As the season closes, the biggest thing to watch in regards to next season will be which Pac-12 underclassmen leave early for the NFL. Here’s a breakdown of who to watch.
Colin Schooler Jr. LB - Schooler has been one of the Pac-12’s best since he started suiting up and is kind of their Evan Weaver. He’s a tackling machine who can make plays in the backfield with solid size and that should mean he would be a 6-7th round pick, but I think he stays for his senior year.
JJ Taylor Jr. RB - Taylor definitely doesn’t have NFL as as a 5’6 185 back at a time when the NFL seems less and less interested with smaller running backs. Yes, he’s a running back, and a really good one, who has already redshirted, and been hurt, so I expect him to leave early and be a 7th round pick of UDFA.
Eno Benjamin Jr. RB - Benjamin isn’t having the year that he had in 2018 and it’s going to hurt his NFL stock as at 200 pounds, he’s not an ideal NFL back. I still think he leaves early as a running back trying to limit the tread on his tires and ends up a 5-6th round pick.
Camryn Bynum Jr. CB - The best cornerback who doesn’t get a lot of attention, he’s been a lock down star for the Bears for years now and should be ready to leave early and be a 2nd-3rd round pick.
Kuony Deng Jr. LB - The VMI/JC transfer gets overshadowed by the great Evan Weaver, but he’s a great player in his own right who should take home All-Pac-12 and has NFL potential at 6’6 220. I think he stays for his senior year to continue developing and become a star with Weaver gone next year even though he could be a 6-7th round pick.
Elijah Hicks Jr. CB - Like Deng, Hicks is overshadowed by the other star/s in his unit. He’s still a great NFL prospect as a perennial All-Pac-12 player with solid size. I think he stays to get a year as “the guy” in the Cal secondary and turns down being a 6-7th round pick.
Mustafa Johnson Jr. DE - The 6’2 290 headache for offenses has picked up where he left off after being All-Pac-12 in 2018. He can play inside or outside and his versatility makes him an solid NFL prospect who leaves early with a shot at being a 4-5th round pick.
Nate Landman Jr. LB- Another stellar season with All-Pac-12 honors on the way and he has great size. He should be looking at the NFL, but I think he comes back as he would probably be a 7th round-UDFA.
Laviska Shenault Jr. WR - No other Pac-12 seems more obvious to declare. I think he would have declared if he could have last year and should be a mid-to-late first round pick.
Thomas Graham Jr. CB - Graham stepped up this year and turned himself into a legit NFL prospect. He’s started for three years, but I think he’s returning for one more because that’s what Oregon players tend to do even though he could be a 5-6th round pick.
Demmodore Lenoir Jr. CB - The other veteran Oregon cornerback who stepped up this year and turned into a star. He’s a little bigger than Graham and I see him leaving early for the NFL and will be a 3rd-4th round pick.
Jordon Scott Jr. DT - He’s a three-year starter and a big part of why Oregon has one of the best run defenses in the country. He’s only 6’1 so I think he has limited NFL stock and probably returns for another year because he would probably be a 5-6th round pick.
CJ Verdell So. RB - I don’t think most people realize Verdell redshirt and can leave after this year. He’ll have to give the NFL a long look as a running back who has been dinged up a bit in his career alot, but I think returns, even though he could be a 4-5th round pick.
Isaiah Hodgins Jr. WR - He’s exploded as the top receiver in the conference and has great size at 6’4 210. I think he declares with the chance to be a 3rd-4th round pick.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. LB - One of the conference’s best sack masters is an explosive athlete with rangy size at 6’4 235 that NFL scouts will love. I think he returns to build up his stock another year since he would only be a 6-7th round pick.
Paulson Adebo Jr. CB - The only thing keeping the 6’1 All-American candidate in school might be that he’s at Stanford and he’s only a redshirt sophomore. I think he declares and ends up being a late-first or early-second round pick.
KJ Costello Sr. QB - Costello has another year if he wants it and I’m curious to see what he does as he is going to have to fight off Davis Mills for his job and I could see him being a grad transfer. I think he stays and has a better shot at being a grad transfer than the NFL because he would be a 7th round pick-UDFA after a rough 2019.
Walker Little Jr. T - He was a potential top five pick, but injuries have derailed him the past two seasons. I think he declares because he is a late-first or early-second round pick.
Colby Parkinson Jr. TE - The 6’7 target hasn’t had the year most expected him to do, but he’s an outrageously-talented prospect still dripping with NFL potential. Most recent Stanford tight ends have left early so I expect him to and be a 3rd-4th round pick.
Darnay Holmes Jr. CB - The talented corner has been a standout for the Bruins for multiple seasons now and will likely think about the NFL after another losing season in Westwood. I think he stays though as he would only be a 6th-7th round pick.
Stephen Carr Jr. RB - It just has never turned on for Carr at USC after looking like he was going to be another Ronald Jones early in his career. I think he stays or maybe transfers, but has the potential to be a 7th round pick of UDFA.
Austin Jackson Jr. T - The former five-star recruit has started to come into his own in 2019 and has overtaken the injured Walker Little and underclassman Penei Sewell as the best NFL tackle prospect in the Pac-12. he could be the second lineman off the board, as high as in the Top 5 overall, so I expect him to declare.
Jay Tufele So. DT - Tufele is a world class talent who could be a first round pick after his sophomore season. With a coaching change, I think Tufele declares and is a late-first round pick or early-second.
Marlon Tuipulotu So. DT - The other sophomore standout defensive tackle the Trojans rely on is solid in the middle for them. I don’t think his NFL potential is as high as Tufele’s so I think he’s back as he’d likely only be a 6th-7th round pick.
Tyler Vaughns Jr. WR - He’s never quite put it all together, but he’s been solid and has decent size for a receiver, and it seems like he’s been in college forever. I still think he stays, because he needs a 1,000-yard/10+ TD season to ensure he’s drafted and not a 7th round-UDFA pick.
Jaylon Johnson Jr. CB - There’s been almost no question that Johnson is going after his junior year and he should be a late-first to early-second round pick.
Salvon Ahmed Jr. RB - One of the fastest players in college football showed that he can be a true college running back in 2019, racking up yards and TDs. I think he wants to limit his fatigue before he gets to the league and declares and he’s probably a 3rd-4th round pick.
Hunter Bryant Jr. TE - Bryant was finally healthy for a season and was one of the most-dynamic tight ends in the country. He’s battled injuries and I think he declares because he’s a 3rd-4th round pick.
Jacob Eason Jr. QB - Eason’s a hard one to read because he has outrageous NFL skills and flashed them at times in 2019, but was exceptionally inconsistent. I think he declares because he could get some progression out of a third year of college, but he won’t be able to turn down being a Top 10 pick.
Levi Onwuzurike Jr. DT - He’s a versatile defensive linemen that is excellent at getting into the backfield. I think he returns because he could play his way into the first round with an elite season, but now he’s a 3rd-4th round pick.
Abraham Lucas So. T - Lucas looks like a future NFL tackle as one of the best pass blockers in the nation. He will benefit from returning though even though he could be a 4th-5th round pick already.