The Gekko Files: Pac 12 North NFL Draft Decisions Analyzed

Yeah, he looks like a wide-eyed kid ... but Marcus Mariota would've been the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. - Christian Petersen

We complete our two-part look at the choices made by the Pac 12's most talented underclassmen to either stay with their school or sign up for the 2014 NFL Draft.

We continue with our look at the impact of decisions by Pac 12 underclassmen to either declare for the 2014 NFL draft or to stay at their institutions for one more season. You will recall from the Pac 12 South analysis (which you can locate here) that the context of the analysis related to the quality of the decision is from the player's point of view on a purely football career basis while the "Impact on the Team" is, obviously, a look at how adversely or positively the decision affects the program.

The NFL is now saying that 98 underclassmen have declared for the 2014 NFL Draft (up from 96 a few days ago). This is far and away a new record. The Pac 12 is contributing 25 of those underclassmen, including 15 from Pac 12 North schools. We look at the most critical of the choices to both stay or go in today's installment of the Gekko Files.

Cal

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Khairi Fortt, LB Go Questionable Critical
Fortt played just one year at Cal after transferring from Penn State and sitting out all of 2012. He has tremendous potential given his size (240 lbs) and speed. However, he is just a year removed from a major knee injury and he didn't exactly generate a lot of highlights for a 1-11 Cal team. This is a questionable football decision, all things considered.
Kameron Jackson, DB Go Questionable Significant
Another talented player with injury concerns, Jackson is a player who is facing a late-round at best pickup and who will have to really work to ensure that he makes an NFL roster. It may be the case that he demonstrates some outstanding physical stuff in the run up to April, but this is another difficult to digest decision that will affect the Bears in 2014.
Brendan Bigelow, RB Go Head-Scratcher Negligible
Bigelow opting to leave for the NFL draft is a head-scratcher, even if he had completely fallen out of favor with Sonny Dykes. Bigelow, a one-time Husky commit as a PSA, is a smaller back that leans heavily on his quickness and speed to generate big plays. His problem is that he really struggles to stay healthy and he is coming off a season where he got little playing time. The better bet for Bigelow would be to have hit the gym hard, earn some playing time and show off three to four big plays for Dykes over the course of 2014 so that he could earn some NFL attention as a special teamer. As it stands? I doubt he gets drafted.
Other Declarations Viliama Moala, DT (Go)
Richard Rodgers, TE (Go)
Both of these declarations are head-scratchers, though Moala at least has an NFL-ready frame. These defections create even more depth problems for an already undermanned Cal squad.
2014 Early Entry Impact: Cal
Critical
LSU, Alabama, USC, Cal ... which of these teams is not like the others? The Bears are getting struck with 5! early NFL entries tying them with Alabama and USC as the #2 most impacted team in the nation (LSU has 6 underclassmen leaving). This is a remarkable gouging of quality depth that Sonny Dykes is going to have to overcome and it is especially notable in his Defense, which is already one of the least deep and weakest in the Pac 12 (especially in light of who they have graduating). I won't say that this is a complete disaster, but it I may continue to think it for a while.

Oregon

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Marcus Mariota, QB
Stay Head-Scrather Critical
Keep in mind that I'm judging decision "quality" from only a football career stand point. Mariota clearly strikes me as a pure-blood college player and I'm not surprised that he wants to live that experience another season. However, it is hard for me to see Mel Kiper project Johnny Manziel - a 5'11" playmaker - as the first QB to be taken and not think that Mariota, had he declared, would be the top pick in the draft. Staying in Eugene for another season without DAT, without Josh Huff and with questions at TE isn't going to do anything but expose him to more injury (and we've seen how dramatic an impact that can have on his game) and raise more questions about his ability to carry a team with his arm. This is a bad football-only decision.
De'Anthony Thomas, RB Go No Brainer Significant
DAT will go down as one of the most electric playmakers in Oregon history - which is saying something. However, the thing that a lot of pundits, myself included, always wondered about was his durability playing a position that may not have been ideal for him when projecting him as an NFL player. The injury thing finally caught up to him and, now, we are two years removed from his best season at Oregon. The truth is that it is hard to project where DAT will get taken because he is not an NFL RB. He is also probably too small to play DB regularly in the new age of NFL defenses. He's a slam-dunk special teams ace, but those don't usually go for a premium. Either way, short of changing his position, I don't see how staying another year at Oregon was going to help him at all. It was time to move on.
Terrence Mitchell, DB Go Questionable Notable
Count me as one of those who think that Mitchell is actually the better cover corner among the two starting Oregon CBs. I like how fluid Mitchell is in his back pedal and how quickly he can close on receivers who get separation. However, he is the far less celebrated of the two and didn't have quite as good a season in 2013 as he did in 2012. I think he'll be a good NFL player, but he won't have the buzz around him that he may get a year from now and that may cost him a round or two in draft position.
Other Declarations Colt Lyerla, TE (Go)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Stay)
Hroniss Grasu (Stay)
The Ducks really are fortunate to keep Ifo and Hroniss - both of whom probably would have been higher round picks. Losing Colt is notable only in that Oregon TEs really didnt' differentiate themselves later in the year and are a question mark position for Helfrich and Co going forward.
2014 Early Entry Impact: Oregon
Minor
The Ducks are definitely losing some talent, but they are losing it in areas of depth and it is more than compensated for by the quality of players staying. The Ducks are clear Pac 12 favorites going into 2014 as a result.

Oregon State

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Sean Mannion, QB Stay Questionable Critical
How good a decision you think this is for Sean Mannion depends a little on what you think his ceiling is. If you think it is relatively high, than this is probably a solid decision as it gives him a little more time to reach it. If you think that 2013 was about as good as its going to get for Mannion, especially with Brandin Cooks around, then this choice is somewhat questionable. The odds are pretty good that Mannion will have less flashy numbers next season. But, let's be honest, they'd have to be a lot worse in order to knock him down from his current third or fourth round pick perch.
Brandin Cooks, WR Go No Brainer Critical
Cooks is coming off a remarkable career and a Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top WR. He has the kinds of ball skills and quick feet that NFL scouts love in slot receivers and he could well earn a first round selection if the stars align. His absence will leave a gaping hole in the Oregon State offense, but this is clearly the right football move for the young man.
Scott Crichton DL Go No Brainer Critical
Crichton has been one of the best DE's in the Pac 12 since he arrived in Corvallis (and, he goes down as the worst recruiting miss in the Steve Sarkisian era). He's a likely first round pick as of right now. Yeah, this was a no brainer.
Other Declarations Isaac Seumaolo, OL (Stay)
Connor Hamlett, TE (Stay)
Both of these decisions make sense and give OSU better depth in 2014.
2014 Early Entry Impact: Oregon State
Critical
Mannion's choice to stay clearly helps out an otherwise dire situation as the Beavers will lose their best player on either side of the ball to early entries in both Cooks and Crichton. If you consider that Oregon State's recruiting model is to find diamonds-in-the-rough and then develop them to maximize their impact in junior and senior seasons, then you can easily see why early defections are so difficult for them to digest. The Beavers have a lot to overcome in 2014.

Stanford

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
David Yankey, OG Go No Brainer Significant
Yankey is yet another very high quality offensive linemen to graduate or move on from Stanford over the past few years. The Cardinal have definitely shown the signs of these defections, but their OL level of play has remained pretty high. I'm not sure how dramatic an affect that Yankey's departure will have, but this was the right call. He had an extra year only because of an injury redshirt, and he has already moved himself into the top portion of the draft. Easy call.
Cameron Fleming, OT Go Questionable Significant
Fleming is another good all-around offensive linemen and, with Yankey's departure, leaves the Cardinal scrambling a little bit to cover QB Kevin Hogan's backside. I was a little surprised that Fleming made this call. He clearly has the capabilities and has demonstrated it in holding off the competition of the other young linemen on the Stanford depth chart. However, he isn't high on a lot of draft boards yet and another season could have put more of a spotlight on his resume.
Henry Anderson, DL Stay Questionable Critical
Anderson is one of the unsung heroes on the Stanford defensive line. He is a big-bodied end who is very effective against the run - the kind of 3 or 5-tech guy that NFL teams love right now. I think he'd be a high round selection, maybe even higher than teammate Ben Gardener. However, I sense that he almost felt obliged to stay given all of the other graduations from the team. Either way, he has been injured in the past, so there is risk with this call. It may work out really well as he'll get all the attention next year, but it could easily go the other way on what looks to be a dramatically less stellar Stanford D.
Other Declarations Ty Montgomery, WR (Stay)
Ed Reynolds, DB (Go)
Both of these choices have important impact to Stanford, but we could quibble about the logic of each from the player's point of view.
2014 Early Entry Impact: Stanford

Significant
The Cardinal are a hard team to project from this far out. The losses of so many offensive linemen will take its toll in one way or another, but keeping guys like Anderson and Montgomery when both would have done well to declare is critical. I'm not sure it is enough to make up for the holes in the OL - especially given how Shaw likes to run his offense - but it is something.

Washington

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Go No Brainer Significant
ASJ leaves UW owning just about every record in the book for a school that has produced a long list of NFL tight ends (Mark Bruener, Cam Cleeland, Jerramy Stevens, Eric Bjornson, etc). He also exits 2013 as the John Mackey Award winner for the nation's top Tight End. He is as physically ready as he's ever going to be and, with a new staff coming in, he faces uncertainty as to what his role would be next season. Sure, we could quibble that his reputation could use another year of rehab as we are only one year out from his DUI, but I suspect that NFL people will get to know his character well enough to make this a non-issue. It was clearly time for ASJ.
Bishop Sankey, RB Go Solid Notable
Bishop faced a decision that he really couldn't lose with. On the con side, Bishop still has some things left to prove with his physical skills - both his strength and his speed. Another year for training, more so than games, could have helped in that regard. On the pro side, Bishop is striking while the iron his hot given that the 2015 RB class looks remarkably deep. We've already addressed the idea of "number of carries" being a factor by showing the long list of NFL running backs who had more carries in both a season and a career than Sankey, so I'm not going to go into that. However, Sankey is going into the 2014 draft as the #2 RB on most "big boards", so this is a matter of good timing for a great back.
Danny Shelton, DL Stay Solid Critical
Like Bishop, Danny really couldn't make a wrong choice. He's got all of the physical skills an NFL scout could wish for and he has a revved up motor. Unlike Bishop, he can really help his draft standing with another year of physical development and technique training. If the stars align, we could be talking about Shelton being one of the first two or three DLs taken and a first round pick. That's worth staying behind another year for.
Other Declarations Marcus Peters, DB (Stay)
Kasen Williams, WR (Stay)
2014 Early Entry Impact: Washington
Notable
It is never easy to lose one All Conference talent, much less two, before their eligibility expires. However, if there were ever a year to attempt to absorb something like it, this is the one. The Huskies boast embarrassing depth (assuming it stays healthy) at the RB position and have several options to turn to for large-target style receivers in the passing game. The blocking that we got out of ASJ can also be matched by at least one returning player. Of course, it isn't the same ... but the point is that there are ample pieces for the new coaching staff to work with.

Washington State

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Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Other Declarations None
2014 Early Entry Impact: Washington State
The Cougs are in the interesting position of having no early entrants declare for the NFL nor having to contend with the choice of a "draftable" underclassmen to stay or depart. They are going to experience some attrition at some positions, but not of the "to the draft" variety. I suppose that I could have put guys like River Cracraft and Connor Halliday on the list, but those weren't really decisions that had to be made. All of this is to say that the Cougs did what they did last season with a lot of young, underdeveloped talent - a lot of which returns in 2014. Things continue to look bright for the future of WSU.

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