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The Gekko File: Breaking Down the P12 South's Early Entries Into the NFL Draft

A record 96 college football players with eligibility remaining are entering the 2014 NFL Draft - many of whom come from the Pac 12. The Gekko File examines the biggest decisions, pro and con, coming out of this years P12 class. We start with the Pac 12 South.

No Sark for Lee as Marqise opts to forgo the rest of college eligibility
No Sark for Lee as Marqise opts to forgo the rest of college eligibility

Every year, a handful of talented players with eligibility remaining with their current college football teams have to choose between pursuing their professional aspirations while generating a paycheck and stretching out their amateur experience while generating a cadre of lasting memories.  That choice can be straight forward for some whether it is because the promise of wealth is too certain or the earning of their degree has been achieved or the prospects of improving their draft status in the eyes of scouts with another year of coaching is patently clear.  For others, the choice isn't so clear and days/weeks/months of praying, hand-wringing and enduring the chatter of talking heads is an unfortunate consequence.  What is certain is that the decision that these young men make are amongst the most consequential that they will make in their lives and will have an indelible effect on the programs that they come from.

Last week, players with eligibility remaining had to declare their intentions.  96 of those players opted to forgo that eligibility and apply for the draft - blowing away the previous record of 73.  25 of those 96 came from the Pac 12 (compare and contrast that to the Big 12 where only 5 opted to apply for the draft).  10 came from the Pac 12 South while the remaining 15 came from the North.  Among those teams that hemorrhaged the greatest from the P12 were USC and Cal, both of whom saw 5 underclassmen from their rosters declare.

In Part 1 of our analysis, the Gekko File looks at the decisions made by some of the most critical Pac 12 South players to their teams and whether or not, from a pure career furthering point of view, those decisions were the right ones.


Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Ka'Deem Carey, RB Go No Brainer Significant
Carey had achieved everything that he could achieve as a college football player and was not likely to see his draft stock get any higher.
Other Declarations None
2014 Early Entry Impact:  Arizona
The Wildcats only suffered the one early defection, but are seeing the graduation of several key players including QB B.J Denker.  The loss of Carey cannot be understated as he has been the key piece to Rich Rod's offensive engine over the past few seasons.  However, the Wildcats have recruited well and have demonstrated that they may be ready to move to a more balanced attack with a bevy of receivers, including the return of Austin Hill, coming back in 2014.

Arizona State

Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Carl Bradford, OLB Go Understandable Significant
Bradford, had he stayed, would have been the unquestioned leader of a Sun Devil defense that turned out to be a surprising strength for Todd Graham and co. in 2013.  However, there would have been a significant question as to how much of a load that Bradford could carry by himself.  Testing the NFL waters now makes sense, even if he falls to a later round pick.
Other Declarations Taylor Kelly, QB (Stay)
Jaelen Strong, WR (Stay)
2014 Early Entry Impact:  Arizona State 
The Sun Devils will have to reload in 2014.  The defense loses 10 or 11 starters (depending on how you count) including Chris Young, Will Sutton and Bradford, not to mention Marion Grice on offense.  However, the impact of the early entry candidates who are staying will compensate for the loss of Bradford and help to mute the loss related to his decision.



Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Paul Richardson, WR Go No Brainer
Richardson, a former UCLA transfer, has been the lifeblood of the Colorado offense since he arrived in Boulder, which isn't saying a whole lot.  It isn't exactly clear to me if Richardson has the durability or the physical skills to be a successful NFL player, but he can't do anything to improve his stock as a college football player on a team that is going through it's second rebuild since he arrived.  Leaving is a clear no-brainer for the Junior wideout.
Other Declarations Connor Wood, QB (Go)
2014 Early Entry Impact: Colorado
The Buffaloes were not really counting on Richardson to stay one more season, but his loss leaves young QB Sefo Liufau with no proven playmaking anywhere on the offensive roster.  Mike MacIntyre is a clever enough coach to work around the lack of a go-to guy, but when third downs come in 2014, the true effect of this early declaration will become apparent to Colorado fans.


Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Brett Hundley, QB Stay Solid Critical
Hundley's choice to stay one more season at Westwood is a critical decision for a team that has precious few offensive playmakers, but the overall depth and young talent to make a push.  As an NFL prospect, Hundley is a top talent, but one who still has to demonstrate his ability to manage a game out of the pocket, improve his footwork and develop his throwing accuracy.  Staying one more season could give him a chance to be the first Pac 12 QB taken in 2015.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG Go No Brainer Significant
Su,a-Filo is arguably the top OG prospect coming out of the Pac 12 (all apologies to David Yankey).  This move further weakens an already shoddy UCLA offensive line, but promises to pay back very well for the player.
Other Declarations None
2014 Early Entry Impact:  UCLA
Su'a-Filo is going to be missed, but the return of Brett Hundley is the most important thing that has happened to UCLA football since Jim Mora got hired.  There is depth of young talent on the offensive line that should help to compensate for the loss of a great player while Hundley's return ensures that there is at least one proven playmaker on the offensive side of the ball.



Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Jake Murphy, TE Go Head Scratcher
Jake Murphy, the son of former major leaguer Dale Murphy, made the choice to declare for the NFL draft last month.  It was definitely a head-scratcher to many a Utes fan who were looking forward to Murphy earning his place as one of the top TEs in the conference in 2014.  While it is understandable that Murphy, who is 24 years old, may feel it is simply time to move on, it is also the case that he is entering a draft that is pretty stocked at TE (with Grimble, Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas and Jace Amaro) while coming off an injury-riddled season where he generated little tape.  He's a good player, but probably should have stayed.
Other Declarations None
2014 Early Entry Impact: Utah
Like Colorado, the future of the Utah offense is not particularly bright.  Injury questions to QB Travis Wilson along with the hiring of Dave Christensen to be its third offensive coordinator in three years create much uncertainty in Salt Lake.  Murphy would have been an integral part of stabilizing the offensive situation for an otherwise challenged team and his loss leaves a big hole that will be difficult for Kyle Whittingham to fill.


Decision Quality of Decision Impact on Team
Marqise Lee, WR Go No Brainer Critical
Despite a disappointing season that was marred by injury, Lee enters the NFL draft as one of the most explosive playmaking prospects in the nation.  His decision to follow Robert Woods into the NFL makes perfect sense and I expect that he'll be a high first-round choice following the combine.
George Uko, DT Go Solid Significant
A lot of analysts thought that the move by Uko to declare was a bit surprising.  Their logic is that he has been more hype than production despite two years as a starter.  He also may be small for a pure DT by NFL standards.  I can see that, though I think that Uko has a pretty good frame upon which to build and, let's face it, a lot of uncertainty with a new coaching staff coming in.  He probably could benefit from staying a year, but I can't find a lot of fault in the decision to move on.  His loss will put more pressure on Leonard Williams and really weaken the USC D-Line.
Leonard Williams, DL Stay Questionable Critical
Williams is a top NFL prospect who has the size and athleticism to play both in a 3-Tech and a 5-Tech role on an NFL defensive line.  He is still relatively young and will certainly improve his technique on a Justin Wilcox defensive line.  However, he's the kind of guy that is going to get drafted on potential anyhow, so choosing to stay at USC with a new coaching staff coming in may expose him to injury or slow his development.
Other Declarations Xavier Grimble, TE (Go)
Hayes Pullard, LB (Stay)
Dion Bailey, S (Go)
Buck Allen, RB (Stay)
Marcus Martin, OC, (Go)
Josh Shaw, DB (Stay)
2014 Early Entry Impact:  USC
The defection of five key players on a roster that only has 73 players and is under sanctions that only allow for 15 scholarships added really puts new coach Steve Sarkisian in a bind.  Only LSU, with 6 entrants, is losing more underclassmen (both Cal and Alabama also have five each). Fortunately, Sark has a wealth of talent coming back, including the likes of Buck Allen, the super productive Williams, and QB Cody Kessler.  However, the impact of the early declarers cannot be overstated as the Trojans will be forced, once again, to play young players in key depth positions in 2014.