LSU was hit hard by departures to the NFL
The NFL's early entry deadline for the 2020 draft officially passed on Friday, Jan. 17 and more than 100 players declared for the next level. As expected, projected first-round picks in Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and end Chase Young and Georgia offensive lineman Andrew Thomas are headed for the next level. LSU was hit the hardest by departures, as the reigning national champs lost nine players early to the NFL. Alabama lost six players early to the next level, Georgia isn't far behind with five, while Miami, Wisconsin and Washington are just a few of the other teams with key voids to fill after the draft deadline declarations.
The official list of players declaring will be released on Tuesday, Jan. 21, but 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 2020 draft deadline? Here are the winners and losers with the draft deadline process:
College Football's NFL Draft Deadline Winners and Losers for 2020
Yes, the losses are significant. Tackle Jedrick Wills, linebacker Terrell Lewis, receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, safety Xavier McKinney and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are all off to the NFL. However, left tackle Alex Leatherwood, receiver DeVonta Smith, running back Najee Harris and linebacker Dylan Moses all decided to come back for 2020. The losses weren’t as heavy as some anticipated in December, which should put Alabama at the top of the SEC West for 2020.
Coach Kalani Sitake’s squad faces five Power 5 opponents in its first six matchups next fall, but a healthy year from quarterback Zach Wilson and decisions by tight end Matt Bushman and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga to pass on the NFL Draft will help the Cougars push for an upset early in the 2020 season.
Make no mistake: Cornerback CJ Henderson’s decision to leave early for the NFL is a significant setback to the defense. However, that loss was minimized a bit by cornerback Marco Wilson and safety Shawn Davis coming back for 2020. Receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney are also set to return. Georgia landed transfer quarterback Jamie Newman, but Jake Fromm’s departure to the NFL certainly helps Florida’s quest to win the division next fall.
New coach Mike Norvell’s first offseason in Tallahassee is off to a good start. Yes, losing running back Cam Akers to the NFL was a setback, but the return of tackle Marvin Wilson is a big boost to the defense. Additionally, receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen also passed on the NFL.
New coach Ryan Silverfield has pushed the right buttons in building his new staff and received good news at the draft deadline. Quarterback Brady White decided to come back, and receiver Damonte Coxie (1,276 yards) passed on the NFL to return for his senior year.
Mike Leach needs to find a quarterback to direct his high-powered offense, but the first-year coach can lean heavily on running back Kylin Hill as an all-around playmaker in the Air Raid attack. Linebacker Erroll Thompson also decided to return for 2020. However, cornerback Cam Dantzler left for the NFL and won’t be easy to replace next fall.
Look for the Tar Heels to challenge for the ACC Coastal Division title in 2020. Quarterback Sam Howell is only going to get better as a sophomore, and coach Mack Brown convinced receiver Dazz Newsome and linebacker Chazz Surratt to come back next fall.
The Fighting Irish could fit into status quo category, but let’s give coach Brian Kelly’s team a victory at the deadline. Tight end Cole Kmet is a big loss in the passing game, and safety Alohi Gilman will be missed on the back end, but quarterback Ian Book passed on the NFL for his senior year in South Bend. Book’s return gives Notre Dame a shot to make another run at the CFB Playoff for 2020. Book was joined by linemen Liam Eichenburg (offense) and Ade Ogundeji (defense) in making announcements to return for next season.
The Buckeyes could fit into any of the three categories in this article, but let’s give coach Ryan Day’s squad a victory around the draft deadline. Sure, end Chase Young, running back J.K. Dobbins and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah will be tough to replace. However, the losses weren’t as significant as some may have anticipated prior to the deadline. Linemen Wyatt Davis, Thayer Munford and Josh Myers decided to return to anchor one of the top lines in the nation for 2020. Additionally, key defenders Baron Browning (LB) and Shaun Wade (CB) are also coming back.
Mike Gundy’s squad should be among the favorites to play for the Big 12 Championship in 2020. Running back Chuba Hubbard passed on the NFL after rushing for 2,094 yards last season and should be a first-team All-American next fall. Big-play receiver Tylan Wallace and cornerback Rodarius Williams also decided to come back for 2020, ensuring the Cowboys won’t have much to replace this offseason.
The Ducks have to replace quarterback Justin Herbert and linebacker Troy Dye, but four key defenders – cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham and defensive linemen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu – decided to return in 2020. Headed into spring practice, Oregon is the clear favorite to win the Pac-12.
Coach Pat Narduzzi should have the best defense of his tenure at Pitt next fall. The return of end Rashad Weaver from injury is a huge boost, and fellow linemen Jalen Twyman and Patrick Jones, along with safety Paris Ford, passed on the NFL Draft for another year in the Steel City.
With All-America candidate Trey Smith coming back to campus for his senior year, the Volunteers should have one of the SEC’s top offensive lines in 2020.
The Longhorns are still trying to chase down Oklahoma in the Big 12 but getting quarterback Sam Ehlinger and tackle Sam Cosmi back for 2020 is huge for a chance at the title game. Texas also benefits from both Baylor and Oklahoma losing key pieces early to the NFL.
With Utah replacing a chunk of talent from last year’s team, and Arizona State needing to restock some key voids on offense, the Trojans are likely to open spring practice as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South. Three key players – defensive lineman Jay Tufele, receiver Tyler Vaughns and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker – all decided to return for 2020. The news wasn’t all good for USC around the deadline, as standout offensive lineman Austin Jackson departed for the next level.
A late-season injury ended a terrific 2019 campaign by receiver Sage Surratt a little early, but he’s back for 2020 and among the ACC’s top playmakers. Wake Forest’s defense also received good news with first-team All-ACC end Carlos Basham coming back to Winston-Salem.
Rebuilding the trenches is the top offseason priority on both sides of the ball for coach Gus Malzahn. With Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown already set to depart, Nick Coe’s decision to leave early was another setback on defense. Additionally, Noah Igbinoghene and punter Arryn Siposs are following Coe to the next level. Linebacker K.J. Britt and fellow defender Big Kat Bryant are coming back, helping coordinator Kevin Steele ensure a total rebuild isn’t in order up front.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons, cornerback A.J. Terrell and receiver Tee Higgins are big losses, but Clemson got some unexpected good news when running back Travis Etienne decided to return for 2020.
Jim Harbaugh’s squad lost receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, center Cesar Ruiz and edge rusher Josh Uche, but the deadline wasn’t all bad news in Ann Arbor. Nico Collins decided to return, teaming with Ronnie Bell to form one of the Big Ten’s top receiving duos for 2020. Additionally, cornerback Ambry Thomas passed on the NFL, with end Kwity Paye and tight end Nick Eubanks making similar decisions. Thomas’ return is crucial since Lavert Hill is out of eligibility at the other cornerback spot.
The Sooners are still Athlon’s early favorite to win the Big 12 next season, but coach Lincoln Riley’s squad lost linebacker Kenneth Murray and receiver CeeDee Lamb – two likely All-Americans in 2020 – early to the NFL. Riley did receive some good news around the deadline. Standout center Creed Humphrey and running back Kennedy Brooks both decided to come back next season.
End Yetur Gross-Matos and receiver KJ Hamler are significant losses, but the Nittany Lions had four players – tight end Pat Friermuth, cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields and offensive linemen Michael Menet and Will Fries – decide to return to Happy Valley. Adding to the challenge of replacing Hamler is Penn State’s lack of proven options at receiver this season. However, the return of Menet and Fries will bolster a line that should have no trouble clearing the way for a deep stable of running backs.
In addition to standout defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, the Aggies are losing three other players early – cornerback Debione Renfro and receivers Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers. Linebacker Anthony Hines and receiver Jhamon Ausbon decided to return in 2020. While there are losses to the draft, the significant amount of personnel leaving Alabama and LSU provides an opening for Texas A&M to make some noise in the SEC West next fall.
The Sun Devils are adding two four-star prospects to the backfield, but Eno Benjamin will be missed in 2020. Punter Michael Turk is also headed to the NFL after averaging 46 yards a punt last season.
New coach Dave Aranda was already inheriting a rebuilding effort on defense, but that offseason project got a little tougher when James Lynch and Grayland Arnold left early for the NFL.
The Broncos are still the favorite to win the Mountain West in 2020. However, replacing two All-America players – offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland and edge rusher Curtis Weaver – won’t be easy.
Another SEC East title is within reach for the Bulldogs next year, but coach Kirby Smart has some significant retooling to do this offseason. Quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift and three starting linemen – Solomon Kindley, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson – departed for the next level. With a new play-caller, quarterback and offensive line, there’s a lot of transition on Georgia’s offense for 2020.
Offensive tackle Alaric Jackson’s decision to return for 2020 ensured the news around the deadline wasn’t all bad for coach Kirk Ferentz. However, the Hawkeyes lost three All-Big Ten selections in offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, defensive end A.J. Epenesa and safety Geno Stone.
The reigning national champs were hit hard by early departures with nine players declaring for the next level. Safety Grant Delpit, linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen, offensive linemen Lloyd Cushenberry and Saahdiq Charles, receiver Justin Jefferson and tight end Thaddeus Moss are all headed to the NFL. In addition to those losses, the Tigers already have to replace quarterback Joe Burrow and two key assistants (Joe Brady and Dave Aranda).
Coach Mike Locksley begins his second year in College Park looking to replace 66 percent of the ground game’s production from 2019 after running backs after Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake departed for the NFL.
After a disappointing 6-7 debut, coach Manny Diaz has an important offseason ahead in Coral Gables. Changes to the offensive staff should help this program move in the right direction, but Diaz is also losing five key players – defensive linemen Trevon Hill and Jonathan Garvin, cornerback Trajan Bandy, running back DeeJay Dallas and receiver Jeff Thomas – early to the NFL.
With a 14-12 record over the last two years, the 2020 season is a critical one for coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans have to find a way to jumpstart the offense, but they will have to do it without receiver Cody White who left for the NFL. The defense was already losing a couple of key players, and standout cornerback Josiah Scott decided to join White at the next level.
Minnesota’s defense was already set to enter 2020 with some key personnel voids to address, but that task got a little tougher once All-America safety Antoine Winfield departed for the next level.
As if finding a new quarterback to replace Kelly Bryant and improving a sluggish offense wasn’t enough, new coach Eli Drinkwitz has to reload at a couple of positions with tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, offensive lineman Trystan Colon-Castillo and defensive lineman Jordan Elliott off to the NFL.
Sophomore quarterback Max Duggan has to find a new go-to receiver with Jalen Reagor (43 catches) departing early to the NFL. The defensive line took a hit when Ross Blacklock (nine TFL) followed Reagor to the next level.
Center Matt Hennessy – a postseason All-American for 2019 by Athlon Sports – and cornerback Harrison Hand are off to the next level. Adding to the roster concerns for coach Rod Carey was the decision by defensive end Quincy Roche (13 sacks) to leave as a graduate transfer.
A bowl game should be the goal in coach Chip Kelly’s third year. However, the Bruins lost two key players – tight end Devin Asiasi and cornerback Darnay Holmes – early to the NFL.
The Utes were already set to replace key seniors at every level of the defense in 2020. However, the job of coach Kyle Whittingham and coordinator Morgan Scalley got a little tougher once defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Javelin Guidry decided to declare.
The Aggies are losing their best player on both sides of the ball early to the NFL Draft. Quarterback Jordan Love (3,402 yards and 20 TDs), and linebacker David Woodward (a preseason All-American in 2019) leave big shoes to fill in Logan.
Improving the offense was the biggest offseason priority for new coach Jimmy Lake. Unfortunately for Lake, three key players – quarterback Jacob Eason, running back Salvon Ahmed and tight end Hunter Bryant – are headed for the next level. However, the news was a little better on defense. Defensive back Elijah Molden and lineman Levi Onwuzurike are coming back next season.
The Badgers are still the favorite to win the Big Ten’s West Division next fall, but three key pieces from the offense – running back Jonathan Taylor, receiver Quintez Cephus and center Tyler Biadasz – left for the NFL.
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