDFA
Kalen Ballage Jr. RB - Ballage caught national attention when he scored eight touchdowns earlier this year, but as a 6’3 230 playmaker with impressive speed, he was already on NFL radar. Prediction: Ballage’s production has fallen off since that huge performance against Texas Tech, so I think he comes back for another season to keep bolstering his stock. Range: 5th-6th round.
Koron Crump Jr. LB - Crump has emerged as one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 this year and excelled in Todd Graham’s attacking system. At 6’3 220, he has the size needed to play at the next level and explosiveness wanted from linebackers in the NFL now. Prediction: I think Crump comes back, knowing a second-straight big year and adding a little weight could push him up draft boards. Range: 6th-7th round.
Demario Richard Jr. RB - The other big, powerful Sun Devil running back is also an NFL prospect. Like Ballage, he has dealt with injuries as the season has went on and had his production dip down, but he has still already shown he can put together an 1,000-yard season in 2015. Prediction: Add Richard to the club of Sun Devils who comes back for his senior year to solidified his draft opportunities. Range: 6th-7th round.
Vic Enwere Jr. RB - Enwere ran for just 336 yards this year due to being sidelined with an injury, but he is 6’1 240 and exactly the kind of back the NFL needs. Prediction: I think Enwere comes back to try and put together a full season as Cal’s feature back as an 1,000-yard season could really push him up in the draft. Range: 7th round-UDFA.
Chad Hansen Jr. WR - Hansen doesn’t have NFL Combine speed, but is the best pure receiver in the Pac-12. A 6’2 receiver who can put together a season with around 100 catches, more than 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs in the Pac-12 is always an NFL prospect. Prediction: Like Gabe Marks before him, Hansen comes back for a victory lap season. Range: 5th-6th round.
Shay Fields Jr. WR - Fields had a breakout season in 2016 as one of the best big-play receivers in the Pac-12. He has the speed, athleticism and polish to make himself an NFL receiver sooner rather than later. Prediction: I think Fields needs one more year of polish to maximize his NFL potential and he comes back to do just that. Range: 5th-6th round.
Phillip Lindsay Jr. RB - The speedy Buffs running back has put together arguably the best season of a Pac-12 running back. He is a home run hitter, who is consistent and can also get tough yards, making him a nice NFL prospect. Prediction: There isn’t too much more Linday can do and he’s a running back, so I think he heads to the NFL. Range: 3rd-4th round.
Darren Carrington Jr. WR - Carrington didn’t have the big season most anticipated him to have, but a lot of that had to do with Oregon’s overall struggles and evolution at quarterback. His lack of production hurt his draft stock, but his excellent size and range still makes him a decent NFL prospect. Prediction: Carrington’s lack of production this season would suggest he should come back, but I think a number of off-the-field issues which have dogged Carrington’s career should combined with the overall chaos at Oregon should nudge him to the NFL. Range: 5th-6th round.
Tyrell Crosby Jr. T - The Ducks’ best lineman going down early in the season was one of the reasons they started to fall apart. He has only played for a little more than two seasons, but he is a big, physical specimen who will get a lot of NFL attention whenever he heads to the next level. Prediction: I think Crosby will be tempted to leave the issue in Eugene and get drafted, but I think he also knows he is a borderline first round pick if he can come back for one more year and turn into an All-Pac-12 player. Range: 4th-5th round.
Royce Freeman Jr. RB - This was only a matter of time. Even though he has has a banged-up, frustrated season, Freeman seems destined for the NFL in 2017. Prediction: It would be a shock if Freeman doesn’t declare for the draft. Range: Early-to-mid-3rd round.
Christian McCaffrey Jr. RB - Another no brainer here. McCaffrey could have been a first round pick after last season. Prediction: No reason for McCaffrey to come back, especially after dealing with injuries this year. Range: Late-1st round.
Solomon Thomas Jr. DT - Arguably the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 this year, Thomas is athletic and versatile with the ability to play a number of positions at the next level. Prediction: Since Thomas is actually a redshirt sophomore, I think he comes back for his third year of on-field action. Range: Early-to-mid-3rd round.
Eddie Vanderdoes Jr. DT - He has never quite lived up to his billing, but Vanderdoes is still a very athletic big man with huge NFL potential. Prediction: I don’t think he risks another year of being in college (especially with the issues at UCLA) and makes his way to the draft. Range: 3rd-4th round.
Kenny Young Jr. LB - Young has teamed with Jayon Brown to rack up tackle after tackle for a UCLA defense that has actually played exceptionally well at times. His combination of production with his 6’1 230-pound size makes him a very nice NFL prospect. Prediction: Young will come back for another year to lead the UCLA linebacker corps and improve his draft stock. Range: 5th-6th round.
Adoree’ Jackson Jr. CB - Another player who was a clear three years and done since he started playing. Jackson is at worst a Top 5 cornerback in the 2017 draft. Prediction: Almost no way he comes back. Range: Top 5-15.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Jr. WR - He has been up and down this season, but JJS-S is simply a three-year player and at worst a second round pick already. Prediction: Would be shocked if comes back. Range: Mid-to-late-1st round.
Lowell Lotulelei Jr. DT - Lotulelei has long been seen as a stellar NFL prospect, but he hasn’t blown away the media this year, so it appears his stock has slipped just a bit. Prediction: I think he heads in a year early knowing he can impress teams in the combine and move back up draft boards. Range: Mid-to-late-3rd round.
Marcus Williams Jr. S - Williams missed some time but is still an All-American-level player who is as good as anyone in the country at picking off passes. Prediction: Especially since he has picked up some injuries, I think Williams will jump to the league and get his NFL career started. Range: Late-2nd to early-3rd round.
Budda Baker Jr. S - Baker gets a lot of hype and while I don’t love him as an NFL player, his range is so crazy that he is a guaranteed draft pick with a loads of potential in a passing league. Prediction: I think Baker surprises and comes back for his senior season. Range: Early-to-mid-3rd round.
Sidney Jones Jr. CB - Jones is a rangy, first round talent who teams barely throw against any more, but who frequently makes interceptions when they decide to. Prediction: Jones has turned himself into a potential first round pick and will jump while his stock is high. Range: Mid-to-late-1st round.
Elijah Qualls Jr. DT - The 6’1 320 Qualls is a freak athlete who can play all along the line who might actually be a better NFL prospect than college player. Prediction: I think Qualls is tempted to jump because his raw tools make him at worst a third rounder, but comes back because a season where he puts it all together as a senior turns him into a first round pick. Range: Late-2nd to early-3rd round.
John Ross Jr. WR - The unbelievable fast and quick Ross might be the most dangerous offensive player in the country with his legit 4.2 speed and legit receiver skills. Prediction: Ross has turned himself into a potential first round pick and has been around for four years already due to injury. He will jump. Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round.
Azeem Victor Jr. LB - Victor was arguably the Pac-12’s best linebacker before an injury took him down for the rest of the season a couple of week’s ago. He has NFL size and hitting power. Prediction: Victor has said he is coming back for his senior season, but I think the third or fourth-round grade he gets pushes him to the draft eventually. Range: 3rd-4th round.
Luke Falk Jr. QB - Falk is one of the nation’s best quarterbacks and has NFL size, but stereotypes about Mike Leach’s offense and an injury history might limit his NFL potential. Prediction: I think that injury history nudges Falk to get his NFL career started. Range: 4th-5th round.