Oregon was a big winner around the NFL Draft's Early Entry Deadline
The NFL's early entry deadline for the 2019 draft officially passed on Monday evening and more than 120 players declared for the next level. All four of the playoff teams from the 2018 season lost a key player early. Alabama has to replace two All-Americans in the trenches with Jonah Williams (LT) and Quinnen Williams (DT) headed to the NFL. Clemson is losing a couple of defensive standouts, including end Clelin Ferrell and tackle Dexter Lawrence. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray declared for the draft but is still deciding between baseball and the NFL. Notre Dame must replace All-American Julian Love at cornerback.
Thanks to the return of quarterback Justin Herbert, Oregon was one of the deadline's biggest winners and enters the offseason as the early favorite to win the Pac-12. Both Ohio State and Michigan will have a few key pieces to replace from deadline entries, while LSU minimized the overall damage after linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams decided to leave.
While the official list isn't out yet, it's no secret which players have already announced their intentions and which teams will be filling the most voids this offseason. The early entry deadline is a key moment in any college football offseason, as this allows coaches to get a better view of which players are returning and how the roster looks headed into Signing Day. With the early entrants declared, it’s time to take a look at the winners and losers from a college perspective.
Which teams are the big winners and which programs have big shoes to fill thanks to the 2019 draft deadline? Here are the winners and losers with the draft deadline process:
The Razorbacks are in rebuild mode under second-year coach Chad Morris, but the climb got a little easier with the return of lineman McTelvin Agim and linebacker De’Jon Harris for 2019. Cornerback Ryan Pulley decided to leave for the NFL.
It may seem strange to place Auburn in the winner category after losing quarterback Jarrett Stidham, receiver Darius Slayton and cornerback Jamel Dean to the NFL. However, the losses could’ve been a lot worse for coach Gus Malzahn. The defensive line should be the best in the SEC next fall, as Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown all passed on the NFL for one more season in college. Marquel Harrell and Prince Tega Wanogho are back along the offensive line, and Javaris Davis’ decision to return bolsters the secondary after Dean’s early departure.
Baylor and TCU
Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech each lost a key cog early to the NFL. While the Longhorns and Sooners are likely to still finish atop the Big 12 next season, Baylor and TCU did not lose any players early to the NFL and can close the gap a bit after both finished 7-6 in 2018.
Make no mistake: Cornerback Greedy Williams and linebacker Devin White are significant losses. However, the personnel setbacks would have been even greater if linemen Breiden Fehoko and Rashard Lawrence, cornerback Kristian Fulton and linebacker Michael Divinity jumped to the next level.
Yes, the Wolverines lost end Rashan Gary, linebacker Devin Bush, tight end Zach Gentry and cornerback David Long to the NFL. However, the losses could’ve been more significant. Quarterback Shea Patterson, offensive lineman Ben Bredeson, cornerback Lavert Hill, linebacker Khaleke Hudson and safety Josh Metellus are set to return for 2019.
Coach Mark Dantonio’s team lost running back LJ Scott and cornerback Justin Layne to the NFL, but the defense got a boost when tackle Raequan Williams, end Kenny Willekes, and linebacker Joe Bachie decided to return in 2019. The Spartans led the Big Ten in scoring defense last fall and shouldn’t take too much of a step backward with the return of Williams, Bachie and Willekes.
The Golden Gophers closed 2018 on a high note by beating Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl, and the good news continued into January. Receiver Tyler Johnson (78 catches for 1,169 yards and 12 TDs) and end Carter Coughlin (9.5 sacks) passed on the NFL to return to Minneapolis. Coach P.J. Fleck’s team will be a sleeper to watch in the Big Ten West next fall.
New projected starting quarterback Kelly Bryant inherits a strong supporting cast this offseason, as lineman Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam decided to return to Columbia in 2019. Okwuegbunam is one of the best at his position.
The Ducks were one of the biggest winners at the deadline. Quarterback Justin Herbert was projected as a first-round pick but decided to return to Eugene for his senior year. Linebacker Troy Dye also passed on the NFL and will be one of the Pac-12’s top defenders in 2019. Additionally, Herbert’s protection up front should be set. Center Jake Hanson, guard Shane Lemieux and tackle Calvin Throckmorton are all coming back. Receiver Dillon Mitchell (75 catches) is a big loss but was the only early departure for coach Mario Cristobal’s team. With Herbert back, Oregon could be the team to beat in the Pac-12 next year.
The Gamecocks had higher expectations than a 7-6 finish in 2018, and coach Will Muschamp’s team has a brutal schedule to face next fall. That slate got a little easier at the deadline, as defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, quarterback Jake Bentley, receiver Bryan Edwards and offensive lineman Donell Stanley passed on the NFL for one more season in Columbia.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s production and overall ability won’t be easy to replace in the receiving corps next season. However, fellow receiver Collin Johnson decided to return. The defense is set to lose a handful of key players from the 2018 unit, but defensive back Brandon Jones and linebacker Malcolm Roach are coming back next fall.
Utah claimed its first Pac-12 South title in 2018, and coach Kyle Whittingham’s team will be heavily favored to reclaim that spot in ’19. The Utes didn’t lose a player to the NFL, as running back Zack Moss, cornerback Julian Blackmon and defensive linemen Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu all announced their intention to return next season. Moss should challenge for a spot among the top running backs in college football for 2019, with Anae and Fotu anchoring one of the nation’s best defensive lines.
Coach Derek Mason’s team has to find a replacement for quarterback Kyle Shurmur, but running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, tight end Jared Pinkney and receiver Kalija Lipscomb decided to return for 2019. Vaughn led the SEC with 10 runs of 40 yards or more, while Pinkney and Lipscomb combined for 16 touchdown catches in ’18.
The Cavaliers had only one player in the mix for a draft departure, but it was a big one. Cornerback Bryce Hall was a first-team All-ACC selection and passed on the NFL for one more year in Charlottesville. Hall is one of college football’s top returning cornerbacks for the 2019 season.
The losses could have been more significant if cornerback Trevon Diggs or linebacker Terrell Lewis left for the next level, but the Crimson Tide lost seven players early to the draft – a record under coach Nick Saban. Those losses included All-Americans in left tackle Jonah Williams, safety Deionte Thompson and lineman Quinnen Williams.
Replacing No. 1 receiver and all-around playmaker N'Keal Harry won't be easy for Herm Edwards and staff in 2019.
The reigning MAC East champs were already set to lose big-play receiver Anthony Johnson, but quarterback Tyree Jackson decided to leave early for the next level. Jackson earned first-team All-MAC honors in 2018 and will be an intriguing prospect to watch in draft workouts.
As expected, coach Dabo Swinney’s team had a couple of players depart for the next level. Tackle Dexter Lawrence, cornerback Travyvon Mullen, end Clelin Ferrell and linebacker Tre Lamar are all leaving the reigning national champs.
Coach David Cutcliffe is one of the best at developing quarterbacks at the collegiate level, but the Blue Devils are going to miss Daniel Jones next fall. Also, the defense lost standout linebacker Joe Giles-Harris.
Running backs Devin “Motor” Singletary and Kerrith Whyte combined for 2,214 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns in 2018 and are both off to the NFL. No other FAU running back accumulated more than 94 yards last season. The receiving corps is also losing Jovon Durante (65 catches).
The Bulldogs are the reigning Mountain West champs, but coach Jeff Tedford’s team lost linebacker Jeff Allison and safety Mike Bell. Both were All-Mountain West selections in 2018.
New coach Dana Holgorsen is a standout hire for the Cougars, but there’s a void to fill on defense after Ed Oliver left early for the NFL.
The Hawkeyes ranked as the top team from the Big Ten’s West Division in Athlon’s way-too-early top 25 for 2019, but coach Kirk Ferentz lost four key players to the NFL. The standout tight end tandem of Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson depart after combining for 88 receptions, 1,279 receiving yards and 13 scores in ’18. Hybrid safety/linebacker Amani Hooker and end Anthony Nelson (9.5 sacks) leave big shoes to fill on the defensive side.
Iowa State’s hopes of an appearance in the Big 12 title game next season suffered a setback when running back David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler left early. Montgomery accounted for 71.9 percent of the Cyclones’ rushing yards in 2018, while Butler accounted for nine of the team’s 20 receiving scores.
The Wildcats have options returning at running back, but Benny Snell's production and leadership will be missed in 2019.
Coach Mike Norvell’s offense is losing two key playmakers to the NFL. Running back Darrell Henderson was one of college football’s most explosive playmakers over the last two years and averaged 8.9 yards per carry on 214 attempts (with 22 rushing touchdowns) in 2018. All-purpose playmaker Tony Pollard is also off to the next level after averaging 119.8 total yards a game last season. Pollard also took seven kickoffs back for touchdowns in his career.
The Bulldogs are only losing one player to the NFL, but it’s a significant piece of a standout defense. Lineman Jeffery Simmons (17 TFL) departs Starkville after helping Mississippi State rank second nationally against the run and in scoring defense.
As if replacing quarterback Ryan Finley and linebacker Germaine Pratt wasn’t enough, the Wolfpack are losing receivers Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers early to the NFL. Harmon led the team with 1,186 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches, while Meyers paced the offense with 92 receptions.
Mack Brown’s return to the sidelines in Chapel Hill got a little tougher when left tackle William Sweet and receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams departed early for the NFL.
Let’s start with the losses for coach Brian Kelly. All-American cornerback Julian Love, receiver Miles Boykin (59 catches) and tight end Alize Mack are all leaving South Bend early for the NFL. However, the losses were minimized a bit, as receiver Chase Claypool and defensive linemen Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara decided to return in 2019.
New coach Ryan Day is already inheriting a tough assignment by replacing Urban Meyer. Day’s first team is going to look slightly different than the 2018 version, especially after quarterback Dwayne Haskins (likely the first QB off the board), running back Mike Weber, center Michael Jordan, end Nick Bosa, tackle Dre’Mont Jones and cornerback Kendall Sheffield all left for the next level. Day did get some good news at the deadline, as safety Jordan Fuller, cornerback Damon Arnette, and receivers K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor are coming back for 2019.
As expected, Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray won’t be returning to Norman next fall. Whether he plays baseball or pursues the NFL is still undecided. The Sooners lost two starters in the trenches (Cody Ford and Bobby Evans) and must replace big-play threat Marquise Brown at receiver.
The Rebels are done with their two-year bowl ban, but coach Matt Luke’s goal of a postseason trip got tougher with the departure of receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, tight end Dawson Knox, and left tackle Greg Little. Brown, Metcalf and Knox combined for 126 of the Rebels’ catches, while Little was an Athlon Sports’ postseason All-American in 2018.
The Nittany Lions were one of the teams hit the hardest by the early entrant deadline for the NFL. For the second consecutive year, coach James Franklin’s offense is losing a star running back (Miles Sanders). Additionally, two linemen – Ryan Bates and Conner McGovern – are off to the next level. The losses in the trenches weren’t limited to the offense, as end Shareef Miller and tackle Kevin Givens are departing Happy Valley.
Quarterback K.J. Costello is coming back to the Farm, but Stanford’s offense is losing three key cogs. Wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, tight end Kaden Smith and lineman Nate Herbig all declared for the NFL.
The Aggies could be a top-10 team next season, but coach Jimbo Fisher lost a couple of key players early to the next level. Running back Trayveon Williams departs after a prolific junior season (1,760 yards), and center Erik McCoy also made the jump to the NFL. Tight end Jace Sternberger is also off to the next level after catching 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 scores in his only season at Texas A&M.
Tight end Caleb Wilson is leaving after pacing the offense with 60 catches for 965 yards in 2018. Chip Kelly’s offense has some significant concerns surrounding the offensive line going into next season, and those issues didn’t get any easier after left tackle Andre James bolted for the NFL.
Receiver Greg Dortch was quietly one of the nation's top all-around playmakers and left Winston-Salem after two seasons of playing time. Replacing that production won't be easy for coach Dave Clawson.
Left tackle Trey Adams passed on the NFL for a return to Seattle after missing most of the 2018 season due to injury, but the Huskies are still losing two All-Americans in the secondary in cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp. The defensive backfield did receive some good news at the deadline, as Myles Bryant decided to return to Seattle for his senior year.
Linebacker David Long earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018 and leaves big shoes to fill in Morgantown this offseason.
The Gators lost five players early to the NFL in defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor, linebacker Vosean Joseph, running back Jordan Scarlett and edge rusher Jachai Polite. However, the damage was minimized after receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Van Jefferson, running back Lamical Perine, linebacker David Reese, and linemen Adam Shuler and Jabari Zuniga announced their intention to return in 2019.
This one is close, as Georgia is probably best suited for a neutral designation. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and safety J.R. Reed decided to return to Athens, but coach Kirby Smart’s team will have to replace running back Elijah Holyfield, receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley and tight end Isaac Nauta. While those are big losses, Georgia has talent at running back and should be able to restock at receiver.
End Joe Jackson and running back Travis Homer are off to the next level, but linebackers Shaquille Quarterman, Zach McCloud and Michael Pinckney are coming back to Coral Gables next fall.
Right tackle David Edwards decided to leave early, but center Tyler Biadasz – arguably one of the best in the nation at his position – is coming back for 2019.