COVID College Blog: Adebo, Breeze latest Pac-12 opt-outs
With the uncertainty around a college football season and with numerous COVID-19 considerations for college life itself, some top players in the NCAA have decided to skip this upcoming season in preparation for the NFL Draft.
Here is a running list of the notables with some thoughts from Rivals Recruiting Director Mike Farrell on each.
CLASS OF 2022: Top 100
Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo opting out
The Pac-12 is losing another star player even as the conference announced in recent days that it would return this fall with an abbreviated seven-game schedule.
Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo announced on Thursday that he would be skipping this season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. According to reports, Adebo had 38 passes defended in his college career (to lead the nation) and he had eight interceptions, four in each of the last two seasons.
Rated as a four-star athlete in the 2017 recruiting class and No. 230 overall, Adebo ended up picking Stanford after an earlier pledge to Notre Dame. He was ranked as the No. 20 prospect in Texas that recruiting cycle in a group led by five-stars Marvin Wilson, Walker Little, Baron Browning and Jeffrey Okudah.
As for his draft position, Adebo projects as a possible late first-rounder.
Farrell's take: I like Adebo a lot and have always thought that his football IQ and game sense were his strengths. Physically he’s solid and he can play the ball very well and undercut routes for picks but the way he is never out of position and is so smart at diagnosing routes stands out to me. I think he’s a first-round talent and is a big blow for Stanford.
Oregon safety Brady Breeze announces plan to skip season
Oregon continues to get pummeled by opt-outs even after the Pac-12 has laid out its plan to return to the field this season.
On Sunday, senior safety Brady Breeze announced on social media that he would be skipping this season to prepare for the NFL Draft. One day prior, Oregon's six-game schedule for this season was announced and it will start against Stanford on Nov. 7.
Rated as a four-star safety and the No. 1 prospect in the Oregon state rankings in 2016, Breeze totaled 95 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and eight pass deflections in his three-year Oregon career. He joins fellow safety Jevon Holland and cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir, along with phenom offensive tackle Penei Sewell, as the highest-profile Oregon players to opt out of this season.
Breeze is expected to be a mid-round NFL Draft selection at best.
Farrell's take: What kind of defensive backfield will the Ducks field this season with all these losses? They have gone from arguably the best defensive backfield in the country to a huge question mark and Breeze is an odd decision to me. He’s a mid-rounder at best right now but could have played himself into the second or third round with a huge season with a lot of the focus on him with Graham and Lenoir gone.
Purdue's outlook improves as Rondale Moore returns
Purdue just got a whole lot better, and the Big Ten West race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Star receiver Rondale Moore, who initially opted out when the Big Ten postponed its fall season, announced Thursday that he would opt back in to playing college football since the conference will now start its season next month.
It's huge for the Boilermakers' offense since Moore, a former three-star from Louisville (Ky.) Trinity, who is one of the top returning receivers in college football, had a massive freshman season in which he caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, in only four games before getting injured, Moore totaled 29 receptions for 387 yards and two touchdowns.
Farrell's take: Moore is one of the most dynamic players in college football when healthy, and he was an iffy first-rounder depending on how he ran at the combine and pro day, but this could propel him up the board. He’s coming off an injury-riddled season, so he can show the doubters he’s back and healthy and 100 percent. No matter what he does, he’s outplayed his ranking for sure.
Pac-12 loses one of its best defenders
The Pac-12 has still not figured out a path forward whether it will play this fall or postpone until the spring and now another elite player in the conference has opted out of the 2020 season to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft.
According to ESPN, Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike will skip this season – whenever it's played – to get ready for the pre-draft process. In a recent mock draft on CBS Sports, Onwuzurike was a first-round selection and he could be one of the first defensive linemen taken off the board.
In three seasons with the Huskies, Onwuzurike finished with 95 tackles (16 for loss) and seven sacks. He was rated as a three-star prospect out of Allen, Texas, in the 2016 class.
Farrell's take: I’m not sure about a first-round grade for Onwuzurike but he’s a talented kid and a big loss for the Huskies when you couple him with Joe Tryon. Big men are at a premium as always so he won’t last beyond round two or three and his workouts will determine if he’s round one caliber.
Michigan QB Dylan McCaffrey will transfer
The good news coming out of the Big Ten on Wednesday was that a season is expected to start toward the latter part of October. But at Michigan, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey has opted out of the season and will look to transfer, according to a report in The Detroit News.
That leaves an uncertain quarterback room even more unclear as Joe Milton and Cade McNamara battle it out for the starting quarterback job. According to that report, receiver Nico Collins has also signed with an agent and is expected to not play this season, either. Jalen Mayfield will be another major loss along Michigan's offensive line as he opted out as well.
A four-star quarterback out of Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian in the 2017 class where he was ranked as the seventh-best pro-style prospect, McCaffrey committed to Michigan over Nebraska, Penn State and UCLA. His brother is Christian McCaffrey, one of the best players in the NFL.
Farrell's take: McCaffrey is opting out mainly because he wasn’t expected to win the job so this has nothing to do with the NFL Draft. It’s just too late to find a new home right now so he will likely regroup at another Power Five program down the line. We liked his pocket presence and ability to move around out of high school but arm talent was average.
Wade not waiting on Big Ten, to prepare for NFL Draft
As the Big Ten figures out further steps this week as to whether the conference will start playing later this fall, one of the top players in the league has decided to opt out of the season and put his focus on the 2021 NFL Draft.
Shaun Wade announced Monday that he will skip this season and leave the Buckeyes to prepare for the pre-draft process - and there's a good chance that Wade will not only be a first-round NFL Draft pick but could be the first cornerback taken overall.
No cornerback a lock to be the first one taken and the former five-star from Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity International is as good as any. Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley, Alabama's Patrick Surtain and Georgia's Tyson Campbell could be other first-round selections as the draft process continues over the next many months.
Farrell's take: Wade clearly wanted to play this fall but the constant drama in the Big Ten derailed that chance and as a potential first-rounder he had to come out. He was a five-star out of high school because of his size and length and he’s developed as expected. He should be the latest in a long line of first-round defensive backs churned out by Ohio State.
Texas A&M loses top receiver
Even though the SEC plans to play football this fall, Jhamon Ausbon is seemingly done at Texas A&M.The former four-star receiver who played his senior year at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy announced Sunday on social media that he would be opting out of this season to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft, a common move in recent weeks by some of the top players across the country, but mainly those in the Big Ten and Pac-12.
According to reports, Ausbon had not been at Texas A&M practice recently so this move does not come as a complete shock to the Aggies but nevertheless it's a major blow to a team looking to take that next step in the loaded SEC West. Ausbon led the team with 66 catches for 872 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Because Ausbon's decision was not completely expected, he has not shown up on a lot of 2021 NFL mock drafts but should be an early- to mid-round pick. Rated as the No. 20 wide receiver in the 2017 recruiting class, he's probably not in the league of LSU's JaMarr Chase, Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle or the Big Ten's Rondale Moore (Purdue) and Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) but he could be among that next group of receivers.
Farrell's take: Ausbon is a big loss for the Aggies and a kid I really liked out of high school for his combination of size and hands. This was a kid with tight end size and wide receiver skills. He had a big year last season and was expected to push for more than 1,000 yards receiving this season. Another year would have helped him. He’ll intrigue with his size but it all depends on what he runs. I have him as a mid-round pick.
Ohio State's Davis will turn his attention to the NFL Draft
Wyatt Davis is the first Ohio State player to opt out of this season and turn his focus to the 2021 NFL Draft. With the uncertainty surrounding when the Big Ten will return to playing college football, more Buckeyes could follow in his path.The former five-star offensive guard from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, who was No. 1 at his position in the 2017 class, Davis is expected to be a first-round selection and could be the top interior offensive lineman off the draft board.
Arguably the best offensive guard in the country last season, Davis helped lead an Ohio State offense that finished third in scoring and fifth in rushing offense nationally. However, as it stands now the Big Ten is not expected to play until the spring, just when Davis and others in the conference will be going through the pre-draft process.
Davis was the first Ohio State player to announce his intention to leave early for the draft. He almost definitely won't be the last.
Farrell's take: Davis is the best interior lineman in the country and should test and show out well at the combine and pro days. He’s a first-rounder to me and has lived up to his elite five-star status out of high school. He was a huge get for Urban Meyer out of California and would have made a run at the national title with his team this year had it not been for the postponement of the Big Ten season.
STANFORD'S WALKER LITTLE, FORMER FIVE-STAR OL, OPTS OUT
Another Pac-12 star offensive lineman is opting out of this season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. And just like Oregon's Penei Sewell, who made his announcement to leave the Ducks for the draft earlier this week, the decision by Stanford's Walker Little does not come as a major surprise either.
However, where Sewell is as close to a sure thing as possible at offensive tackle, allowing just one sack in his career, Little is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the 2019 season, so there will be a lot of questions for the former five-star prospect heading into the pre-draft process.
Still, Little has incredible tools at the position, and when he did play for the Cardinal earlier in his career he was excellent, and there is a chance with a good showing leading up to the draft he could move way up draft boards into the earlier rounds. Rated behind only Alabama's Alex Leatherwood among offensive tackles in the 2017 class, Little might not be a first-round selection but there are a lot of tackles ahead of him right now in mock drafts that he could supplant.
Farrell's take: Little was a no-brainer five-star out of high school because of his size, technique and agility. He’s lived up to that in college despite the injury. He’s a guy who will impress at the combine and pro days, and to me he’s a surefire first-rounder.
PAC-12 LOSES ANOTHER BIG NAME
The hits to the Pac-12 just keep coming.
The latest player to opt out of this season since the conference moved the season to the spring is USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who announced Wednesday on social media that he would leave the Trojans to prepare for the NFL Draft.
A former four-star prospect and Rivals250 member from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, the pre-draft discussion on Vera-Tucker is that there is potential for him to crack the first round but it's probably more likely he's a second- to mid-round player. However, he has performed well on USC's offensive line and he could follow in Austin Jackson's footsteps in the pre-draft process.
Earlier this week, Oregon stars Penei Sewell, almost a guaranteed early first-round selection, and CB Deommodore Lenoir, probably a mid-round guy, also announced they would be opting out of the season.
Farrell's take: Vera-Tucker was a big talent out of high school and has had a solid career at USC but he’ll need to wow people to get into the top two rounds. He has a guard body who could play right tackle and he has good athleticism and plays with power but he won’t wow anyone at the combine or on pro days. I think he’s a third-rounder at best, which is a bit low for his ranking out of high school.
TWO CORNERBACKS OPT TO PREPARE FOR NFL DRAFT
Two cornerbacks have decided to opt out of this college football season as UCF's Tay Gowan and Oregon's Thomas Graham are headed to the 2021 NFL Draft and an important few months in the pre-draft process.
Citing his daughter's health, Gowan said he would be skipping this season to prepare for the draft. UCF is scheduled to play this fall, though its first game against Florida Atlantic was postponed. He's a mid- to late-round selection after transferring to UCF from Miami (Ohio). Gowan was a two-star prospect out of high school and then also a two-star after coming out of JUCO. Last season, he totaled 31 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in his one season with the Golden Knights.
Rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 12 cornerback in the 2017 class, Graham had 183 tackles and eight interceptions in three seasons, showing steady play throughout his career and rarely making mistakes. Along with Graham, the Ducks also lost fellow cornerback Deommodore Lenoir to the NFL Draft this week along with top offensive linemen Penei Sewell, a near-guarantee as an early first-round pick.
Graham is expected to be a mid-round pick in a year at cornerback that isn't filled with high-profile names but depth at the position throughout the draft.
Farrell's take: Gowan will have trouble pushing any higher than the late rounds and could slip through the draft, so as a football-only decision this might not be a good one but he obviously has other concerns. He’s always been a bit of a project and can look very good at times and lost at others. Graham I like a lot. He’s not the biggest cornerback but he has elite instincts and should land in the second or third round even as other corners enter the draft. I loved him in high school.
ANOTHER OREGON PLAYER IS HEADED TO THE NFL DRAFT
On Wednesday, cornerback Deommodore Lenoir announced via social media that he would opt out of his senior season because the Pac-12 was delaying the start of the season until the spring, and that he would enter the pre-draft process. Lenoir's move comes just two days after fellow Oregon player Penei Sewell said he would be leaving early. But there are differences, since Sewell is expected to be a top-five pick and Lenoir is a fringe draft selection in a cornerback group that might not have high-profile names at the top, but should have depth.
A high four-star athlete coming out of Los Angeles Salesian, Lenoir was always pegged to play defensive back, but some believed he could have moved to safety because of his physical nature. A sure tackler who had five interceptions during his time with the Ducks, Lenoir has the physical and athletic capabilities to move up draft boards, but he would need a big showing at the combine.
At this point, he would not be expected to be one of the first cornerbacks taken.
Farrell's take: I like the cornerback class in the 2021 NFL Draft beyond the elite players like Patrick Surtain and Shaun Wade and some others. It's a deep group, so I don’t know if this is the right move by Lenoir. He’s likely a mid-round pick at best, especially as others like Elijah Molden and Paulson Adebo are likely to opt out in the Pac-12 as well. He was solid in coverage and a big hitter in high school, and his college career has been good but not great.
PENEI SEWELL OPTS OUT, WILL FOCUS ON DRAFT
The Pac-12 has decided to not play college football this fall and, unsurprisingly, the top offensive tackle prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft has opted out and will focus on the pre-draft process.
Oregon's Penei Sewell announced Monday that he was done playing for the Ducks in a lengthy thank-you letter on social media, the latest blow to college football which has seen numerous star players - even some in conferences that plan to play in the fall - opt out of this season.
Sewell is widely considered as the top offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft and he could be a top-three pick if quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Ohio State's Justin Fields go ahead of him. It's unexpected he would fall out of the top five. In the 2018 recruiting class, Sewell was ranked as the fifth-best offensive tackle. His brother, Noah, is a five-star freshman linebacker at Oregon right now.
According to Oregon's Web site, Sewell has allowed only one sack in 1,376 snaps during his college career.
Farrell's take: This is not a surprise and really not an opt-out if you consider that Sewell showed signs of wanting to play before the Pac-12 shut down. Playing a winter season or even earlier makes no sense for him now as a surefire top-five NFL Draft pick. Sewell was highly-rated out of high school but struggled at times against elite competition at tackle so we never expected he’d go down as one of the best offensive linemen in college football history. If quarterback weren’t such a constant need in the NFL, Sewell would be considered for No. 1 overall.
GEORGIA STARTING QB JAMIE NEWMAN OPTS OUT
There is news out of Georgia on Wednesday that could have a potentially significant on Georgia's national championship hopes.
Wake Forest quarterback transfer Jamie Newman, who was the presumed starter for the Bulldogs, has decided to opt out of the 2020 season and focus instead on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. There have been some high-level players that have backed out of playing this season but this one seems to be completely unexpected since Newman had been preparing to take over the starting job from Jake Fromm.
Newman emerged as one of college football's top quarterbacks last season - and thus one of the biggest-name transfers this offseason - after throwing for 2,868 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and also rushing for 574 yards and six scores a year ago. He was expected to provide a spark to Georgia's offense that is still searching for some playmakers on a team that was preparing to compete for a national title. The Bulldogs have won the last three-straight team recruiting titles on Rivals.com.
USC quarterback transfer JT Daniels reportedly scrimmaged with the team a few days ago - and even took some first-team reps according to reports - but he is still not cleared for contact after sustaining a knee injury early last season.
A former three-star quarterback from Graham, N.C., Newman definitely outplayed his ranking with the Demon Deacons and was projected to have a big season in Athens before heading off to the NFL. In a loaded quarterback class that includes Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance at the top, Newman falls into that second-tier of QBs with guys like Florida's Kyle Trask, Iowa State's Brock Purdy, Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders and others.
Farrell's take: Newman was a huge part of the UGA plan so this is very unexpected and a blow to the program because there is a lack of depth there. If he’s lost his job to JT Daniels he could still play and not lose a year so this doesn’t make a ton of sense from a football standpoint. He’s a big loss.
TYLER SHELVIN OPTING OUT AT LSU
The hits keep coming for LSU.
Shortly after star receiver Ja'Marr Chase made it public that he would opt out of the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL Draft, it was reported former five-star defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin would do the same, dealing another major hit to the defending national champions. LSU now projects to have just six returning starters (two offense, four defense) from its undefeated team.
After hardly making an impact in his freshman season, Shelvin became arguably LSU's best interior defensive lineman in 2019 with 39 tackles. But there will also be a number of questions about Shelvin heading into the pre-draft process with one of them being his sack production. He only had 1.5 sacks in two seasons, all coming his freshman year after registering none in LSU's march to the national championship last season. Shelvin has also been able to maintain his weight around 346 pounds but it was a concern through the recruiting process.
The massive defensive tackle from Lafayette (La.) Notre Dame was the last five-star prospect in the 2017 recruiting class. Many have him pegged as a potential first-round NFL Draft pick but maybe more than many others heading into the pre-draft process, Shelvin's performance over the next year will be important for his draft position in a defensive tackle group that could include Florida State's Marvin Wilson, Pitt's Jaylen Twyman, Alabama's Christian Barmore and USC's Jay Tufele.
Farrell's take: Shelvin is an interesting prospect but I think he will fall to the middle of the draft. He’s a big kid and plugs the run well but his athleticism and weight are two issues he’s battled since high school. The NFL wants tackles who can chase the passer as well as stuff the run so the days of a defensive lineman like Marcel Dareus going in the top three in the draft (2011) are long gone. The 300-pounders like Christian Wilkins, Quinnen Williams and Dexter Lawrence that have become first rounders are all athletes and Shelvin needed another year to show his ability in pursuit.
MEMPHIS RB WILL SKIP SEASON, FOCUS ON DRAFT
Less than a week before the Memphis season opener against Arkansas State, standout running back Kenneth Gainwell is expected to opt out of the 2020 season and focus on the 2021 NFL Draft, according to reports.
It is another massive departure from the college football ranks on the same day as LSU star receiver Ja'Marr Chase was reported to not play this season so he could focus on the pre-draft process as well. Gainwell played in only one full season where he put up an incredible 2,069 all-purpose yards to lead all of FBS, according to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
Ranked as a three-star receiver out of Yazoo City (Miss.) Yazoo County in the 2018 recruiting class, Gainwell participated in four games his freshman season before redshirting and then had a breakout year a season ago.
After the triumvirate of stellar running backs in Alabama's Najee Harris, Clemson's Travis Etienne and Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard, Gainwell figures right into that next group which could make him a second-round selection if he impresses during the draft process.
Farrell's take: I’m not sure this is the right decision for Gainwell as other running backs playing could jump ahead of him with big seasons. He was always going to be behind Etienne, Harris and Hubbard but staying in the second-round discussion was key this season. He was likely to have a great year but now NFL teams will need to gamble on his one great season. That’s risky. I’m surprised he opted out.
JA'MARR CHASE IS LATEST HIGH-PROFILE OPT OUT
It is a massive loss to the defending national champion Tigers, who are also replacing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow. Chase was arguably the best returning receiver in college football, battling for that top spot with Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. This news squarely puts the Crimson Tide as the major front-runner in the SEC West.
A high four-star prospect in the 2018 class that was led at the position by seven five-star receivers including USC's Amon-Ra St. Brown and Waddle, Chase has clearly outplayed that ranking and he could be an early first-round draft pick. This past season as LSU stormed to the national title, Chase finished with 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
According to Dodd, Chase's decision to leave LSU, which could be formally announced Monday, is not because of the COVID-19 health pandemic specifically but that agents convinced him that leaving for the NFL would be the wisest move.
Farrell's take: This is understood but a major blow to college football and LSU’s chances to win another national title. Chase is, to me, the top receiver in college football and his loss is huge for both the SEC and the sport in general. He’s a surefire first-rounder and likely the No. 1 receiver in the draft so I understand why he is shutting it down. Out of high school we loved Chase but clearly not enough as he has emerged as the best in his recruiting class. It’s a long way away but he should be WR1 in the NFL Draft.
JOE TRYON FOCUSING ON NFL DRAFT
The Pac-12 has decided not to play football in the fall and now one of the conference's best players is heading to the NFL.
Washington outside linebacker Joe Tryon announced Saturday that he would skip the remainder of his college eligibility and leave the Huskies to prepare for the NFL Draft. The former three-star defensive end prospect from Renton, Wash., who only garnered five offers during the recruiting process has different grades on him as he prepares for the pre-draft process.
Tryon, who finished last season with 41 tackles (12.5 for loss) and eight sacks, could be seen as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, something that is highly valuable by some NFL teams. He is projected anywhere from the early second to a mid-third round selection.
Farrell's take: Tyron is one of the players in the Pac-12 who is hurt most by the decision to postpone the season. With a great year showing off his pass rushing ability he could have entered the first round discussion but likely he’ll land in the second or third round at best. He’s one of the elite pass rushers in the country and has really developed a lot since his high school days. Tyron is making the right choice here however as waiting is too risky.
THOMAS OPTS OUT
Just days after Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield opted out of the spring season to prepare for the NFL Draft, another player in Ann Arbor has announced his decision to forego the season as well. And this one could be a big loss on defense.
Cornerback Ambry Thomas announced Thursday that he would be skipping this season to prepare for the NFL Combine and the draft and it leaves a big hole in an unproven position that also is dealing with the loss of Lavert Hill to the NFL this past offseason.
As for his NFL Draft prospects, Thomas is considered a third- or fourth-round selection but after some standouts.up top the cornerback group is muddled in the middle so Thomas could easily move up if he performs well in the pre-draft process.
FARRELL'S TAKE: “This is one of those interesting ones where a player who is a mid rounder has to take a chance on shutting it down for his NFL future and it may or may not work out the way he wants. There’s no way Thomas is a first-rounder but he could have played himself into the second or third round discussion with a great season. Now he will have to test well and hope someone wants to go on him in the third or after. Out of high school he was a very talented kid who had adequate length but was very skinny and needed to be more physical.”
TUFELE TO PREPARE FOR NFL DRAFT
With the postponement of the Pac-12 season until the spring, one of the top defensive players in the conference has decided to opt out and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele announced on Wednesday his decision to leave the Trojans to prepare for the draft, striking a big blow to the interior of USC's defensive line but the Trojans should still be loaded across the board on defense including up front.
The former high four-star defensive tackle out of South Jordan (Utah) Bingham finished his college career playing in just 25 games with 65 tackles (11 for loss) including 7.5 sacks. He was ranked as the fourth-best DT in the 2017 recruiting class behind only Marvin Wilson, Aubrey Solomon and Tyler Shelvin, all five-star prospects.
As for his NFL Draft projection, Tufele has a chance to go in the first round with a loaded defensive tackle group that could include Wilson, Shelvin, Alabama's Christian Barmore and Pitt's Jaylen Twyman. Twyman has also opted out of the college football season already.
FARRELL'S TAKE: This was expected as there is no reason for Tufele to play in the spring if that even happens in the Pac-12. I'm not sure he’s a first-rounder and this defensive tackle class has a ton of questions that need answers, but as a guy who can rush the passer from the inside , he shouldn’t last beyond round two. We liked him a ton out of high school and he’s lived up to that as an athletic interior defender who can push the pocket and shoot the gap.
TOP WAKE FOREST WR TO PREPARE FOR DRAFT
Sage Surratt played in only nine games for Wake Forest last season and yet he was second on the team with 66 catches, tied for the team lead with 1,001 receiving yards and led the Demon Deacons with 11 receiving touchdowns.
On Wednesday, the former two-star prospect from Lincolnton, N.C., announced he would be opting out of this college football season to prepare for the NFL Draft, striking a major blow to Wake Forest's offense that is searching for playmakers.
Surratt outplayed his ranking by a country mile as his 11 touchdowns last season matched Ricky Proehl's record from 30 years ago. In only two seasons with the Demon Deacons, Surratt caught 107 passes.
As for his NFL Draft stock, the Wake Forest receiver is not in the same conversation as LSU's Ja'Marr Chase or Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, but he's not far from it. Most projections have him as a mid-second round pick but a strong showing at the combine could move him even higher as he's one of many in that second-tier group. He's projected as the top draft-eligible receiver coming out of the ACC.
FARRELL'S TAKE: This is an interesting decision and one I think won’t help Surratt. The wide receiver class is deep beyond the big three of Chase, Smith and Waddle and Surratt needed a big season and to show he’s back from injury to push anywhere near Round 1. I can see him as a good value in Round 3 for someone unless he kills the combine. He was an average receiver out of high school who found the right fit and turned himself into a star.
MAYFIELD SAYS COLLEGE CAREER OVER
Michigan has been in the process of rebuilding its offensive line after losing four starters from last season as Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu, Ben Bredeson and Jon Runyan Jr. are all off to the NFL, and now with the Big Ten postponing the start of its season until the spring the fifth member of that group is leaving early.
Jalen Mayfield announced on social media Tuesday that he would be skipping this season in preparation for the NFL Draft, so a Michigan restart along the offensive line gets even more challenging. The fall could be a time the Wolverines spend on figuring all that out.
Rated as a four-star prospect out of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central, Mayfield is a big, athletic offensive tackle who is only a redshirt sophomore, so he will be one of the youngest players at his position in the draft. That could play to his advantage. A fringe second-round pick based on early projections, Mayfield could definitely be squarely in that mix of second-level offensive tackles in a draft that should be dominated at the offensive line position by Oregon's Penei Sewell and Alabama's Alex Leatherwood as near locks to go in the first round.
FARRELL'S TAKE: Some have Mayfield as a first-rounder (well one person does), while most have him in that second- to third-round range, but this is expected and the logical decision. He can’t play football in the spring and compete in the combine and pro days and the draft so this is a good decision. It hurts Michigan quite a bit along the offensive line as he was the most talented of the group but there is some young talent, for sure.
LSU SAFETY OPTS OUT
The former four-star prospect out of Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial has opted out of this season and said he will begin preparing for the NFL Draft.
While it's a major loss for the Tigers, the team's secondary should be able to rebound quickly. The cornerback position is loaded led by superstar Derek Stingley Jr. and fellow five-star Elias Ricks, who could be battling for a starting job. Jacoby Stevens is a former five-star at safety and then Todd Harris Jr., Maurice Hampton Jr., Cameron Lewis and Jordan Toles will also be involved in the defensive backfield.
LSU certainly does not have a shortage of talented defensive backs.
As for Vincent, most mock drafts place him somewhere in the late-second or third round and most have him moving to cornerback in the NFL instead of playing safety.
Farrell's take: Vincent was a talented prospect out of high school and had position versatility although I saw him as a corner only because he lacked great size. He impressed at times, especially down the stretch of his evaluation, but I don’t see him being much more than a third-rounder. LSU is loaded and won’t miss him much.
TWYMAN ONE OF SIX PANTHERS TO PASS ON 2020
Pitt's sack leader is leaving, the latest in a flurry of top college football stars who announced they're opting out of this upcoming college football season to train for the 2021 NFL Draft amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Former three-star defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman made that decision public on Saturday shortly after Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said none of the Panthers' players were going to be opting out of this season. Last year, the former Washington (D.C.) Woodson standout finished with 41 tackles (12 for loss) and a team-high 10.5 sacks. He became Pitt's first interior defensive lineman to lead Pitt in sacks since Aaron Donald in 2013.
As far as NFL Draft positioning, Twyman is a fringe first-rounder in an unproven group of defensive tackles. Florida State's Marvin Wilson, Alabama's Christian Barmore, USC's Jay Tufele and LSU's Tyler Shelvin are also high on those early lists.
Farrell's take: Twyman is a serious talent and a huge loss for the Panthers as he was set to anchor an elite defensive line. I like the way Twyman chases the quarterback from the inside. That being said, he’ll have to impress at the NFL Combine to jump into first-round discussion. I see him as a great second-round value but it’s not a strong DT class so that could help.
MARYLAND QUARTERBACK OPTS OUT
Quarterback Josh Jackson was one of six Maryland players on Friday to opt out of this season because of health concerns and for Jackson it essentially ends his college career that started at Virginia Tech and finished playing one season for the Terrapins.
The former three-star quarterback from Saline, Mich., transferred from the Hokies to Maryland and last season he threw for 1,274 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. His most productive college season came as a freshman at Virginia Tech where Jackson had nearly 3,000 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and nine picks. Also on Friday, it was announced Alabama transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa would be immediately eligible for the Terrapins.
It could be a tough road ahead for Jackson to be taken in the upcoming NFL Draft after opting out this season. Early mock drafts don't have him selected and The Draft Network's prospect ranking of quarterbacks don't include Jackson among its top 43.
Farrell's take: Jackson likely won’t be drafted so his opting out is a bit odd but he could get a redshirt year depending on how the NCAA rules on all of this pandemic fallout. Who knows if we’ve seen our last of Jackson in college but if we have I don’t see much of a pro career ahead of him despite some solid moments.
CLEMSON DT XAVIER THOMAS EXPECTED TO MISS MOST OF SEASON
Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas is expected to miss at least a majority of the 2020 season after it was announced Thursday that the former five-star is still battling strep throat after being one of 30 Clemson players this offseason to contract COVID-19.
Unlike other high-profile college players who have announced that they will skip the college football season to prepare for the NFL Draft, by redshirting Thomas could still play in a maximum of four games if his health allows. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Thomas also added about 10 to 12 pounds during quarantine and that did not put the former five-star in a good place mentally.
"He's nowhere near where he needs to be to be able to play football," Swinney told TigersIllustrated. "The No. 1 thing we want is for these guys to be healthy. Last thing we want is for X to be half of his potential."
Rated as the best strong-side defensive end and fifth-best player in the 2018 recruiting class behind quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, JT Daniels and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, Thomas has not lived up to his high ranking yet in college. Through two seasons, the former Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy recruit has totaled 60 tackles (16.5 for loss) and five sacks.
Farrell's take: It’s not clear how this will impact Thomas at the college level or the next level - or if he’ll be back in a Clemson uniform. This is not like Parsons and Farley and others who have decided to shut it down. This is a medical issue and a redshirt. The hope is he’ll be back next season to live up to his promise as a five-star coming out of high school, because he was so physically dominating he was a can’t-miss player. He’s been good so far, but not great.