Major decisions loom for NFL Draft eligible underclassmen

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Grant Delpit, D'Andre Swift
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

When the streamers and confetti fall from the rafters late Monday evening at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, there will be some major decisions that will have to be made, or at least announced if already known by potential NFL draft picks.

Declaring deadline for the 2020 NFL Draft for underclassmen is January 20, one week following the national title matchup. Players on both sides with first round NFL projections have purposely held off making their future plans made public. They will soon announce if they will forego the college life for the riches of the NFL or return for the 2020 college football season.

For LSU safety Grant Delpit, the junior Thorpe Award winner, is a sure-fire first round pick in the upcoming draft. Outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson and wide receiver Justin Jefferson, also both juniors, have been projected by some to be first round picks as well.

The Clemson Tigers also have a trio with a decision at hand. Butkus Award winner Isaiah Simmons is a top 10-12 projection for the upcoming draft. Wide receiver Tee Higgins and cornerback A.J. Terrell also have the skills to go in the opening round.

It will be a life time call for those and others participating in Monday night’s finale. There is uncertainty in the process.

Last season, out of the 103 college football players declared early for the 2019 NFL draft, 30 of those did not hear their name called for the entire seven-round process.

Thus far, 90 players with college football eligibility remaining have officially declared for the draft and 57 others with draft potential have decided to return to their respective campuses. Of those returning, at least nine may have gone in the top round – Florida State DT Marvin Wilson, Alabama WR Devonta Smith, Alabama LB Dylan Moses, Stanford OT Walker Little, Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood, Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey and Stanford CB Paulsen Adebo.

Health issues played a role in the final decision for a couple others returning to college in 2020. Tennessee offensive guard Trey Smith experienced blood clots in his lungs in 2018. His health is just returning. Smith is thought to have Pro Bowl potential. Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace tore his ACL in the eighth week of this past season, ending his campaign. Smith and Wallace possess first round potential.

The announcement of the players to return or not return bodes well for college football but also shrinks the upcoming first round prospects somewhat.

Making the leap of faith to the NFL is not an easy one. The player sacrifices the comfort and security of college life, not knowing which program or location he will next call home. You also step into an adult world, dog-eat-dog, with nothing spoon fed to you. The individual is now competing in a veteran pro football lifestyle which can be an eye-opening experience for some. There are the physical and mental challenges that come along with it.

You play a 12-game schedule in college. If you are lucky, liKe LSU or Clemson, you make it to the 15th game of the season. That’s not even an entire NFL season. If you tally up the NFL preseason (four games), regular season (16 games) and the playoffs, you could be looking at 19 games before you even reach the Super Bowl. At some point your body physically hits a wall.

When a player arrives at his new NFL home, it could bring some internal (player) resentment, to a degree. The rookie is fighting to earn a spot on the 53 man roster, meaning he is taking a previous teammate’s spot. It’s the reality side of pro football.

Even though the phrase is repeated over and over, it rings true, Landing in the NFL you soon realize that it IS a business. Make sure you are fully prepared before you step across the line of the life changing decision.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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