The NFL draft has come and gone, and while the Huskies had just two players selected, they also had four players catch on as undrafted free agents and another get a camp invite.
Having players going pro is a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news is they're continuing on with their career, getting paid, and it reflects well on the program that helped get them there. The bad news is that it leaves a hole in the starting lineup that has to be filled, and given that the player went to the NFL, it's probably not an inconsequential hole.
So with that in mind, how do the Husky units look purely from a "need to replace NFL talent" standpoint?
2nd Round, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
2nd Round, Bishop Sankey
UDFA, Keith Price
UDFA, Kevin Smith
UDFA, Greg Ducre
Invite, Sean Parker
UDFA, Travis Coons
Clearly in terms of volume the offense was hit harder than the defense, but also in terms of quality. It's no stretch of the mind to say that just as NFL teams value early picks over late ones, so too is it more difficult to replace the talent from an early pick than a late pick or undrafted free agent. The offense probably will not have that kind of top end talent this coming season. There may be two 2nd round or better picks on that side of the ball currently on the roster, but we almost certainly won't see them in the 2015 NFL Draft. We could see a couple of lineman get selected, but it's anybody's guess at how the NFL has evaluated them because they've been so inconsistent for their entire careers. Dexter Charles may be the best bet among them to be picked, but he's unlikely to declare. Kasen Williams has a chance to be in that range of Sankey and ASJ, it's just a matter of how he recovers from his injury. A full recovery and you'd expect him to go in the first two days of the draft, given that his size is good and with his athleticism it wouldn't surprise at all to see him destroy the combine. But the mere fact that he had the injury could knock him back down.
Defensively we see what we already knew: the secondary was hit. But given that neither player was drafted (and many thought Sean Parker would be) maybe it was not hit quite so hard as we had thought it would be coming off of the most recent campaign. Additionally, the defense in the 2015 draft has a ton of prospects who will definitely be drafted -- some of them it's just a matter of if they declare or not. Of UW's draft eligible players, you could make an argument for the pro prospects for perhaps six players in the front seven (Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton, Cory Littleton Hau'oli Kikaha, John Timu, and Travis Feeney) while Marcus Peters is an NFL lock in the secondary. It's mostly just a matter of who stays and who goes.
Special teams gets hit hardest of all, as they lost the guy who did everything, and college kickers are one of the biggest crapshoots on the planet. We'll see how this goes, but it's mostly a cross-your-fingers-and-pray type of situation.
None of this is to say that the offense will definitely get worse because of the talent lost or that the defense will definitely get better because of the talent returning, because there are a ton of variables and moving pieces. But if you're looking at which unit might be better of the two in 2014, the safe bet for UW is with the talent, and that resides on the defensive side of the ball.