Although the underclassmen deadline to enter the 2015 NFL Draft is more than two months away on Jan. 15, it’s become apparent some juniors and redshirt sophomores should be deciding their pro choice.
Michigan State junior quarterback Connor Cook, for instance, has already announced he intends to return for his senior season. Of course, if there are indications Cook is a lock high first-round pick, he could change his mind.
The following players don’t look like first-rounders, but they could get there with another year in school.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia: There was considerable hype surrounding Floyd this season, a redshirt sophomore. He has the type of first step and fluidity in space you want in a pass rusher. While Floyd has flashed that ability at times this season, it hasn’t materialized consistently enough. That’s partly due to his size at 6'4 and just 230 pounds. In nine games, Floyd has 6.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. They’re decent numbers, but in a year where there’s going to be a lot of pass rushers at the top of the draft, Floyd could drop deeper on Day 2. If he returns for his junior season and bulks up, he could be a high pick in 2016.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: A blue-chip recruit for Maryland, Diggs hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty potential partly because of injuries. He played in just seven games last season, and now he’s expected to miss the rest of this year with a lacerated kidney. Although future concerns about injuries may make Diggs lean toward the NFL, he should return of his senior season with the Terrapins. It’s a gamble, sure, but if Diggs can improve his route running and blocking, the first round will be possible.
Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville: With an incredible 13 interceptions this season, Holliman has to be the frontrunner to win the Jim Thorpe Award. With those numbers, why not go pro? While Holliman is an excellent coverage safety with ball skills, he’s behind somewhat playing the run.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame: Despite sitting out last season and redshirting his first year at Notre Dame, Golson still has a year of eligibility remaining. Against Arizona State, Golson had a forgettable game with four interceptions and two fumbles. Golson has had ball security issues throughout the second half of the season after a good start. While Golson won’t get taller than his listed 6'0 with another season, he can sure up his ball control issues and continue refining his downfield passing with an older receiving group.
Actually, any top quarterbacks not named Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston: This includes Trevone Boykin of TCU, Brett Hundley of UCLA and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State. While talented, each has issues that another year in school could cure. For Hundley, it’s pocket presence. For Prescott, it’s fitting the ball in tight windows. For Boykin, it’s consistency.
Senior Bowl roster taking form
The first 11 played have been added to the Senior Bowl roster, highlighted by a pair of East Carolina players. Here's who is officially in thus far:
Adrian Amos, S, Penn State
Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina
Joseph Cardona, LS, Navy
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State
Geneo Grissom, OLB, Oklahoma
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
Mike Hull, LB, Penn State
David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa
Nate Orchard, DE, Utah
Jaquiski Tartt, FS, Samford
Carden isn't a flashy passer, but he's decent across the board. The Senior Bowl is a good opportunity for Carden to show he's more than a backup at the next level. Hardy, his teammate, profiles out to being a good No. 2 or 3 target in the NFL. He could really boost his stock.
More notable than the first 11 is two players who have received their invitations but haven't been officially added to the roster yet. Those players are Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers (confirmed on Twitter) and Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin (confirmed on Instagram). The top of the draft should be heavy on pass rushers, so Flowers and Mauldin need every opportunity to stand out.
Expect more Senior Bowl roster announcements soon. The game is on Jan. 24 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Random draft notes:
Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry is a confounding prospect. He passes the eye test at 6'3 and 200 pounds, while playing up to those physical gifts breaking tackles in the open field. The issue for Greenberry has actually been catching the ball. It wasn't an issue for Greenberry against Tulane when he had 12 catches for 136 yards. Greenberry plays a lot out of the slot, which creates mismatches against linebackers or safeties. He can be a very good player, but too often catches with his body, which leads to drops.
This isn't good for highly touted offensive tackle prospect Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M:
Spoke w/ a regional scout who said he has 4th round grade on Ced Ogbuehi based on this year’s play. "You could argue that’s too high". Yikes— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) November 11, 2014
The claims of an anonymous scout always lead to much consternation, but Zierlein is generally reliable. He's an offensive line expert who will be writing player reports for NFL.com this year. Among the nerdy draft proletariat, Zierlein is often credited with touting eventual No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson first. While the fourth round may be a little extreme for Ogbuehi's draft floor, it illustrates just how poorly he's played in his first season at left tackle.
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams may be the best eligible player at his position. The catch is he's just a redshirt sophomore. Williams has solid size at 6'4 and 250 pounds and is a good athlete. His hands are what separate him, however. Gophers coaches and players praised Williams after he had five catches for 46 yard and three touchdown against Iowa. Williams has just 22 receptions for 326 yards this season, but that's only because Minnesota is such a run-heavy team. There is no indication that Williams will enter the draft, but he could be the top player at tight end if he does.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon had a fumble on Saturday that nearly cost Alabama a chance at a national championship. Yeldon fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter while injuring his ankle. Alabama went on to beat LSU in overtime, but it was Yeldon's 10th fumble of his career. That and his upright running style could be costly for Yeldon in the draft.
This catch is why Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong may be a first-round pick. He even got both feet down for posterity.