5 biggest offensive voids left by NFL draft departures
The early-entry deadline for the NFL draft can be an exciting time for NFL fans looking to see which players their team could be targeting in 2016, but the opposite can be true for college fans seeing some of their team’s best players leave.
What are the biggest impact losses from this year’s early entrants? We took a look at the five on offense that could leave the biggest voids, as well as how their teams could try to replace them:
1. Ole Miss: Laquon Treadwell, WR, and Laremy Tunsil, OT
Both of these guys are potential top-10 picks in this year’s draft, along with teammate defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, meaning the Rebels will have to replace a lot of top-end talent next season. Treadwell earned PFF’s seventh-best receiving grade against Power-5 competition, excelling in particular as a physical, downfield receiver, and Tunsil ranked as the eighth-best offensive tackle since returning to the field in Week 8.
The replacements: Damore’ea Stringfellow has nearly identical measurements to Treadwell at wide receiver, and graded very similarly to him on a per-snap basis in 2015. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as the Rebels’ No. 1 target. Markell Pack is another tall target (like Stringfellow, he is listed at 6-foot-3) who graded well on a per-snap basis and could be in line for a bigger role next season. Replacing Tunsil could be trickier, although Sean Rawlings, who played at right tackle this season, was the only Rebels lineman other than Tunsil to earn a positive grade this season, albeit on only about half the team’s snaps.
2. California: Jared Goff, QB
This year’s quarterback class doesn’t look as exciting as last year’s, which yielded the top two picks in the draft in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but Goff looks to be the best of an imperfect group – and according to colleague Steve Palazzolo in his first two mock drafts for 2016, that makes him a potential top-5 pick. Goff ranked third in our quarterback grades this season, and first in passing grade among Power-5 QBs. He stood out for his deep-passing ability, connecting on nearly 50 percent of 20-plus-yard throws with an 11-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio.
The replacements: This is anyone’s guess, and there certainly isn’t much we can project based on our PFF grades. Backup Chase Forrest attempted just 16 passes in 2015.
3. Alabama: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
While PFF would have given the Heisman Trophy to Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey over Henry, based on McCaffrey’s all-around ability and rushing numbers and grades that were very comparable to Henry’s, there’s no question that Henry had an outstanding 2015 season. His 71 forced missed tackles against Power-5 competition were the most in college football (in fairness, the additional playoff game gave him more opportunities over second-place Leonard Fournette and third-place McCaffrey, respectively), and his 3.53 yards after contact per attempt versus Power-5 teams ranked fifth. Simply put, he was one of the toughest running backs in the nation to bring down, and the focal point of Alabama’s national championship-winning offense.
The replacements: Kenyan Drake, who was Henry’s backup and in particular was a dynamic weapon in the passing and return games, will also depart this offseason, having exhausted his eligibility. That leaves a big void at running back, one that is expected to be filled by Bo Scarbrough. He is a former top recruit who measures out similarly to Henry (listed in the 6-2, 240-pound range), and while he saw VERY limited action this season, he still managed to impress. On just 18 carries, he rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, breaking seven tackles along the way. Michigan State got a taste of how good Scarbrough could be in Bama’s blowout semifinal win, when he broke five tackles on just three carries.
4. Ohio State: Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Elliott had an excellent 2015 season, with the exception of the Buckeyes’ lone loss to Michigan State during which he was limited to just 33 yards on 12 carries – although as Elliott infamously pointed out after that game, the blame there may have belonged more to the coaching staff. He was a force running the ball, as reflected by his 3.85 yards after contact per attempt versus Power-5 competition ranking second-best in the nation.
The replacements: The Buckeyes didn’t have much behind Elliott this season, meaning it wouldn’t surprise if their next starter was someone who hasn’t yet seen the field. But two options that have already seen time are Bri’onte Dunn, who has rushed for 150 yards on 23 carries over the last two seasons, and Curtis Samuel, who has seen time at both running back and wide receiver during his career but has rushed for 519 yards and seven touchdowns on 75 carries in the past two seasons at a 6.9 yards-per-carry clip.
5. Baylor: Corey Coleman, WR
There was a time during the season during which Coleman looked like a legitimate candidate to win the Heisman Trophy, but injuries to Baylor’s quarterbacks derailed that along with the Bears’ passing game. Still, though, Coleman put up some pretty phenomenal numbers in 2015: His 3.98 yards per route run average ranked third in the nation, and he ranked second in PFF’s wide receiver grades through Week 7 (the next week was when Baylor starting QB Seth Russell went down with a season-ending neck injury). He was also a handful to bring down after the catch, forcing a combined 18 missed tackles as a receiver and as a runner.
The replacements: KD Cannon is the leading candidate to take over Coleman’s role as Baylor’s go-to target, earning the team’s second-best receiving grade in 2015. His breakout game came against Oklahoma State, when he caught five passes on seven targets for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also forced five missed tackles in the open field.