2018 NFL Draft Underclassmen



A list of officially declared underclassmen for the 2018 NFL Draft. I also offer my opinion on whether or not each prospect made a wise move by leaving school early. I will not factor financial considerations in my analysis because most players need the money.

Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Click here for a list of prospects returning to school
Click here for underclassmen prospect rumors








Underclassmen Declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft:


Jan. 15

Roquan Smith, OLB/ILB, Georgia
Height: 6-1. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.57.
Projected Round (2018): Top-20 Pick.

Roquan Smith is the top linebacker prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft in the wake of his declaration. I'd say that earns an instant "A." Smith is both fast and instinctive, and he thrives in both coverage and run support. Scouts have likened him to Lavonte David. It would be an upset if Smith weren't one of the top 20 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. I have him going 19th overall to Dallas in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.

Grade for declaring: A





J.J. Dallas, CB, Louisiana-Monroe
Height: 6-0. Weight: 198.
Projected 40 Time: 4.59.
Projected Round (2018): FA.

Load up those "Who the fook is that guy???" GIFs because we have our worst declaration yet. J.J. Dallas, whose name resembles that of a porno star, barely did anything at Louisiana-Monroe, logging a grand total of 16 tackles in 2017. People on Twitter are wishing him good luck at WalMart (seriously), so it's obvious that this was an abysmal decision.

Grade for declaring: F-









Jan. 14

Tavares Martin Jr., WR, Washington State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 183.
Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

Tavares Martin has some character questions to answer. He left practice during the season and then was dismissed from the team. He could've gone to a 1-AA school to rehabilitate his draft stock, but as it stands now, he has a real chance to go undrafted.

Grade for declaring: D






Joel Iyiegbuniwe, ILB, Western Kentucky
Height: 6-1. Weight: 230.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

Joel Iyiegbuniwe has been a very productive linebacker for Western Kentucky over the past couple of seasons. He's actually spent four years in college already, so as a redshirt junior, Iyiegbuniwe didn't really have much else to prove. He could be selected in the middle of Day 3 and become a solid backup and core special-teamer. I think it was an OK decision for him to declare, as I don't think he could have improved his stock in 2018.

Grade for declaring: C+






Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue
Height: 6-3. Weight: 300.
Projected 40 Time: 5.05.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

Eddy Wilson might not get drafted. He'll need a good performance at the combine and/or his pro day to get noticed enough to be a third-day pick. Perhaps he'll sneak into the sixth or seventh round, but it's clear that Wilson made a huge mistake by declaring. Just 21 in February, Wilson would have been better off improving his stock in 2018.

Grade for declaring: B



Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
Height: 6-6. Weight: 223.
Projected 40 Time: 4.72.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Chase Litton has some fans in the scouting community, but there are some evaluators who hate him as a prospect as well. All it takes is one team to draft him, so Litton could be chosen as early as the second round. He could also fall into Day 3. This decision isn't too bad, as another year at school would only allow scouts to pick his game apart even further.

Grade for declaring: B







Jan. 13

Rasheem Green, DT/DE, USC
Height: 6-4. Weight: 275.
Projected 40 Time: 4.99.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Rasheem Green's decision had to be difficult. He's coming off a solid season, and he should be a second-day selection. However, he needs to get stronger for the NFL. He could've used another year at school to bulk up and emerge as a potential first-round pick who could play in either the 4-3 or 3-4. I don't think he's ready, but I can't blame him for leaving either.

Grade for declaring: B









Jan. 12

Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 5.00.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Trenton Thompson is certainly selling his stock high, as he had a tremendous performance in the national championship. That game apparently changed Thompson's mind, as he previously said he was going to return to school. I'm in favor of this decision, as Thompson could regress next year. Thompson is a versatile lineman who can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4, and he's very skilled at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If he can be coached up to be more consistent, he's going to be a star in the NFL.

Grade for declaring: A-



Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State
Height: 6-6. Weight: 303.
Projected 40 Time: 5.13.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

This is another bad decision, which has been par for the course for Will Richardson's career at N.C. State. Richardson is a third-day prospect who could go undrafted because of several off-the-field incidents in the past. Richardson should've returned to school and proven that he can stay clean.

Grade for declaring: F



Nyheim Hines, RB/KR, N.C. State
Height: 5-8. Weight: 197.
Projected 40 Time: 4.43.
Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

Nyheim Hines will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Darren Sproles, as he's a small back with quickness and great catching ability. He also doubles as a kick returner. Of course, many have been compared to Sproles and failed to live up to that billing, though Hines certainly has a chance. Hines could be chosen late on Day 2, and if not he'll be taken early on Saturday. Regardless, this is a good decision because he would've been a great injury risk with a return to school.

Grade for declaring: B+




Jan. 11

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Height: 6-1. Weight: 203.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Projected Round (2018): Top-10.

Minkah Fitzpatrick will either be the first or second safety chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he's very likely to be a top-10 pick. This was a complete no-brainer, as there was absolutely no benefit to returning to school.

Grade for declaring: A+



Will Clapp, C/G, LSU
Height: 6-5. Weight: 309.
Projected 40 Time: 5.20.
Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

Will Clapp is coming off a strong year, so he's taking this opportunity to sell high on his stock and declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. I can get behind this decision, though I think there was some benefit to going back to LSU. Clapp is a tremendous run blocker, but needs to improve in pass protection. Perhaps another year would've allowed him to upgrade that area of his game and emerge as a second-round prospect for 2019. Then again, he could've just risked injury, so that should be considered as well.

Grade for declaring: B-



Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
Height: 6-3. Weight: 216.
Projected 40 Time: 4.59.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

It could be argued that Ronnie Harrison should've returned to school to improve upon his coverage skills, but I think he's making the right decision. Harrison is likely to be the third safety chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James, making him a probable first-round pick.

Grade for declaring: A-



Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
Height: 6-3. Weight: 210.
Projected 40 Time: 4.74.
Projected Round (2018): FA.

This rivals Jalen Wilkerson's decision to declare. Kyle Allen is a former five-star recruit who lost the starting job at Texas A&M. He transferred to Houston, where he was a complete bust, getting benched after three games for turning the ball over way too often. Allen, just 22 in March, should've remained in Houston and competed for the starting job again, which would've proved to NFL teams that he's serious about football. Perhaps he could've reemerged as a mid-round pick with a successful 2018 season. Instead, he decided to go to the pros, and it's highly unlikely that he'll get drafted.

Grade for declaring: F-




Jan. 10

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Height: 5-11. Weight: 212.
Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Derrius Guice missed some time with a knee injury this past season, so perhaps that experience made him realize that it's foolish for any highly touted running back to stay in school longer than necessary. Guice should be a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, especially with Damien Harris and Rodney Anderson returning to school, so this is an easy "A" for his decision.

Grade for declaring: A



Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Height: 6-2. Weight: 319.
Projected 40 Time: 5.10.
Projected Round (2018): 1.

Da'Ron Payne is coming off a great year for the national champion Tide. He's a tremendous run-stuffer who can get to the quarterback on occasion. He's a freakish athlete for his monstrous size, and will certainly be coveted by some teams in the top 20. There was no reason for Payne to return to school after what he did in 2017, so this is obviously a great decision.

Grade for declaring: A



Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
Height: 6-2. Weight: 228.
Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Bo Scarbrough came into Alabama with tons of acclaim, but didn't exactly live up to it. Scarbrough's 2017 season was relatively disappointing, and he fell in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft as a result, now projected to go in the fourth round. I would've liked to have seen Scarbrough return to school to improve his draft stock, but I can understand why he's declaring. With Damien Harris returning for another year, Scarbrough would've had to share touches with both Damien and Najee Harris. Plus, running backs tend to get injured frequently, so that was another risk.

Grade for declaring: C+



Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
Height: 6-1. Weight: 195.
Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

Quenton Meeks has had some nice moments at Stanford, but he didn't play very well overall this past season. He should have returned to school to improve his draft stock, but instead, he'll likely be a third-day selection. Meeks is certainly selling low on his draft stock, which is something prospects shouldn't do.

Grade for declaring: C-



Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech
Height: 6-5. Weight: 236.
Projected 40 Time: 4.71.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Tremaine Edmunds is the better of the two brothers, and he stands a very good chance of being a first-round pick. Compared to Anthony Barr by some, Edmunds is a very athletic linebacker with great instincts. He took a bit of step back this past season compared to his prolific 2016 campaign, so I didn't know if he would declare, but this is still a great decision on his part.

Grade for declaring: A-



Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
Height: 6-2. Weight: 220.
Projected 40 Time: 4.58.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Both of the Virginia Tech Edmunds brothers declared for the NFL Draft today. Terrell Edmunds is the lesser of the two, but he's still a solid prospect, earning high marks in coverage. There's talk that Edmunds could be moved to linebacker in the pros, much like the Cardinals did with Deone Bucannon. As a second-day prospect, Edmunds' decision to leave for the pros makes a lot of sense.

Grade for declaring: B



Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Height: 6-1. Weight: 188.
Projected 40 Time: 4.48.
Projected Round (2018): 1.

Calvin Ridley's stats were suppressed in 2017, but only because he was stuck in a run-heavy offense with pedestrian quarterbacking. Teams and scouts are still very high on Ridley, and the consensus is that he's the top receiver in this class. He's likely to be chosen in the top half of the opening round, so this is obviously a great decision on his part. I have Ridley going 16th overall to the Ravens in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.

Grade for declaring: A



Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
Height: 6-2. Weight: 200.
Projected 40 Time: 4.51.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Deon Cain seems to be making a big mistake. Cain was once considered a second-round prospect, but he's likely to be chosen on Day 3 now because of a poor season. He dropped lots of passes in 2017, and NFL sources told Charlie Campbell that they view Cain as a "one-trick pony." Cain could've returned to school and restored his draft stock, but he opted not to do so. This is a classic case of selling low.

Grade for declaring: C-




Jan. 9

Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Height: 5-11. Weight: 175.
Projected 40 Time: 4.45.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Donte Jackson has drawn comparisons to Janoris Jenkins. He has size limitations, but is very fast and will be able to handle speedy receivers in the NFL. This could get him drafted in the second half of the opening round, so he's obviously making a good decision by declaring early. He had a great 2017 season, so he's doing the right thing by selling high on his draft stock.

Grade for declaring: A



Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Height: 6-1. Weight: 204.
Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Justin Reid played very well this past season, and team sources have told Charlie Campbell that he has first-round potential. Reid is a solid safety who does everything well, and if he isn't chosen in the opening round, he'll go early on Day 2. Thus, I think his decision is the correct one, as he could've risked injury or regression had he returned to school.

Grade for declaring: A-



Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 273.
Projected 40 Time: 4.81.
Projected Round (2018): 7-FA.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our worst declaration of the draft season. Jalen Wilkerson is an undersized redshirt sophomore who had very little playing experience. He still needs to develop his game - he moved from tight end to defensive end - and his body, and it's almost certain that he won't be drafted. This is a huge mistake.

Grade for declaring: F-



Toby Weathersby, OT, LSU
Height: 6-7. Weight: 302.
Projected 40 Time: 5.32.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

This is a disappointing declaration. Toby Weathersby had a fairly decent 2017 season, but still had some work to be done before he could be a finished product for the pros. Weathersby is a good run-blocker, but has some concerns for his pass-protection skills. Weathersby is likely to be a third-day prospect, but he could've improved his stock with a better 2018 campaign.

Grade for declaring: C-




Jan. 8

Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
Height: 6-0. Weight: 170.
Projected 40 Time: 4.47.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Deontay Burnett didn't exactly end his collegiate career on a high note. He caught 12 passes in the postseason exhibition game, but made some bad mistakes. Burnett ideally would've gotten stronger with another year at USC, but I can understand why he'd want to declare, given that Sam Darnold also bolted for the NFL. Burnett could be chosen on the second day of the draft, but might fall into the early parts of Saturday.

Grade for declaring: B



Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU
Height: 6-2. Weight: 193.
Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

Kevin Toliver is a big cornerback with a first-round skill set. He performed very well as a freshman and sophomore. However, he regressed greatly this past season. He was torched often in 2017, and sources told Charlie Campbell that they're concerned with Toliver's poor instincts. There's also a question of why he was held out for the first game of the season without any sort of explanation. Toliver, who has plummeted in the 2018 NFL Mock Draft, should have returned to school to rehabilitate his draft stock. However, there's always a chance that some team falls in love with his potential and takes him earlier than expected, so this isn't a horrible decision. It's just not a very good one.

Grade for declaring: C



Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
Height: 6-2. Weight: 230.
Projected 40 Time: 4.68.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

I don't understand why any offensive player not projected to be an early-round pick would leave a team when Chip Kelly is set to be the new head coach. Austin Roberts would've had so much potential at UCLA this upcoming season, especially with Jordan Lasley leaving early. As it stands now, Roberts is a late-round prospect at best, and he may not be drafted. He could've improved his draft stock tremendously despite Josh Rosen's departure, so this decision seems awful.

Grade for declaring: F



Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Jerome Baker is an athletic linebacker who could play well in coverage in the pros. That's the good news pertaining to his draft stock. The bad news is that Baker hasn't really lived up to expectations. There was a ton of hype surrounding Baker entering 2017, and I slotted him toward the end of the opening round of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft several months ago. However, I've dropped him to the third frame since, as his play in 2017 was just above average. Perhaps his upside will intrigue a team enough to take him in the second round, but it seems as though Baker should have returned to Ohio State to improve his draft stock.

Grade for declaring: C+



Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Height: 5-11. Weight: 185.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Mike Hughes had a terrific season for undefeated Central Florida, and he's absolutely correct to declare early. He's selling high on his draft stock, and he's also avoiding a coaching change. Hughes, a speedy cover cornerback with quick feet and return ability, is seen in NFL circles as a second-round prospect. However, as Charlie Campbell noted, some evaluators believe Hughes could ultimately be chosen in the first round if he tests well at the combine because of the demand for corners.

Grade for declaring: A-



Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
Height: 6-3. Weight: 318.
Projected 40 Time: 5.23.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5

Kendrick Norton has played well for Miami the past two seasons. He was expected to have a breakout 2017 campaign, but that never happened, as he continued to play around the same level. Norton probably should have returned to school so he could have that great year, but this decision isn't a poor one. Norton has a chance to sneak into the third round as long as he has a strong pre-draft process.

Grade for declaring: C+



Christian Sam, ILB, Arizona State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 237.
Projected 40 Time: 4.78.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Christian Sam missed most of 2016 with a leg injury, but bounce back with a strong 2017 campaign. He was one of the most productive linebackers in the country, racking up 127 tackles and three sacks. Despite these great stats, Sam is just a third-day prospect because of size and athleticism limitations. I don't think another year at school could've improved his draft stock as much as a great showing at the combine. If he posts strong workout numbers, he could potentially climb into third-round consideration. At the very worst, he projects as a solid backup and core special-teamer in the pros.

Grade for declaring: B-



R.J. McIntosh, DE/DT, Miami
Height: 6-4. Weight: 293.
Projected 40 Time: 4.98.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

R.J. McIntosh had an exceptional season and is doing the right thing by selling high on his draft stock. He's an extremely disruptive interior presence who can generate consistent pressure on the quarterback and also play well against the run. McIntosh will intrigue all teams, as he can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4. I don't think it's out of the question that McIntosh will ultimately be a first-round pick, though the most likely outcome is for him to be chosen at some point Friday night.

Grade for declaring: B+



Van Smith, S, Clemson
Height: 5-11. Weight: 195.
Projected 40 Time: 4.60.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Van Smith played very well during Clemson's championship run in 2016, but didn't take the next step as expected this past season. He was solid, but not special, and as it stands now, he's just an early- or mid-Day 3 prospect. Smith probably should have returned to school, but this isn't nearly as horrible as some of the other decisions made today.

Grade for declaring: C-



Du'Vonta Lampkin, NT, Oklahoma
Height: 6-4. Weight: 335.
Projected 40 Time: 5.25.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

The Sooners had big plans for Du'Vonta Lampkin in 2018, but he didn't care, apparently. He made the decision to bolt for the pros, which is absolutely shocking. Lampkin has barely played college football; he missed time in 2016 and 2017 because of suspensions. Lampkin could've greatly bolstered his draft stock in 2018, but he'll be lucky to be drafted as it stands now. This is a huge mistake on his part.

Grade for declaring: F



Kahlil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
Height: 6-3. Weight: 325.
Projected 40 Time: 5.17.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

It's extremely difficult to understand this decision. Kahlil McKenzie is just a late-round prospect. There's a coaching change at Tennessee, but it sounded like McKenzie was set to earn more playing time in 2018, which would've helped his draft stock. Plus, McKenzie didn't need the money; he's the son of Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders' general manager.

Grade for declaring: F




Jan. 7

Ray-Ray McCloud, WR/KR, Clemson
Height: 5-9. Weight: 180.
Projected 40 Time: 4.40.
Projected Round (2018): 4-7.

This is an extremely poor decision. Ray-Ray McCloud was once a five-star recruit, but he struggled in Clemson. He caught 49 passes for just 503 yards and a touchdown in 2017. He just never lived up to his potential, but had a chance to improve with another year with the Tigers. He won't be able to do that now. McCloud could get drafted at some point on Day 3 because he could be a dynamic return specialist, but teams are undoubtedly disappointed that McCloud has opted to declare.

Grade for declaring: F




Jan. 6

Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 198.
Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Tarvarus McFadden has terrific talent, which is why he was once a first-round prospect in our 2018 NFL Mock Draft. However, his tape hasn't matched his ability, as he's gotten torched deep on too many occasions. Scouts and team sources told Charlie Campbell that they believe McFadden should returned to school. McFadden thought otherwise, and will likely be penalized for it. He'll probably be chosen in the third round, but could sneak into the second frame.

Grade for declaring: C



Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Auden Tate's stat line from 2017 doesn't look overly impressive - 40 receptions, 548 yards, 10 touchdowns - but he played very well considering the major quarterbacking problems Florida State endured because of injury. Tate is a huge receiver who has first-round potential if he can quell concerns about separation. The combine will be extremely important for him for that reason. It's a risk, but I'm OK with it considering the coaching change and the fact that the 2018 NFL Draft receiving class is a relatively weak one. Tate could rise come April if he impresses during the pre-draft process.

Grade for declaring: B



Tre'Quan Smith, WR, Central Florida
Height: 6-1. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

I can say the same thing about Tre'Quan Smith that I discussed about Jordan Akins. Smith will probably be a mid-third-day selection, who would've gotten an extremely poor grade for declaring if there didn't happen to be a coaching change. Smith, who caught 59 passes for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns, is a skilled receiver with some nice size, but doesn't have great athletic ability.

Grade for declaring: C-



Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida
Height: 6-3. Weight: 237.
Projected 40 Time: 4.85.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Jordan Akins recorded 32 receptiosn for 515 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. He's an athletic H-back who could draw some early third-day consideration if he tests very well at the combine. Indianapolis will be very important for Akins, who could go late in the draft if he disappoints. This is a big-time risk, and Akins probably should've gone back to school, but I don't blame him for declaring amid the coaching change.

Grade for declaring: C




Jan. 5

Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Height: 6-0. Weight: 200.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Ronald Jones is a dynamic runner with a good work ethic; he put a lot of effort into packing on some muscle prior to the 2017 campaign, and it showed, as he ran with more power without losing his electrifying ability. Jones could be chosen very late in the first round, but will probably be taken at some point in the second frame. Thus, his decision to declare is a great one, especially considering the position he plays.

Grade for declaring: A



Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
Height: 6-2. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.57.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Josh Adams, a power runner with some quickness, has a decent shot to be chosen in the third round this April. There's a chance he could fall into the early stages of the third day of the draft, but I'm fine with him declaring because of his position. Running backs tend to get hurt more than any other position, and Adams is coming off a great year (1,430 rushiing yards), so he had little else to prove.

Grade for declaring: A-



Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
Height: 6-1. Weight: 195.
Projected 40 Time: 4.51.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

This doesn't seem like the best decision. Jessie Bates has been a solid safety for Wake Forest, while doubling as a kick returner. He's good enough to be chosen early on Day 3, but that's about it. Just a redshirt sophomore, Bates should've gone back to school to improve his game.

Grade for declaring: D



Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Height: 6-3. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.57.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Several months ago, a high-ranking personnel man in an NFC front office told us that he believed Lamar Jackson would be the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson, however, struggled this past season. He had some amazing plays that showed off his rocket arm and terrific scrambling ability. However, there were too many negatives as well. Jackson struggled with ball placement and mechanics. I believe he'll be a first-round pick, but he should have gone back to school to work on shoring up his weaknesses, especially with the other top quarterback prospects declaring as well. Jackson could be the fifth quarterback chosen behind Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield this April, whereas he would've been the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft with a bounce-back 2018 campaign.

Grade for declaring: C



James Daniels, C, Iowa
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 5.10.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

James Daniels could be a second-day selection, but I would've liked to have seen him return to school, as he had a chance to be a first-round selection in 2019. Daniels, an athletic blocker, won't even turn 21 until September, so it's not like he was old for his playing status. Still, this isn't the worst move, as Daniels will probably be chosen on Friday night at some point.

Grade for declaring: C+




Jan. 4

Geron Christian, OT, Louisville
Height: 6-6. Weight: 314.
Projected 40 Time: 5.40.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

It's very difficult to understand this decision. Geron Christian struggled mightily in 2017, allowing too many pressures and constantly getting pushed around. Christian has not lived up to his athletic ability, and with a better year, he could move to second-day consideration. As it stands now, he'll be a Saturday pick.

Grade for declaring: D



Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Height: 6-5. Weight: 250.
Projected 40 Time: 4.78.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Mark Andrews is coming off a tremendous season, catching 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns. He's a potent threat down the seam and in the end zone, and he has an outside chance of being a first-round pick. I don't think Andrews could improve his stock even further by returning to school, especially with Baker Mayfield set to graduate, so his decision to declare is a great one.

Grade for declaring: A



Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
Height: 6-4. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Equanimeous St. Brown posted poor numbers in 2017 - 31 catches, 468 yards - but that was hardly his fault, thanks to horrible quarterback play. St. Brown requested for feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory committee, and they gave him positive feedback, and predictably so. St. Brown has gotten positive marks from scouts and teams for route-running, hands, size and speed. He has the potential to be a first-round pick, so he made a good decision by declaring.

Grade for declaring: A-



Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 5.24.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Harrison Phillips was a senior, but still declared for the draft early because he had one more year of eligibility remaining as a result of a 2015 injury.

Phillips' decision makes sense. He's a senior, so it's understandable why he'd want to turn pro. He stuffs the run well, but needs to work on his pass-rushing ability despite registering 7.5 sacks in 2017. There's concern about how that'll translate to the pros. The good news for Phillips is that he can play in the 4-3 and 3-4, so there will be interest in him as early as the third round.

Grade for declaring: B+



Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 290.
Projected 40 Time: 5.05.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Sam Jones, an honorable mention on the All-Pac-12 team, seems like an early-to-mid third-day selection. He didn't surrender a sack all year, and he's an intelligent technician, but it remains to be seen if he has enough strength to play in the pros. Jones should've gone back to school to get stronger, but it's understandable that he would want to declare amid a coaching change.

Grade for declaring: C



Dorance Armstrong Jr., DE/OLB, Kansas
Height: 6-4. Weight: 241.
Projected 40 Time: 4.60.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Dorance Armstrong accumulated just two sacks in 2017 after logging 10 the year before. He was not at fault for this lack of production, as he saw double teams on virtually every play. With no other competent players around Armstrong, teams could simply focus on him, easily neutralizing him as a result. I'm not sure Armstrong could've improved his draft stock with another year in Kansas, as it would've been the same old story again next season. He needed to get away from the Jayhawks' dreadful program as quickly as possible.

Grade for declaring: A



Arden Key, DE, LSU
Height: 6-5. Weight: 260.
Projected 40 Time: 4.70.
Projected Round (2018): Top-10.

Arden Key is one of the most dynamic players in the 2018 NFL Draft now that he has declared. However, he's coming off a rocky season. He missed some time early on because of shoulder surgery, and he was overweight as a result. He eventually returned to form and thrived, but then missed time late in the year with another injury. Despite all of this, as well as some off-the-field concerns, Key is still expected to be a top-10 pick because of his amazing talent level. Thus, it makes sense for him to declare early.

Grade for declaring: A



Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
Height: 6-1. Weight: 210.
Projected 40 Time: 4.51.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Jordan Lasley was a dynamic play-maker for UCLA this past season, logging 69 receptions for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing four games. That's the good. The bad is that Lasley has character issues, and he has some major holes in his game, as his route-running and hands need work. I understand that Lasley is losing Josh Rosen, but had he remained in school, he could've improved his game under Chip Kelly. This seems like a poor decision overall.

Grade for declaring: C-



Jeff Holland, OLB, Auburn
Height: 6-2. Weight: 249.
Projected 40 Time: 4.76.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Projected as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Jeff Holland is an excellent pass-rusher, but happens to be a big liability in run support. Perhaps returning to school would've helped him in that regard, solidifying his standing as a second-round prospect for 2019. Holland will likely slide into Rounds 3-4 in the 2018 NFL Draft. That said, he's coming off a strong year, so returning to school could've hurt his stock with injuries and/or regression, so I think this is a fine decision.

Grade for declaring: B



Tim Settle, NT Virginia Tech
Height: 6-2. Weight: 335.
Projected 40 Time: 5.18.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

There already were two massive nose tackles in this draft class who move extremely well for their size in Da'Ron Payne and Vita Vea. Tim Settle is now the third. Despite weighing 335 pounds, Settle was disruptive as a pass-rusher, logging 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a mere redshirt sophomore. He also was dominant versus the run. Settle has tons of potential, so it's a bit of a shame that he didn't wait until 2019 so he could be a first-round pick. He'll likely be taken on Day 2 as it stands now, though a terrific combine could change things.

Grade for declaring: B-



Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
Height: 6-0. Weight: 235.
Projected 40 Time: 4.58.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

I'm usually in favor of running backs declaring early for the NFL Draft, but there are exceptions, and this is certainly one. With injury and off-the-field issues, Kamryn Pettway stands a good chance of going undrafted. He played behind Kerryon Johnson this past season when active, but with Johnson heading for the NFL, Pettway could've seized the starting job next year and proven to everyone that he can be a reliable player. Perhaps he could've worked his way into Round 3-4 consideration. For now, however, he'll have to fight an uphill battle to make a final roster.

Grade for declaring: F



JoJo Wicker, DE, Arizona State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 273.
Projected 40 Time: 4.85.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

JoJo Wicker is nothing more than a late-round prospect. As a second-team All-Pac-12 player, he logged six sacks in 2017. He could've improved his draft stock by going back to school without hurting it very much. I'd give this decision an "F" if it weren't for the coaching change, but even still, it seems like a bad decision.

Grade for declaring: D




Jan. 3

Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Height: 6-4. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.78.
Projected Round (2018): 1.

This decision was less predictable than Josh Rosen's choice to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Sam Darnold was considered the favorite to go first overall this April for a while, but he struggled for most of 2017. Teams believed Darnold would return to school, but he has opted to declare instead.

I don't think Darnold's decision was as much of a no-brainer as Rosen's. He could have gone back to school and improved enough to be the top choice in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, there have been other USC quarterbacks who have killed their draft stock by returning. Darnold is almost certainly right to avoid that risk.

Grade for declaring: A-



Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Height: 6-4. Weight: 210.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 1.

Josh Rosen's decision to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft was an easy one, and it was first reported by Charlie Campbell a few weeks ago. Rosen has his flaws - teams have major concerns about his attitude, intangibles and durability - but he has an elite skill set and will almost certainly be a top-five pick. There was no reason for him to return to school.

Grade for declaring: A+



Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Height: 6-8. Weight: 360.
Projected 40 Time: 5.45.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Orlando Brown is a powerful lineman who should be able to bolster a team's running attack almost instantly. However, he has a problem with speed rushers, and this has prompted some scouts and team sources to tell us that he'll slip into the second day of the draft. That said, Brown's decision to declare is a fine one, as I don't think he could improve his draft stock at Oklahoma any longer. Perhaps being paired with a great NFL offensive line coach could help him a lot.

Grade for declaring: B



Rashaan Gaulden, CB, Tennessee
Height: 6-0. Weight: 193.
Projected 40 Time: 4.51.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

Rashaan Gaulden is likely to be a late-round prospect, so it's fair to wonder why he's declaring. Gaulden can at least say he's bolting for the pros because of the coaching change at his school, and that might make sense. However, Gaulden could've improved his stock with another year at Tennessee.

Grade for declaring: D



Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
Height: 6-1. Weight: 195.
Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Carlton Davis is a potential first-round pick, as he's a talented cornerback with good size (6-1). He can have some trouble covering deep threats, but he's still good enough to be chosen late on Thursday night. Some teams we've spoken to have him graded as a late first-rounder, while others think he'll go on Day 2. Either way, Davis' decision to declare is a good one, as he'd be more likely to hurt his draft stock with an injury than help it by returning to Auburn.

Grade for declaring: B+



Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
Height: 6-1. Weight: 192.
Projected 40 Time: 4.56.
Projected Round (2018): Top 25 Picks.

There was no reason for Joshua Jackson not to declare. He's coming off a tremendous season, highlighted with a three-interception performance against Ohio State. Jackson's stock has never been higher, so it's good that he's selling high on it. Jackson could be the first cornerback chosen this April, which is what I have happening in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. Jackson only risked damaging his draft stock by returning to Iowa, so he's making a great decision by declaring.

Grade for declaring: A



Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Height: 6-8. Weight: 310.
Projected 40 Time: 5.20.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Kolton Miller struggled in 2016, having issues with speed rushes. However, he played much better this past season, and there's some talk that he could even sneak into the end of the first round. Given his improved draft stock, as well as the coaching change at UCLA, it definitely makes sense for Miller to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

Grade for declaring: A-



Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 245.
Projected 40 Time: 4.84.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

Ryan Izzo is going to be a third-day selection in all likelihood. He's more of a blocking tight end who doesn't have much upside, so it's puzzling as to why he would declare. I get that there's a coaching change at Florida State, but still.

Grade for declaring: D




Jan. 2

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
Height: 6-0. Weight: 212.
Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Kerryon Johnson is coming off a great season in which he rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns. Johnson, a back with great patience, could be taken in the second round. It's obvious that he's making the right decision; running backs get injured more than any other position, so returning to school might have been devastating for his draft stock.

Grade for declaring: A



Nick Gates, G, Nebraska
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 5.02.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Nick Gates is just a third-day prospect. He played left tackle at Nebraska, but will have to move to guard or right tackle in the pros. It's a bit odd that he would declare, aside from the fact that Nebraska is undergoing a coaching change.

Grade for declaring: C-



Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Height: 5-11. Weight: 200.
Projected 40 Time: 4.43.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Christian Kirk drew some comparisons to Odell Beckham Jr. from some sources during his amazing freshman campaign. However, they soured on him after that, and we dropped him from the top 10 of our mock draft to the second round. Kirk is likely to be chosen in the second frame. Here's the article on mixed grades for Kirk in the NFL Hot Press.

Despite the worsened draft stock, Kirk is probably making the right decision. There's a new coaching staff at Texas A&M, so his outlook was going to be uncertain. Plus, he risked injury and further regression by going back to school.

Grade for declaring: B+



Ryan Nall, FB, Oregon State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 250.
Projected 40 Time: 4.72.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

It's odd to see a fullback declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, but that's what has happened here, as Ryan Nall made the announcement that he'll be bolting for the pros. Nall was Oregon State's starting running back, but will have to move to fullback in the NFL.

I can't hate this decision because Nall plays a position that comes with a high risk of injury. He's a late-round pick, but I don't think he could have improved his stock with another year at school.

Grade for declaring: B



Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
Height: 6-6. Weight: 240.
Projected 40 Time: 4.80.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Dalton Schultz has failed to eclipse 25 receptions in a single season with Stanford, which isn't indicative of his playing ability. Schultz has gotten strong marks from scouts for his hands, route-running ability and blocking. He has the potential to be a second-round pick, but will probably be chosen in the third frame.

If Schultz had better production, he would certainly be a second-round prospect, so it's a shame he's not returning to school. That said, this isn't a bad decision by any means.

Grade for declaring: B




Jan. 1

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Height: 6-5. Weight: 325.
Projected 40 Time: 5.15.
Projected Round (2018): Top-25.

Quenton Nelson is an elite guard prospect who has a great chance to be a top-10 pick. Drawing comparisons to Logan Mankins, Nelson is the best offensive lineman in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Because he has such high marks, his decision to declare was a no-brainer. Nelson would only risk damaging his draft stock by returning to school.

Grade for declaring: A+



Byron Pringle, WR, Kansas State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
Projected Round (2018): 5-7.

Late-round prospects usually shouldn't declare early, but there are exceptions. Byron Pringle is one of them, as he'll turn 25 just before Thanksgiving this year. It's time to him to see what he can do on the professional level. Pringle wasn't very productive for the Wildcats - he caught 30 passes in 2017 - but made some big plays on both offense and special teams. He could carve out a role as a core special-teamer in the NFL.

Grade for declaring: B-



Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
Height: 6-3. Weight: 238.
Projected 40 Time: 4.68.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Once upon a time, Malik Jefferson was a first-round pick in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. That was just a projection of his talent, but he hasn't lived up to it during his time in Texas. Sources have told Charlie Campbell that they're concerned about Jefferson's love of football, which would explain why he's been a disappointment as a college player.

Jefferson should return to school to prove the critics wrong. With a terrific 2018 campaign, he could reemerge as a potential first-round prospect. As it stands now, he'll be fortunate to go on Day 2, as there are concerns about his ability in coverage on top of worries about his passion for football.

Grade for declaring: C-



D.J. Reed, CB/KR, Kansas State
Height: 5-9. Weight: 188.
Projected 40 Time: 4.41.
Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

D.J. Reed has incredible speed, and he was highly productive for Kansas State this past season, logging 13 passes defensed and four interceptions. He also doubled as an electrifying kick returner.

Reed stands a good chance of being a third-round pick. At the very worse, he should be chosen early on Day 3. Thus, his decision to declare for the NFL Draft makes sense.

Grade for declaring: B



Vita Vea, NT, Washington
Height: 6-5. Weight: 332.
Projected 40 Time: 5.20.
Projected Round (2018): Top-15 Pick.

Men as big as Vita Vea shouldn't be able to move like he does. Yet, he's not only a monstrous run-stuffer, but also a potent interior pass-rusher. Vita Vea had a tremendous finish to his season, shining in the postseason exhibition game against Penn State.

Vea is selling high on his draft stock by declaring for the NFL Draft, which is something that all prospects should do. He's certain to be a top-15 pick, and it shouldn't shock anyone if he's chosen in the first 10 selections.

Grade for declaring: A+



Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
Height: 5-11. Weight: 208.
Projected 40 Time: 4.49.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Nick Nelson was highly productive at Wisconsin, logging 20 passes defensed in 2017. However, there will be questions about how he translates to the NFL, as Nelson is a bit undersized and not fast enough to compensate for the lack of height. He'll need a strong performance at the combine to quell concerns.

That said, I think Nelson's decision to declare is fine. He had a great year, so I don't know how much he could improve his stock by going back to school.

Grade for declaring: B



Andre Smith, ILB, North Carolina
Height: 6-0. Weight: 240.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 5-FA.

Andre Smith said that going to North Carolina was the best decision of his life. Declaring for the draft, however, is a pretty poor one.

The best-case scenario for Smith is that he turns out to be a mid-round pick. The worst-case scenario is that teams are scared off by his knee injury, and he goes undrafted as a result. Smith hurt his knee in the second game of the season, and he missed the rest of the year as a result. Smith should have returned to school and proven to teams that his knee isn't an issue. Unfortunately, some teams may not have him on their draft boards because of health concerns.

Grade for declaring: F



Hercules Mata'afa, DE/OLB, Washington State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 255.
Projected 40 Time: 4.90.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

This is a strange decision, to say the least. Hercules Mata'afa is going to have to make a positional change in the NFL. He played defensive tackle for Washington State, but will have to move to outside linebacker in the 3-4, or perhaps serve as a rotational edge-rusher in a 4-3 scheme. Mata'afa can get to the quarterback, but he projects as a third-day prospect, so it's unclear why he has opted to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Grade for declaring: D




Dec. 31

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Height: 5-11. Weight: 223.
Projected 40 Time: 4.49.
Projected Round (2018): Top-10 Pick.

This was the no-brainer of no-brainer decisions. Saquon Barkley is almost certain to be a top-five pick, and after his ridiculous performance against Washington in the postseason exhibition game, he could even be chosen first overall if the Browns go after a veteran quarterback this offseason. Barkley had nothing to gain and everything to lose by going back to Penn State; an injury could've been catastrophic for his draft stock.

Grade for declaring: A+




Dec. 30

Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Height: 6-5. Weight: 266.
Projected 40 Time: 4.78.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Sam Hubbard has the natural talent and athletic ability to be a top-15 pick. However, he hasn't lived up to his potential. He played very well in 2016, but was a disappointment this past season. He's shown some great flashes, but has performed inconsistently.

That said, Hubbard was terrific in the postseason exhibition game against USC, as Charlie Campbell detailed in the College Football Game Recaps. This could help Hubbard, a fringe first-round prospect, sneak into the end of Day 1. I think Hubbard's choice to declare is a fine one, but the case could have been made for him to return to school, play up to his ability and be selected in the top 15 picks of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Grade for declaring: B



Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
Height: 6-0. Weight: 198.
Projected 40 Time: 4.41.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Trey Quinn, a transfer from LSU, is an explosive slot receiver. He has a shot to be chosen in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but that'll depend on his combine performance. He'll have a chance to run in the 4.3s, and that could really boost his draft stock. A mediocre 40 time, however, could bounce him into Day 3.

There's uncertainty here, but I don't mind Quinn declaring because of the coaching change at SMU. Quinn doesn't know how he'll be used in the offense next year, so he would've risked hurting his draft stock by returning to school.

Grade for declaring: B+




Dec. 29

John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
Height: 5-9. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.49.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

If John Kelly played any position other than running back, I'd criticize him for declaring early. Not only did Kelly struggle last year - he failed to average better than two yards per carry in any of his final three games - he was also arrested for marijuana possession. Kelly is a likely third-day selection. However, he's a running back, so I don't have a problem with him entering the 2018 NFL Draft. He could've returned to school to rehabilitate his draft stock, but he'd be a major injury risk as well.

Grade for declaring: B




Dec. 28

Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
Height: 6-5. Weight: 330.
Projected 40 Time: 5.40.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

Taylor Hearn has played well over the past two years for Clemson as a powerful run blocker. He'll be heading for the NFL, where he stands a chance of being chosen on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Barring a great combine, he's more likely to be picked on Day 3, so he should've gone back to school. Hearn, just 22 in January, needs to improve his pass protection, and he could've done that with another year at school.

Grade for declaring: C-



Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
Height: 6-4. Weight: 220.
Projected 40 Time: 4.68.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

Tanner Lee probably won't be drafted. Perhaps he'll go in the late rounds if he shines at his pro day, but he'll almost certainly be an undrafted free agent.

Lee is just 22, so this decision is confusing on the surface. However, Lee projected as a poor fit in the new head coach's offense, so he may not have won the starting job. It makes sense for him to see if he can stick in the NFL, and if not, move on with his life.

Grade for declaring: C




Dec. 26

Breeland Speaks, DE/DT, Ole Miss
Height: 6-3. Weight: 285.
Projected 40 Time: 4.79.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Breeland Speaks had a terrific finish to his 2017 season, so he's capitalizing on that by declaring early. It seems like a solid move. Speaks could be taken as early as the second round, and he could've damaged his draft stock by returning to school and perhaps regressing in 2018.

Grade for declaring: B



Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
Height: 5-11. Weight: 180.
Projected 40 Time: 4.46.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Keke Coutee is coming off a massive year, catching 93 passes for 1,429 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Coutee projects as a speedy slot receiver who can go the distance any time he touches the ball. He could be chosen as early as the second round, though a disappointing combine could send him into Day 3.

Coutee's decision makes sense. It's not a great one because he could slip in the draft, but it just as easily pay off, especially when considering how weak this receiving draft class is.

Grade for declaring: B




Dec. 23

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Height: 6-4. Weight: 216.
Projected 40 Time: 4.51.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Having great marks for size, speed and quickness, Courtland Sutton stands a great chance of being a first-round pick; I currently have him slotted to the Ravens at No. 22 overall in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.

Sutton made a great choice by declaring. Had he returned to SMU, he risked injury and perhaps regression because of a new head coach. He had everything to lose and nothing to gain by going back to school.

Grade for declaring: A




Dec. 22

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Height: 6-5. Weight: 222.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 1.

Josh Allen had a solid performance in his postseason exhibition game against Central Michigan, going 11-of-19 for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He announced afterward that he'll be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen will almost certainly be a first-round pick because of his potential. His arm strength and size are exceptional. However, he has some major concerns. He's inaccurate, and his field vision is very sketchy. He's a major project, and the Jake Locker comparisons seem legitimate. Allen could succeed in the pros, but will need to be coached up.

Still, this is an "A" decision. Allen could've worsened his draft stock by returning to school, as we've seen many quarterbacks do over the years.

Grade for declaring: A



Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Height: 5-11. Weight: 188.
Projected 40 Time: 4.42.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Jaire Alexander is selling low on his draft stock, but I don't think it's the worst thing because he could still be a first-round pick. However, Alexander has barely played this year because of knee and hand injuries. He performed well when he was on the field, but there might be some health concerns with him. Alexander could be a sure-fire first-round choice with a strong 2018 campaign, but perhaps he'll get there anyway. Then again, he might be relegated to the third round because of those worries.

Grade for declaring: B-



Frank Ginda, ILB, San Jose State
Height: 6-0. Weight: 245.
Projected 40 Time: 4.82.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Frank Ginda is an undersized linebacker with length concerns. He's currently slated to be an early day-three selection. However, Ginda is a freak athlete who should be able to post amazing numbers at the combine. If so, teams might consider him to be a third-round option. Ginda topped Division I-A with 173 tackles in 2017, so he had nothing to prove by returning to school.

Grade for declaring: B-




Dec. 21

Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Height: 6-5. Weight: 250.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

Like Matthew Thomas, Josh Sweat has decided to skip the Independence Bowl to focus on preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft. And like Thomas, Sweat appears to be making a mistake.

Sweat has the potential to be a second-round pick, but his collegiate career has been plagued by inconsistency and injury. I would've liked to have seen Sweat return to school to prove that he can stay healthy and be productive every game. Instead, he could fall into Day 3.

Grade for declaring: C-



Matthew Thomas, ILB, Florida State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 227.
Projected 40 Time: 4.60.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Matthew Thomas is skipping the heralded Independence Bowl and the amazing tradition that comes with it to prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

It's difficult to understand this decision. Thomas has talent - once upon a time, I had him slotted in the first round of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft - but he has poor instincts and awareness, which is why he's being graded as a third-day prospect. Skipping a game doesn't really matter for top prospects, but Thomas needs to help his draft stock as much as possible, so sitting out wasn't the best idea.

Grade for sitting out the bowl game: D



Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State
Height: 6-3. Weight: 240.
Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Leighton Vander Esch had an incredible season, and it came out of nowhere. He barely played in 2015 and 2016, but exploded this past year. He's now seen as a second-day prospect.

I'm not quite sure about Vander Esch's decision to declare, however. I don't have a huge problem with it, but he could've bolstered his draft stock and improved to first-round consideration with a strong 2018 campaign. Vander Esch is excellent versus the run, but needs to keep improving his coverage skills. Perhaps he'll end up in the opening round anyway, but his lack of playing experience might be an issue for some teams.

Grade for declaring: B-



Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana
Height: 6-4. Weight: 220.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

Simmie Cobbs Jr. is the perfect example of someone selling high on their draft stock. Cobbs is coming off a career year at Indiana, with 72 receptions for 841 yards and eight touchdowns, which includes a fantastic showing against Ohio State's NFL secondary, posting a 11-149-1 line. Cobbs, a big receiver with quickness and positive route-running, is currently slated to be a second-round pick, but he could sneak into Thursday night with a great showing at the combine.

Grade for declaring: A-




Dec. 20

Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
Height: 6-0. Weight: 173.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Eddy Pineiro hit 16-of-17 this season and 38-of-43 during his college career. It's odd that a kicker is declaring early, but Pineiro is set to graduate, so I guess it makes sense.

Grade for declaring: C+




Dec. 19

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Height: 5-10. Weight: 215.
Projected 40 Time: 4.49.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

D.J. Moore just set Maryland's school record for receptions in a season (80). Not bad, considering Maryland used five quarterbacks in 2017!

Some may question this decision, but I think it's a fine one. Moore has a good chance to be a second-round pick in April, and there's even a slight chance he could sneak into the opening frame depending on how he does at the combine. This year's receiving class is weak, so Moore can take advantage of that with a great pre-draft process.

Grade for declaring: B




Dec. 18

J.C. Jackson, CB, Maryland
Height: 6-1. Weight: 193.
Projected 40 Time: 4.49.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

J.C. Jackson is an extremely talented player who would probably be in first-round discussion if it weren't for a myriad of off-the-field problems. He was shot at in 2014, and then charged with armed robbery the following year. He's been clean since, however, so he could sneak into the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. His decision to declare is a solid one, as his stock is pretty high right now, plus he can avoid further trouble in college.

Grade for declaring: B+



Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
Height: 5-9. Weight: 180.
Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

Talk about selling low on your draft stock. Richie James had two very productive seasons at Middle Tennessee State, but was injured throughout 2017. He needed to return to school to prove that he can stay healthy. Now, he's in danger of going undrafted. This was an absolutely horrific decision on his part.

Grade for declaring: F




Dec. 15

Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
Height: 6-6. Weight: 290.
Projected 40 Time: 5.10.
Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

We had Brian O'Neill pegged as a late-round prospect, but he asked the NFL Draft Advisory Committee for a grade, and he declared based on what they told him, so it must have been good news. Perhaps that means O'Neill, an athletic tackle, can sneak into Day 2. Still, O'Neill has had some bad games, so he could've gone back to school to improve his tape.

Grade for declaring: C+



Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Height: 5-11. Weight: 230.
Projected 40 Time: 4.56.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Royce Freeman has announced that he will be sitting out the team's bowl game, following Christian McCaffrey's example from last year. This worked wonders for McCaffrey, who was chosen eighth overall, and Freeman is doing the right thing by preventing an opportunity for injury in a meaningless postseason exhibition game.

Freeman won't be a first-round pick, but he could be chosen in the second frame. Even if he goes a bit later, his decision to sit out the bowl game is a good one, as running backs are prone to injuries. Freeman himself was banged up in 2016, so why risk any sort of injury?

Grade for sitting out bowl game: A




Dec. 12

Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
Height: 5-11. Weight: 190.
Projected 40 Time: 4.45.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Jordan Whitehead looked like a possible first-round pick heading into the 2017 season. However, he had a bit of a down year (though not a poor one), and he was suspended for a few games. Whitehead is likely to be chosen on Day 2 of the draft now, so it's odd that he would sell low on his stock. I don't hate this decision, but Whitehead certainly could've waited, especially given that he's only 20.

Grade for declaring: C



Maea Teuhema, G, Southeastern Louisiana
Height: 6-5. Weight: 315.
Projected 40 Time: 5.29.
Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

Maea Teuhema decided to transfer to Southeastern Louisiana because he was on academic probation at LSU. It's unclear what academics have to do with football, but with Teuhema projected to be a second-day pick, there was no reason for him to go to a 1-AA school rather than the pros.

Grade for declaring: A



Jack Cichy, ILB/OLB, Wisconsin
Height: 6-2. Weight: 233.
Projected 40 Time: 4.77.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Jack Cichy looked like he was going to be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he tore his ACL in August and missed the entire 2017 campaign. Cichy, a tough run defender, could've taken a medical redshirt and returned to Wisconsin, but he has opted to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft instead.

I think you could make a case for Cichy to go either way. Returning to school and rehabbing his draft stock could've helped him. However, going to the pros will allow him to be in an NFL strength-and-conditioning program, and that could be beneficial for the long term.

Grade for declaring: C+




Dec. 8

Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Height: 5-11. Weight: 197.
Projected 40 Time: 4.46.
Projected Round (2018): 2-6.

Antonio Callaway should be getting ready to compete with Calvin Ridley at the combine to be the first receiver chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft. He's that talented. Unfortunately, Callaway didn't play in 2017 because of his role in an alleged credit card fraud case. He's also gotten into trouble for marijuana on numerous occasions.

It'll be interesting to see where Callaway lands. If he interviews well, a team that ignores character issues could take him in the second round. Conversely, if his interviews suck, he'll be a late-round choice. Callaway should have transferred to a 1-AA school and shown everyone that he could keep himself clean. Declaring is probably a mistake.

Grade for declaring: D



Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Height: 6-5. Weight: 250.
Projected 40 Time: 4.65.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Hayden Hurst almost had to declare. He's going to turn 25 prior to the start of the 2018 NFL season, so returning to school would've been a poor decision - especially after his great 2017 campaign. Hurst has a first-round skill set - credit Charlie Campbell for initially reporting that teams were high on Hayden Hurst - but he'll probably be taken early on Day 2 because of his age.

Grade for declaring: A




Dec. 5

Holton Hill, CB, Texas
Height: 6-1. Weight: 195.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Holton Hill is a talented cornerback who would've had a good chance to be a second-day pick if it weren't for his character issues. Hill, however, has been suspended on numerous occasions for multiple failed drug tests.

It's disappointing that Hill declared. It would've been nice for him to prove to teams that he can remain clean for a year, but he enters the NFL with a huge red flag attached to him. He's really going to have to convince a team to take a chance on him.

Grade for declaring: D



Derwin James, S, Florida State
Height: 6-3. Weight: 211.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): Top-10 Pick.

Derwin James announced that he will skip his postseason exhibition, I mean, bowl game and enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Both decisions were no-brainers. James is a rare talent and will almost certainly be a top-10 selection. I have him going 10th in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.

As for the bowl game, there's no reason for James to risk injury in meaningless action. He won't be hurt by this, as the two players who sat out last year, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, were chosen third and eighth overall, respectively.

Grade for declaring: A+




Dec. 4

Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
Height: 5-8. Weight: 190.
Projected 40 Time: 4.35.
Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

Who? Quadree Henderson was barely a part of Pittsburgh's offense this year, registering 251 receiving yards. He was much better in 2015 - 60 catches, 631 yards - but struggled without Nathan J. Peterman at the helm.

It's extremely odd that Henderson would sell low on his draft stock like this, and it'll likely cost him; he seems likely to be selected on Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft as pure return specialist. Henderson should've returned to school.

Grade for declaring: D




Dec. 2

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Height: 6-0. Weight: 190.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Isaiah Oliver has seen his draft stock skyrocket throughout his impressive 2017 campaign. I've recently slotted him into the first round of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft, and I suspect he'll remain there most weeks.

There can't be any complaints about Oliver declaring. He's selling high on his draft stock, so why not bolt for the pros?

Grade for declaring: A




Nov. 29

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 4.99.
Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

Charlie Campbell first reported that Taven Bryan would declare for the 2018 NFL Draft in the NFL Hot Press section of the site. NFL decision-makers have raved about Bryan, so it wouldn't surprise to see him chosen on Thursday night. However, he happens to be raw, so he could conceivably slip into the second round. Had Bryan waited a year, he could've been chosen in the middle of the first round, but he also could have ruined his draft stock with an injury, so I can understand why he would bolt for the pros.

Grade for declaring: B+




Nov. 28

Derwin James, S, Florida State
Height: 6-3. Weight: 211.
Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
Projected Round (2018): Top-20.

Tony Pauline has reported that Derwin James will declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. This is a logical, expected move by James, who is seen as a highly probable top-10 prospect. This is obviously a good decision on James' part, and even better, there are reports that head coach Jimbo Fisher could take another job this offseason.

Grade for declaring: A+



Mark Walton, RB, Miami
Height: 5-9. Weight: 205.
Projected 40 Time: 4.42.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Mark Walton is a talented running back, who averaged 7.6 yards per carry this season, thanks to outstanding vision. He may not be able to handle a full workload in the pros, however, as he's 5-9, 205, and has an injury history. He played in just four games this season because of an ankle.

It would be nice to see Walton stay healthy, but it's completely understandable why he'd want to declare. Running backs have the greatest injury risk, so they should almost always leave school early.

Grade for declaring: A




Nov. 27

Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Height: 6-6. Weight: 290.
Projected 40 Time: 5.10.
Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

Connor Williams declaring for the draft is a very curious decision. Charlie Campbell reported a few weeks ago that Connor Williams is getting mid-round grades. The reason for this, aside from his injuries, happens to be a lack of strength. Williams is not ready to start in the NFL, so he's unlikely to be a first-round pick.

Williams should have returned to school. He could've proven that he can stay healthy while improving his strength. With some help, Williams could've been a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. He'll probably be chosen on Day 2, but could slip into the fourth frame.

Grade for declaring: D




Nov. 10

Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Height: 6-5. Weight: 332.
Projected 40 Time: 5.20.
Projected Round (2018): 1-3.

I wouldn't have recommended Vita Vea for declaring for the draft at the beginning of the year, but he's done a great job of pressuring quarterbacks this season, answering some of the lingering questions about him being one-dimensional. Vea should be chosen in the first round, though it's not a guarantee. Still, his stock is high, so coming out of school early is the right move.

Grade for declaring: B+





2018 NFL Draft Underclassmen Rumors:
  • Josh Allen's head coach believes Allen will enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

  • Mark Andrews will declare for the draft after the season. - Tony Pauline

  • Orlando Brown will declare for the draft after the season. - Tony Pauline

  • Simmie Cobbs is certain to declare for the draft. - Tony Pauline

  • Michael Deiter is considering declaring for the pros. - Evan Flood, Badger247

  • Lamar Jackson has settled on an agent. - Tony Pauline

  • Michael Jackson is leaning toward declaring. - Peter Ariz, Canes Insight

  • Malik Jefferson (and DeShon Elliott) will declare for the draft, but this is via a very flimsy news source.

  • Word is Kolton Miller will declare for the draft. - Tony Pauline

  • Roquan Smith will declare for the draft after the season. - Tony Pauline

  • Auden Tate is close to declaring for the draft. - Tony Pauline

  • Trenton Thompson wrote on Instagram that he was looking forward to Georgia's next season.

  • Clayton Thorson is leaning toward entering the draft. - Tony Pauline

  • Denzel Ward is likely to enter the draft. - Tony Pauline



    Major Prospects Going Back to School:
    Trey Adams, OT, Washington
    Height: 6-7. Weight: 302.
    Projected 40 Time: 5.32.
    Projected Round (2018): 1.

    Trey Adams tore his ACL, which is a shame because he was projected to be a top-10 pick beforehand. The good news is that Adams will have an entire year to rehab his knee, and he should be 100 percent by the 2019 pre-draft process. I have Adams going early in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft. Adams is making a good decision by returning to school.

    Grade for returning: A

    Josh Allen, ILB/OLB, Kentucky
    Height: 6-5. Weight: 230.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.70.
    Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

    Josh Allen played extremely well in 2017, so it's a surprise to see him return to school. I'm not completely against it, but I hope he doesn't suffer an injury next year to hurt his draft stock. He could end up regretting this choice.

    If all goes well, however, Allen will surely be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Allen has great size, speed and athleticism, and he also has the versatility to play multiple positions. Sources Charlie Campbell has spoken to have compared Allen to a hybrid of Leonard Floyd and Zach Cunningham, as he can play in coverage and also rush the quarterback effectively on the edge.

    Grade for returning: C

    Zach Allen, 3-4DE, Boston College
    Height: 6-5. Weight: 285.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.79.
    Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

    Zach Allen returning to school is a bit of a surprise because he enjoyed a terrific season. He had a decent chance of sneaking into the first round. However, I don't hate the decision, since Allen could emerge as a top-20 choice for the 2019 NFL Draft.

    Grade for returning: B-

    Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 218.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
    Projected Round (2018): 1.

    Rodney Anderson is a tremendous talent, and he's listed as a top-10 pick in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft. Had he declared, he likely would've been the second running back chosen this April (Saquon Barkley), so it's difficult to understand this decision-making. Sure, Anderson was just a redshirt sophomore, but any talented running back should enter the NFL Draft as soon as possible. The one caveat I will mention is that Anderson had some legal issues going on that weren't pursued by the district attorney, so perhaps that factored into his thought process.

    Grade for returning: C-

    Jake Browning, QB, Washington
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 205.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.73.
    Projected Round (2018): 6-FA.

    I don't know if there was any talk of Jake Browning declaring, but he announced that he would be returning to school.

    This was an obvious choice. Browning is an accurate quarterback, but he doesn't have an NFL-caliber arm. He'll likely be a camp body for a couple of seasons before becoming an announcer for ESPN or FS1.

    Grade for returning: A+

    Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
    Height: 6-4. Weight: 265.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.77.
    Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

    Sources told Charlie Campbell that Austin Bryant played his way into first-round consideration with a strong 2017 campaign. However, Bryant wasn't a first-round lock, so I don't blame him for returning to school and bolstering his draft stock. It could hurt him, but there might be some benefit as well.

    Grade for returning: B-

    Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 208.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.44.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

    Team sources told Charlie Campbell that they liked Parris Campbell's big-play ability. However, the Ohio State wideout hasn't translated those skills to the field, as Ohio State had trouble throwing the ball in recent seasons. Parris Campbell is likely to be a better pro than college player, though perhaps a better aerial attack in 2018 will help propel Campbell into first-round status.

    Grade for returning: B+

    Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
    Height: 6-5. Weight: 265.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.77.
    Projected Round (2018): Top-20 Pick.

    Clemson is going to be ridiculously good next year, but I still don't understand this decision. Clelin Ferrell's floor was going in the 15-20 range this April, and he was a likely top-15 selection. In fact, it wouldn't have surprised me if he found his way into the top 10 after showing off his elite athleticism at the combine. If all goes well, Ferrell will be an early selection in 2019 (my 2019 NFL Mock Draft will be updated Sunday), but returning to school puts Ferrell at risk for a major injury, which could ruin his financial potential entering the NFL.

    Grade for returning: D

    Mark Fields, CB, Clemson
    Height: 5-11. Weight: 180.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

    Mark Fields was projected to be a likely third- or fourth-round prospect as a nickel cornerback some scouting sources of Charlie Campbell's liked. Fields, however, has opted to return to school, which seems like the right move. Fields could improve to second-round status if he plays well and gains some weight in 2018.

    Grade for returning: A

    Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
    Height: 5-10. Weight: 193.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.52.
    Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

    I typically write that running backs should declare early because players at that position are prone to injury. However, Myles Gaskin is a different case, as he was projected to be a third-day prospect. Gaskin could move into second-day consideration with a strong 2018 season, so I like his decision to return.

    Grade for returning: B+

    Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 214.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.78.
    Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

    I never understood the concept of Will Grier declaring early for the pros. Lacking size and pro traits, Grier was never anything beyond a mid-round pick, and that was in a best-case scenario. He also has some off-the-field issues he's going to have to answer, so remaining in school was the right decision.

    Grade for returning: A+

    Porter Gustin, DE/OLB, USC
    Height: 6-5. Weight: 260.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.74.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

    Porter Gustin is a talented pass-rusher, but we didn't get to see him play very much this past season. Thanks to toe and biceps injuries, Gustin appeared in just four games in 2017. Gustin probably would've been a second-round prospect if it weren't for the injuries, but he likely would've fallen to Day 3 under the current circumstances. Returning to USC was a smart move, as Gustin will have an opportunity to prove that he can stay healthy next year.

    Grade for returning: A

    Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
    Height: 5-11. Weight: 214.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

    This is quite the surprise. Damien Harris didn't perform well in the national championship, but thrived during the 2017 season to earn a second-round grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. Harris has opted to return to school, which seems like a terrible decision. It's difficult to understand this. So many things could go wrong for Harris next year. What if he gets hurt like many other running backs in college? What if he suffers regression? What if he loses his job to the impressive Najee Harris? I commend Damien Harris for continuing his education, but from a pure football perspective, this is a poor choice.

    Grade for returning: F

    Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
    Height: 6-5. Weight: 295.
    Projected 40 Time: 5.12.
    Projected Round (2018): 4-6.

    Mitch Hyatt was once seen as a second-round prospect, but he had an atrocious 2017 campaign. He was regularly pushed around, showing a glaring lack of strength. He also had issues with speed rushers. Hyatt needed to return to school to get stronger for the pros, and that's exactly what he has decided to do.

    Grade for returning: A

    Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
    Height: 5-10. Weight: 196.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.50.
    Projected Round (2018): 1-2.

    This is a horrible decision. Running backs projected to go in the early rounds should always declare because they are so prone to injury. Just look at what happened to Marcus Lattimore. It's inexplicable that Bryce Love would want to risk the same fate. Plus, Love's stock can only go down. It's at an all-time high right now because he just broke Christian McCaffrey's Stanford rushing record. It's possible that Love suffers regression or a significant injury in 2018, which could take him out of first-round consideration.

    Grade for returning: F

    Michael Jackson, CB, Miami
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 195.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.54.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

    Possessing nice size and length, Michael Jackson performed well in his first year as a starter in Miami's opportunistic defense. Jackson probably would've been a third-round pick had he declared, so there's a good chance he could improve his draft stock. Perhaps he'll be a solid second-round prospect unless he regresses.

    Grade for returning: B+

    Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 295.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.95.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-3

    Dre'Mont Jones really could've gone either way. Jones' stats in 2017 weren't very good, but they didn't properly illustrate how disruptive he was. Jones looked like he would be a second-round pick, so it would've been fine had he declared. However, returning to school makes a lot of sense as well, as he could emerge as a first-round prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.

    Grade for returning: B

    Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
    Height: 6-4. Weight: 225.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.79.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

    The NFL Draft Advisory Committee told Drew Lock to return to school, so credit him for following their recommendation. Lock needs to be coached up. He has a great arm and can make any throw, but his field vision and accuracy are below average, and he needs to work on those aspects of his game. He'll be a first-round prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft if he can greatly improve in those areas.

    Grade for returning: A

    Iman Marshall, CB, USC
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 200.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.53.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

    Iman Marshall was once considered a fringe first-round prospect, but not anymore. He was beaten way too often this past season. Teams and scouts are now way down on Marshall, even opining that he could fall into Day 3. Marshall needed to go back to school and rehabilitate his draft stock, and that's exactly what he has opted to do.

    Grade for returning: A+

    Dontavius Russell, DT, Auburn
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 310.
    Projected 40 Time: 5.00.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

    Dontavius Russell has a first-round skill set, but he disappointed for most of the year. He didn't play poorly, but he was just unimpressive until late in the season when he caught fire, generating plenty of heat on opposing quarterbacks. He probably would've been a second-day selection had he declared. By going back to school, he can improve his draft stock and perhaps become a first-round choice in the 2019 NFL Draft.

    Grade for returning: B+

    Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
    Height: 6-0. Weight: 205.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.48.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

    Deebo Samuel had lots of promise heading into 2017, but managed to play only three games prior to fracturing his fibula. It was announced that he would be out for the year, prompting Samuel to say he would return to school. Samuel is making the right move, as he can rehab his draft status and perhaps be chosen in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

    Grade for returning: A

    L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 230.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.56.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-3.

    L.J. Scott is making a huge mistake. As a power back with underrated speed, Scott was projected to be a second-day selection. He's risking that by returning to school, where he could easily suffer an injury and derail his draft stock. Running backs get injured more than any other position, and it's highly unlikely that Scott could ever enter first-round consideration, so he made a poor choice by returning to Michigan State.

    Grade for returning: F

    David Sills, WR, West Virginia
    Height: 6-4. Weight: 203.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.57.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

    David Sills had a great 2017 season, but he was seen as a third-round prospect, probably at the very best. There was a legitimate chance he would've been taken early on Day 3. Thus, returning to school to improve his draft stock was the correct decision.

    Grade for returning: A

    Cameron Smith, ILB, USC
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 245.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.80.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-4.

    Cameron Smith is coming off a productive season, but coverage concerns make him a third- or fourth-round prospect. As a result of this, Smith is making the right decision to return to school in order to improve his draft stock. Smith is also just 21 in March, so he's still relatively young for being a rising senior.

    Grade for returning: A



    Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 210.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.72.
    Projected Round (2018): 2-4.

    Jarrett Stidham had a strong first season for Auburn, completing 67 percent of his passes. Stidham struggled a bit early in the year, but progressed as the season went on, and he put together some impressive victories against Georgia and Alabama. Considering that all of the top underclassmen quarterbacks declared, it's good that Stidham is going back to school so he won't be overshadowed by them. If he continues to improve, he could end up being a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft instead of a second-day choice this April.

    Grade for returning: A

    Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
    Height: 6-6. Weight: 310.
    Projected 40 Time: 5.20.
    Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

    Jerry Tillery was productive in 2017, registering 4.5 sacks, a quality number for an interior defensive lineman. However, he was seen as a third- or fourth-round pick, so declaring wouldn't have been the best idea. By going back to school, he can improve his draft stock and perhaps become a likely second-round prospect.

    Grade for returning: A

    Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
    Height: 6-4. Weight: 310.
    Projected 40 Time: 5.00.
    Projected Round (2018): Top-25 Pick.

    Again, Clemson's defense is going to be amazing. They're getting all of their stellar underclassmen back, and that now includes Christian Wilkins, an extremely disruptive interior player with superior speed and athleticism. That said, Wilkins is not making the right football decision. He was looking like a probable top-20 selection, and now he's risking injuries and regression by returning to school. Plus, he'll have to contend with Dexter Lawrence next April (I have Lawrence going third overall to the 49ers in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.)

    Grade for returning: C-

    LOADING COMMENTS...



    2019 NFL Mock Draft - Sept. 13


    Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 5


    2019 NBA Mock Draft - Aug. 13


    2020 NFL Mock Draft - Aug. 1


    NFL Power Rankings - June 3


    NFL Picks - Feb. 4










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