2017 Draft Class: Evaluation of Offensive Prospects Decisions

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The college football season is over for most teams in the nation which means it’s the time of the year in which underclassmen decide whether they want to return to college or declare for the draft.

This article will feature the draft decisions of notable players at each position. Players that haven’t made a decision yet won’t be included because there is no decision to evaluate.



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– Deshaun Watson, Clemson (Pictured Above); Declared for Draft: Clemson notched an impressive win in the College Football playoff semifinals over Ohio State. Watson had a decent game, completing 23 of 36 passing attempts for 259 yards, one passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions.

Although Watson’s stock has fallen from where it was at the beginning of the year, mostly due to turnovers, he likely won’t regret his decision to turn pro. He’s still one of the top quarterback prospects.

– DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame; Declared for Draft: Notre Dame didn’t make a bowl game. Kizer had a pretty decent season. The Notre Dame quarterback has good size, good arm strength, decent accuracy and he has mobility as well.

Like Watson he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft class. His decision to turn pro is a wise one.

– Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; Declared for Draft: Although he isn’t necessarily considered to be one of the top quarterback prospects as of yet, Mahomes has the looks of a player who could potentially climb draft boards. He has a big arm and has touch and accuracy to go with it.

Mahomes decision to turn pro was probably smart. However if he fails to impress teams and rise his stock he will likely regret it.

– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; Returning to School: Mayfield is one of the most exciting college quarterbacks in the country. He turned in a solid performance in Oklahoma’s bowl game against Auburn. In that game he completed 19 of 28 passing attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns.

Unfortunately for Mayfield his success hasn’t led to having a high draft stock. This is mostly because he’s smaller than NFL teams would like and doesn’t have an elite arm. Perhaps he can get stronger in the offseason and try to change the mind of scouts next season. He made a very good decision.

Running Backs:

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– Leonard Fournette, LSU (Pictured Above); Declared: Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know that Fournette opted not play in his bowl game and start preparing for the NFL draft.

Fournette possesses rare talent and he is considered by many to be the most talented running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He suffered through injuries during a lot of this season so that probably played a role in him sitting out his bowl game. It will be interesting to see if his decision will impact his draft stock, but due to his talent it probably won’t.

– Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Declared: Florida State won a tight game against Michigan in their bowl game. Cook played a big role in that, he played extremely well against one of the top defenses in the nation. He carried the ball 20 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns. One top of that he added three receptions for 62 yards as well.

Cook gets overshadowed by Fournette but he is a very talented prospect as well. He definitely made the right decision regarding the draft as he should easily end up being a first round pick.

– Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; Declared: McCaffrey copied Fournette’s decision to sit out his teams bowl game. He dealt with injuries throughout the season and that led to his performance suffering a little bit but he still managed a pretty decent season.

Since McCaffrey’s draft stock isn’t as high as Fournette’s it was a little more of a risk for him to sit out the bowl game.    

– Nick Chubb, Georgia; Returning: Chubb had a great season as a freshman and looked to have an extremely bright future. However halfway through his sophomore season he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He stayed mostly healthy this season but he didn’t have quite as much success as he did as a freshman.

He ended this season on a high note in Georgia’s bowl game against TCU. Chubb rushed for 142 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown.

His decision to return to school could payoff if he can stay healthy and show that he can still play at the level he did during his first season at Georgia.

– Royce Freeman, Oregon; Returning: Oregon had a rough season that made it difficult for Freeman to find success. On top of that he suffered an injury in week three and that slowed him down as well.

Freeman’s decision to return to school looks to be a good one. He will look to get his production back up to where it was in 2015, and if he does his draft stock will look much better than it does now.


Wide Receivers:

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– Mike Williams, Clemson (Pictured Above); Declared: Williams turned in a strong performance against Ohio State talented secondary in the college football semifinal. He caught six passes for 96 yards.

The Clemson receiver is considered by most to be the top receiver prospect in this draft class. Because of this his decision to enter the draft is the correct one.

– John Ross, Washington; Declared: Ross struggled to get anything going in Washington’s college football semifinal game against Alabama. He caught five passes for only 28 yards and also had a fumble. Washington didn’t take many shots down the field which is usually what Ross does best.

Ross’ decision to enter the draft looks on paper to be the right one. This isn’t the strongest wide receiver class and teams always love guys with speed, which is something Ross has plenty of.

– Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech; Declared: Ford has been very productive during his time at Virginia Tech. In the 39 games he’s played in his career he logged 210 receptions for 2,967 yards and 24 touchdowns, he’s the record holder in all three of those categories in Virginia Tech history.

Staying another year in school and trying to add bulk to his thin frame probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea for Ford. However his quarterback Jerod Evans is heading to the NFL so that likely played a role in Ford’s decision. Also Ford will be one of the top receiver prospects so it is easy to understand why he declared.

Tight End

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– Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech (Pictured Above); Declared: Hodges almost went pro last season but instead stayed another year in order to polish his game. The Virginia Tech tight end has great size and athleticism. He’s more of a receiver than blocker so he won’t necessarily be a traditional NFL tight end. NFL teams will be intrigued by his ability to create mismatches and his potential as a red zone threat.

Hodges probably won’t be the first tight end off of the board but he is considered one of the best prospects at the position. He would have benefited from returning to school and trying to play a larger role in the offense than he did up to this point in his career. College teams don’t often utilize their tight ends enough and that seems to be the case with Hodges. With his size and talent NFL teams will be over to overlook his underwhelming potential and he will most likely be drafted somewhere around the second round.

– David Njoku, Miami; Declared: Njoku is another tight end prospect with size and great athleticism. He isn’t as well known as the other top tight end prospects in the draft but he will be. 2016 has been a breakout year for Njoku, it’s the first season he’s had where he started every game and was involved in the offense.

If this was an average tight end class than the decision for Njoku to go pro would be no-brainer. However since this draft class if so talented at the position Njoku may have been better off returning to school and working on his craft. He’s very talented and may end up being taken in the early rounds of the draft. But if he waited until next season he could have possibly established himself as the best tight end in college football.

Offensive Line

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– Garett Bolles, Utah; Declared: Bolles is an underrated prospect who has a chance to climb draft boards and potentially become one of the top offensive tackles taken on draft day. He transferred to Utah after spending two seasons at the junior college level.

Although he’s only had one year playing big time college football turning pro was the right decision for Bolles. This years offensive line class isn’t very impressive so that makes it easier for Bolles to try to stand out. Also Bolles is already 24 years old so he’s more mature than most college juniors.

– Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (Pictured Above); Returning: Before announcing that he will return to school McGlinchey was one of the top tackle prospects on a lot of people’s rankings. He said he didn’t feel ready to turn pro yet.

It tough to argue when a prospect says he doesn’t feel ready to take the next step. He knows himself better than anyone else. However since this offensive line class is weak he had a chance to be one of the top ones available. His decision could pay off but it could also hurt him if next years draft class turns out to be better than the current one.

-Mason Cole, Michigan; Returning: Cole decided to return to school in order to work on getting stronger and continuing to gain experience playing center.

Cole played tackle during the previous seasons of his career and moved to center this season. For this reason Cole’s decision to stay in school and refining his skills as a center is the right move.

I really hope you enjoyed the article! Follow me on twitter @CHayes95 and join the discussion on the Lions subreddit!

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About the Author

Cory Hayes
I attend Central Michigan University, I am majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sport Management. I am a junior. I am from Marysville, MI. I love following sports, both professional and collegiate. I follow the Lions, Pistons, and Tigers very closely, and the college team that I choose to cheer for is Ohio State.