The Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2013 NFL Draft rapidly approaches and several players face tough decisions. Go pro and capitalize on a good 2012 season or risk it next season to improve draft stock? Today, a look at five players on offense who could go either way and what they should do. Next week, five players on defense.
Robert Woods, WR, Southern California
According to the Los Angeles Times, Woods will announce his decision on Monday following the Sun Bowl. Woods told the paper that he received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft advisory board, and that sounds to be about the proper range. Although Woods would probably prefer to be a first-round pick, he should enter the NFL Draft. His receptions this season dropped from 111 to 73 as he was overtaken by Marquise Lee as Southern Cal's top receiver. Another season with Lee and Woods could become even more of an afterthought. Woods' route running is sound, and he's not going to get any bigger or faster. In other words, his stock has probably reached its ceiling.
Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
After missing the first four games of the season due to shoulder surgery, Pugh has been consistent on the left side of the Orange line. Pugh is not overly big (a listed 6-foot-5, 297 pounds), but he has quick feet to block at the edge. Pugh may have to wait and see if top juniors like Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Taylor Lewan of Michigan come out. If they do, Pugh likely won't be a first-round pick. If any of the three return to school, he should go pro and not risk re-injuring his shoulder.
David Fales, QB, San Jose State
How good was Fales this season? His lowest completion percentage in a game this season was 65.4. In his first year of FBS play, Fales led SJSU to an 11-2 record, throwing for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns. He did throw six interceptions in his last six games, but the Spartans also went undefeated in those games. Fales doesn't have the best arm, but he has good ball placement and has nice size. There is some risk if Fales doesn't go pro after this season. It will be difficult to equal this success of this season and his head coach Mike MacIntyre is off to Colorado. Because his stock may be at its highest point, Fales should enter the draft.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matthews is having a great season and is certainly talented. Even playing right tackle, he's a probable top 20 pick if he forgoes his senior season. If he returns to A&M and Luke Joeckel goes pro, that could leave the left side for Matthews next season. As we saw with Mike Pouncey at Florida, he went from being a junior guard to a senior center and it helped his draft stock. It could do even more for Matthews if he's proficient at left tackle.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
A hot name amongst NFL Draft fans, Hopkins has put together an excellent season with 69 catches for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns. Hopkins' play helped ease the loss of star receiver Sammy Watkins due to injury at the start of the season. Watkins has again become Clemson's top receiver, while Hopkins has just 11 receptions in his last four games. Over that same stretch, Watkins has 25. Hopkins has an NFL frame at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. A healthy Watkins next season could halt Hopkins' draft momentum completely. If the junior can play well in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he should enter the draft.