15 College Football Stars Who Should Skip Their Senior Seasons
15 College Football Stars That Should Skip Their Senior Season
The crop of NFL-ready juniors this season may not be as strong as it has been in years' past, but there are still plenty of guys that have the skill set and overall football ability to make an impact for professional teams in 2013. Several of these guys play on teams that may struggle next season, or may have already done all they can on the college level, and therefore should skip their senior seasons and seize the money that's more than likely waiting for them as 1st round NFL draft picks.
Each of the guys in this article are rated as the best overall, or close to the best overall, at their respective positions not only as juniors, but nationally, regardless of classification. Whether they are skill players or fight in the trenches, each one is absolutely vital to the success of their teams, and have opened the eyes of NFL scouts and analysts alike over their past three seasons in college football.
Most of the names on the list will be those you have heard before, but a few might be unfamiliar. As it goes, some of the NFL's best players come from schools that aren't necessarily on television every Saturday, playing in front of hundreds of thousands live and millions on television, while others are.
Enjoy our list of the 15 college football stars that should skip their senior seasons of eligibility and make the jump to the NFL to realize their dreams.
Barkevious "Keke" Mingo -- LB -- LSU
Barkevious Mingo has all the raw athletic ability in the world at a stout 6’4”, 240 pounds. Arguably, he has the most shapeable frame of any of the defensive standouts on our list and will also need the most refinement to be consistently productive at the NFL level. This certainly doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there, just that it needs to be fine-tuned. The upside of Mingo is out of this world, though, and it’s just high enough that he could be a prohibitive first-rounder should he choose to make the leap to the NFL in 2013.
Damontre Moore -- DE -- Texas A&M
Texas A&M defensive tackle Damontre Moore is arguably the nation's best defensive end and is a sure-fire Top 10 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft should he forego his senior season of eligibility. At 6'4", 250 pounds, Moore has impressive upper body strength and also solid lateral quickness (ran a 4.75 40 earlier this year) which should serve him well in the NFL. Just like many college defensive ends of his height, Moore will need to pack on some pounds to take the beating he'll be in for in the NFL, but this shouldn't be an issue. When that weight comes, and is combined with his raw athleticism, Moore will be a handful.
Tyler Bray -- QB -- Tennessee
Tyler Bray is a no-brainer to jump on to the NFL and forego his senior season of eligibility. With the Tennessee program in turmoil and a new coach soon to takeover the reins, Bray has no reason to stick around in Knoxville. Beyond this, Bray is consistently ranked on draft boards to be one of the only surefire bet QBs in the junior class to make a quick impact in the NFL in 2013. Although Bray may have struggled somewhat in 2012 with a less than 3:1 TD to INT ratio, and has some consistent off-field issues, there’s no QB in the junior class that can make all the throws better than he can. Count Tyler Bray gone, and watch for him to land with a team in dire need of a QB that can start from Day 1.
DeAndre Hopkins -- WR -- Clemson
Sometimes over-shadowed by fellow Tigers receiver Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins is nonetheless a talented and explosive receiver that could make an instant impact for an NFL offense in 2013. Hopkins tallied 69 catches for 1214 yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season in tandem with talented junior QB Tahj Boyd, and has impressed NFL scouts with his huge reach and catching radius. If there’s a concern with Hopkins, it’s his route running, but there are plenty of talented receivers that have corrected that in the past. Look for Hopkins, along with Allen, to fly off the draft boards.
Bjoern Werner -- DE -- Florida State
Bjoern Werner has been an absolute terror in a few short seasons in Tallahassee, one that ACC offensive coordinators will be all too happy to see move on to the NFL. The 6’4”, 256 pound Werner is explosive off the ends and is essentially un-blockable for most tight ends or offensive tackles much larger than he. With 49 tackles and a mind-blowing 14 sacks on the regular season, Werner is the country’s best defensive end and should have a highly-productive NFL career, regardless of when he decides to make the jump.
Tyler Eifert -- TE -- Notre Dame
Productive, pass-catching tight ends are all the rage in today’s NFL, and Notre Dame star Tyler Eifert fits this mold perfectly. The 6’5’, 252 pound Eifert is a capable pass and run blocker whose true skill lies in catching passes. Eifert is the leading wide-receiver for the National Championship-game bound Irish with 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns through 12 games. Although Eifert’s numbers are down from last season, this is largely due to the fact he has become a more complete tight end and is also due to Notre Dame’s run-focus with Theo Riddick. Eifert could easily be the first tight end taken in 2013 and there’s little reason for him to return to South Bend.
Eric Reid -- S -- LSU
Eric Reid is the paradox which is true of most highly athletic defenders, but his upside seems to be greater than the downside. Reid is an aggressive and explosive athlete at 6’2”, 212 pounds, but this same aggression and explosiveness tends to get him in trouble in situations where he is playing against premier wideouts or trying too hard to make the highlight-reel play in run pursuit. Reid’s pedigree-- his dad was a three-time All-American sprinter for LSU in the mid 80s--and his flash factor should lead to a quick pick in the 2013 NFL draft should he choose to declare himself eligible. The downside can be fine-tuned with coaching.
Dee Milliner -- CB -- Alabama
In simplest terms, Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Dee Milliner is the country’s best and would almost certainly be the first defensive back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft should he choose to depart Tuscaloosa early. At 6’1”, 198 pounds with 4.47 speed, Milliner is the total package and has put up the numbers you would expect in 2012, posting 47 tackles, but only two picks. Two picks you ask? This is due to teams constantly throwing away from Milliner due to his reputation as a premier ballhawk-- and it certainly doesn’t outweigh his 14 pass deflections on the season when teams do throw his way-- but so few are willing to take the risk. This says all it needs to say about the emerging defensive star. Milliner projects as a first-round pick and is almost certain to move on after 2012.
Aaron Murray -- QB -- Georgia
Aaron Murray’s done about all he can on the collegiate level-- and this will especially be true if the Bulldogs can find a way to knock off Alabama in the SEC Championship game and Notre Dame to take home the school’s first National Championship since the Herschel Walker days in the early 80s. A flat average of 10 yards per throw (3201 yards on 320 attempts) is astonishing, as is Murray’s 30:7 touchdown to interception ratio. Keep in mind also Murray has done this while dealing with the recent diagnosis of his father with cancer. Aaron Murray’s NFL ready, national championship or not.
Johnathan Hankins -- DT -- Ohio State
On the 2012 season, Ohio Buckeyes mammoth DT Johnathan Hankins has racked up 55 tackles (4 TFL) and one sack-- not necessarily eye-popping numbers, but his physical presence alone is very difficult to deal with. Rated by some as the top overall prospect in the 2013 class, there is little doubt Hankins is the best DT in the class. With Ohio State coming out from sanctions next season, it could make sense for Hankins to stay on board for a championship run, but the money awaiting a pick of his caliber should be enough for him to make the jump to the League.
Stefphon Jefferson -- RB -- Nevada
Perhaps the nation’s best kept secret, Nevada Wolfpack running back Stefphon Jefferson has lit the field on fire in 2012, rushing for 1,564 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and over 146 yards per game. The 5’11”, 210 pound Visalia, California native has shown he can be a workhorse back, carrying the ball an average of 28 times a game for the New Mexico Bowl-bound Wolfpack and could be a first-round steal for teams looking to add a small-school prospect to the mix. Either way, Jefferson has no reason to return in 2013 to run the risk of injury or lessened production.
Jarvis Jones -- LB -- Georgia
Aaron Murray’s Bulldog teammate Jarvis Jones has all the makings of a quick impact guy in the NFL should he decide to make the jump during the 2013 Draft. The 6’2”, 242 pound redshirt Junior is commonly rated among the top linebackers in the 2013 class. Even though he missed two games due to injury this season, Jones led the country in average tackles for loss per game (2.13) and finished second in the country in sacks per game (1.31). A dual-threat equally adept in run pursuit and pass coverage, Jones is an NFL defensive coordinator’s dream who should fly off the draft boards next spring.
Keenan Allen -- WR -- Cal
California Bears wideout Keenan Allen is one of the most talented skill players in the 2013 draft class, and in spite of injuries which derailed his 2012 season, is a lock to be an early-round pick in the 2013 draft. At 6’3”, 210 Allen has run as fast as a 4.53 40 and has the raw skill which NFL offensive coordinators covet. If Allen receives a positive medical evaluation-- given the lingering concerns about his knees-- in the coming months, as well as a positive draft evaluation from NFL advisors, you can bet his name will be called next spring.
Justin Hunter -- WR -- Tennessee
When I think about Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Justin Hunter, I think prototype NFL receiver-- at least in terms of size and soft hands. At 6'4", 200 and running a 4.4 40 yard dash, Hunter has all the physical attributes which have become highly coveted given the success of Julio Jones and A.J. Green over the past few seasons, with whom he shares a solid SEC pedigree, in spite of playing for a struggling Vols squad in 2012. Hunter finished with 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and could have done so much more on a better team. Mark him gone in 2013.
Luke Joeckel -- OT -- Texas A&M
The consensus top offensive lineman in the country has had a huge role on one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season. Luke Joeckel has been the workhorse on a Texas A&M O-Line that has been creating huge holes for Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel all season long and promises to have just the same impact in the NFL. At a nimble 6’6”, 310 pounds, Joeckel is the can’t miss prospect among the 2013 warriors in the trenches-- and in spite of A&M’s potential success looming in 2013-- shouldn’t stick around College Station in lieu of the big payday that awaits.