It happens this time of year, every year, right after the NFL Draft. Fans and pundits take a look at the players who declared early for the draft only to go undrafted or be drafted much later than many anticipated. The Pac-12 saw three (Pac-12) household name players suffer this fate in Oregon receiver Bralon Addison, Arizona receiver Cayleb Jones and UCLA guard Alex Redmond. Arizona linebacker and superstar Scooby Wright ended up in a similar boat as he ended up going in the seventh road despite once being seen as a potential Top 10 pick.
Simple logic might suggest these players made graves mistakes in declaring early, but (at least in my opinion) that is far from the truth, especially considering almost all of their situations. Most of these players didn't have a lot to gain by coming back for another year of unpaid work and are probably better off getting an extra year to try and get their professional career started, even if they weren't drafted and even if they don't end up working in football.
I actually think Stanford center Graham Shuler turning down a fifth year of eligibility to pursue his non-football career is a sign of things to come and fits in with these players who declared and were not drafted. Committing to a fifth year of college football is a very serious time, money and health commitment. Five years is a half a decade, these players showed up in the Pac-12 at the start of the decade.
In the case of Addison and Jones, both had already been in college for four years, possibly earned their degrees and had solid draft prospects as All-Pac-12-level players, despite not getting drafted. With Addison in Wright, both had significant injuries in their past which limited their draft ceiling. They wouldn't gain much by coming back for another year even if they played at an All-American-level and another injury could cement them outside of the draft. Straight-up college production is no longer a huge asset in the draft either, case in point, heavily-decorated Wright went after enigmatic early-declarer from Washington, Dwayne Washington.
Also, with the draft just seven rounds, being an undrafted free agent is far, far from a death sentence. Countless undrafted free agents go onto great careers or at least get the shot to make a team. The NFL is littered with Pac-12 alums who were not drafted making impacts on teams.
So, let's not regret not having these players back in the Pac-12 for another season. Wish them well on their journey in the professional ranks and I hope these kind of setbacks don't prevent more players who should declare early in the coming drafts from doing so. Deciding whether or not to declare early these days is a very complicated process, but those who can and don't have much to gain from coming back should pretty much all declare at this point.
Even if they might not get drafted.