Four of UW’s top players are leaving school early to enter the NFL draft. Allfour are projected to be early draft picks with 3 of them potentially going in the first round.
John Ross is the only offensive player to leave UW early. Ross recorded 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. Only 2 receivers in the country scored more touchdowns than Ross. He also flashed his return skills this year with 1 touchdown return early in the season. Ross is likely a top 3 receiver and likely to be drafted in the 1st round.
Budda Baker also declared early and is projected to be a 2nd round draft pick but could sneak into the late 1st round according to some mock draft projections. His speed and athletic ability make him an ideal threat in the backfield. Baker was a solid tackler throughout the season and though undersized, performs well enough to be a desirable safety pick for teams.
Elijah Qualls is the only defensive lineman to leave early for the draft thus far. Qualls is amazingly agile for his 320 pound frame. Though he is a bit shorter than other nose tackles, his size and ability more than make up for his lack of height. Qualls was projected as the third best DT by Mel Kiper which could land him in the first round though more likely he is a second round pick.
The highest likely pick on the draft board for the Huskies is Sidney Jones. He may be the second or third cornerback off the board and is the surest first round selection for the Huskies. Jones had 3 interceptions on the year with two forced fumbles.
In addition to the juniors leaving early for the draft, Senior Kevin King is a likely third round draft pick who was a major part of the UW secondary that was ranked as one of the best in the nation. King along with Jones helped the Huskies finish in the top ten in defensive pass efficiency only allowing 13 total pass touchdowns all season.
Four juniors leaving early will leave the Huskies with some rebuilding to do on the defense but Petersen was successful in the last few years filling in the gaps with next man up talent. The early departures also opens up slots for younger players to begin playing immediately next year which may be an attractive prospect for five-star high school talent. The NFL pipeline on defense for the Huskies may lead to a continuous stream of defensive players who choose UW knowing it is quickly emerging as a hub for top talent molded for success by Chris Petersen’s staff.
There are still other players who may declare for the draft early. Vita Vea is the other DT prospect who in some mock drafts is projected ahead of his fellow tackle Elijah Qualls. With Vita Vea’s potential 1st or 2nd round projection the likelihood of declaring for the draft is still high.
Azeem Victor was the other potential defensive player who looked likely to leave early for the NFL draft this year. Due to his leg injury that sidelined him late in the season, the Huskies may get lucky enough to see Victor play one more year. If Victor had stayed healthy he may have projected to be a top five linebacker. There is still a chance Victor could declare but more likely he waits a year to prove he is first round talent.
Joe Mathis also was injured this year and out for the season but some believe he still will be drafted in a mid-to-late round based on his playmaking earlier in the year. Before his injury, Mathis was the team leader in sacks for the Huskies. His projection may swing wildly from mid-round to undrafted.
Another wild card is Darrell Daniels who is projected as high as 10th best available tight end. This may land Daniels as a mid-to-late draft pick but may slide to being undrafted depending on his evaluations.
Psalm Wooching is the final Husky who may be taken off the board in the NFL draft. Wooching is projected as a 7th-round pick by some analysts though it is likely he will be an undrafted free agent. Wooching’s aggressiveness and productivity has given him a shot at the draft board despite lackluster physical stats. He stripped the ball in the Peach Bowl from Jalen Hurts and nearly recovered the forced fumble demonstrating he is truly a playmaker.
Other players who may be picked up as undrafted free agents include senior OL Jake Eldrenkamp, senior OL Shane Brostek and kicker Cameron Van Winkle.
Having at least four early draft picks should help keep the Huskies in the crosshairs of high profile recruiting targets who have their sights set on the NFL. It would not surprise me if the Huskies send at least 7 total draft picks to the NFL this year.