Ah, finally it’s the time of the year that many love. There are Christmas trees and decorations lining the streets of neighborhoods. In some parts of the US, there is snow covering the streets. As we gear up for the greatest time of the year, draft season, we see the declarations of many underclassmen coming through our feed.
It’s around this time every year when some of the top college players across the country think back and reflect with themselves to figure out if it’s their time to take their game to the highest of levels imaginable, the NFL. Now, as long with every year, there will be some surprise declarations as well as some surprise players returning to finish their college career where they started. While this is certainly no surprise, it is important to talk about the record number that has declared over the past few years. Last year’s draft class featured 106 underclassmen, which is the most ever. The two years before that there were upwards of 95 underclassman declarations. While it is good for some underclassmen to fill the draft it also leads to record highs in the amount that go undrafted every year.
With that said, let’s look forward to those underclassmen who have already declared. As of right now, there have already been over 20 declarations and the season just ended. There will be plenty more as the weeks go by and prospects officially decide what is best for them.
Evaluating the Early 2019 NFL Draft Declares
A.J. Brown, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
A.J. Brown is a widely popular name for across the country. Over summer he was crowned as the best wide receiver of the group by many people. While that statement has not held any water, he is still a good prospect and should be a solid day two pick for whoever drafts him. Brown’s draft stock could depend greatly on a good combine showing.
Jarrett Stidham, Quarterback, Auburn
Being a redshirt junior and already graduated we get the luxury of seeing Jarrett Stidham’s talents in Mobile, AL for the 2018 Senior Bowl. Entering the year, Stidham had a lot of promise and many admired his talents. However, as the season progressed, he quickly fell down draft boards drastically as his weaknesses became more and more apparent. The Senior Bowl could help him plenty but now he looks to be a late-round quarterback.
Greedy Williams, Cornerback, LSU
Being one of the best cornerbacks in the country, Greedy Williams was expected to declare. While the gap between him and Washington corner Byron Murphy has closed Greedy is all set to be a top 15 draft pick come April. He has all the tool you want in a corner and has shown great man coverage ability.
Brian Burns, Edge Defender, FSU
Being an undersized pass rusher hasn’t slowed Brian Burns down one bit this season. After finishing the year with 31 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and 10 sacks, there’s no doubt that the production is there. Of course, so is the natural pass rush ability. Burns has great bend off the edge and the length to keep separation from tackles consistently. If his weight isn’t an issue, he will be a high draft pick. A few weeks back I highlighted Burns pass rushing ability.
Kelvin Harmon, Wide Receiver, N.C. State
Kelvin Harmon is one of the best receivers in this year’s draft class. He has great size and can win 50/50 balls consistently. Being a bigger receiver, he also has the length and catch radius wanted. He has a good chance to be the first receiver off the board when the draft rolls around.
Ed Oliver, Interior Defensive Lineman, Houston
Ever since Ed Oliver was recruited, he looked to be destined for the NFL and that has not changed three years later. Oliver made national news weeks back when he got into an argument with his head coach on the sideline. Other than that incident Oliver has done everything possible on the field to be a high draft pick. While he does have some competition for the number one interior defensive lineman, he should be a productive player no matter what.
Nick Bosa, Edge Rusher, Ohio State
The younger brother of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa is just as talented and could be an even higher pick. Currently, he is slated to be the first overall pick and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. Earlier this season, Bosa made national new and upset many when he announced he was leaving school to focus on the NFL Draft and rehab his injury. While that may have angered some, it won’t prevent the NFL from taking such a talented pass rusher high.
Justice Hill, Running Back, Oklahoma State
Justice Hill has enjoyed a luxurious carrier with the Cowboys, finishing with over 3,500 yards in his career. He has had two seasons over 1,000 yards and should pass 1,000 on this year with a 70-yard performance at the bowl game. Still despite all this success Hill is not the top back in this year’s class. Part of this is because of his size. Being an undersized running back is hard in the NFL. While we have all enjoyed the success of Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, not everyone can produce at that level at Hill’s size. Currently, Hill is projected to be a day two pick, being selected anywhere from the second to third round.
Noah Fant, Tight End, Iowa
Noah Fant is one of the most talented pass catchers in this years draft class. The biggest problem is he wasn’t used correctly at Iowa. Still, he has shown just how athletic and dominant he is at the position and this should lead him to a high draft pick because of it.
Rashan Gary, Defensive Lineman, Michigan
When watching Rashan Gary, the hardest part of his evaluation is what position to put him at. He fits best as a five-technique in the middle disrupting player. However, he has said he wants to be a pass rusher. This leads to a much more complicated evaluation. While he is certainly athletic enough to play on the edge, he doesn’t possess a lot of the other traits needed to be a highly converted prospect at that position. He is also so raw because he moved around so much in college that it could hurt his draft stock. Whatever position he is viewed as by teams could lead to him getting lost in the shuffle of other talented players. Gary will still be a high pick but may not be the top ten pick many have made him out to be.
N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
N’Keal Harry is one of the best contested catch receivers I have seen in a long time. His natural strong hands, catch radius, and tracking ability should lend him a high draft spot. Of course, there are still questions surrounding his route-running and separation ability that he will need to answer. The NFL combine will be a huge test for him. His YAC (yards after catch) ability could make him an ideal receiver for today’s NFL.
D.K. Metcalf, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
After missing most of the season with a neck injury, some were surprised with D.K. Metcalf’s declaration. His biggest test will come at the combine medicals. If he passes that with flying colors, then teams will consider taking him high. If he doesn’t pass the medical tests, however, then many teams will take him off their board entirely. Despite the injury, there is no denying Metcalf’s natural and physical abilities. If he clears medicals, he could be the first receiver off the board.
Rodney Anderson, Running Back, Oklahoma
Rodney Anderson was performing like one of the best running backs in the country before his season was cut short with a knee injury. Still, his declaration came as quite the surprise given the amount of time he has missed on the field. After having three season-ending injuries Anderson will have a lot of question to answer during the redraft process but there is no denying his talent.
The crazy thing is this isn’t even all the declarations that have happened so far. However, it is many of the top guys in this year’s draft. As always, Last Word on Pro Football will be coming out with draft profiles for each player in the 2019 NFL draft as it approaches so make sure to check back regularly.