clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

B1G in the Big League: 2015 Early Draft Departures, East* Division

New, comments

*Minus Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers because the West's early-entry game be weak, yo

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! Well no, because the offense you played on was pretty awful
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! Well no, because the offense you played on was pretty awful
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

For the West division's early entrants and also the guys who escaped Maryland, Indiana, and Rutgers, go here. Moving right along:

WR Devin Funchess, Jr, Michigan

If you'd like proof that the NFL values measurables and potential above all else, you need look no further. Despite being a 6'5" terrorbeast with good speed and great leaping ability, Funchess suffered badly from Michigan's inept QB play in 2014. He compiled a huge chunk of his uninspiring numbers in the season-opening laugher against Appalachian State, and he spent most of the season struggling with drops of what catchable balls were thrown his way. To be fair, though, Michigan's lack of other menacing receiving options likely drew lots of extra attention to Funchess over the course of the season. He also struggled with leg injuries through most of the season, though former coach Brady Hoke's opacity on injuries obscured just how bad those injuries were.

And yet...he's still regarded as a possible first-round pick, in large measure due to his uncoachable physical attributes that will probably draw some Jimmy Graham comparisons. I don't know if I buy a first-round selection for Funchess- it's a deep class of receivers, many of which have no production or drops issues to answer. Still, he's a sure thing to be drafted, probably some time in the second day (2nd-4th rounds).

Next Man Up: Amara Darboh. Darboh, at least, was Michigan's second target for most of the season. The Wolverines did not have any seniors amongst the pass-catchers, and will get some talented options such as Drake Harris and Moe Ways off of redshirts as well, but Darboh offers the best combination of experience and ability at the position right now.

CB Trae Waynes, RS Jr, Michigan State

This high school teammate of Melvin Gordon stepped into Darqueze Dennard's shoes as MSU's #1 cover corner in 2014, and almost without exception performed nearly as well as his predecessor. MSU's pass defense as a whole took a step back, but it was seldom due to any missteps on Waynes' part. He is capable in run support, but logged relatively few stats for a full-time starter due to opponents' reluctance to even throw his way (and frankly, there were more tempting targets in MSU's secondary).

In the draft, Waynes offers teams a bigger, faster prospect than Dennard did. That, combined with top CB prospect Marcus Peters' minor off-field problems (he was kicked off of his team), could well make Waynes the first corner taken. Either way, he's a solid bet to go in the second half of the first round.

Next Man Up: Jermaine Edmondson. I nearly went with the shrug emoji here. MSU's entire secondary will be getting an offseason makeover due to its performance issues and the departures of Waynes and FS Kurtis Drummond, and at this point it's guesswork as to who lands where.  Edmondson played some relief snaps for Waynes and generally held up well, but there's seven or eight candidates to fill both cornerback spots going into next season.

TE Jesse James, Jr, Penn State

James spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career under the tight end-centric Bill O'Brien passing attack, and he and his fellows flourished as a result. However, 2014's transition in offensive philosophy to...whatever it is James Franklin and his OC are trying to do did not go as smoothly as PSU partisans might have liked. James still managed respectable totals for a TE- nearly 400 yards with 3 TDs- but the offense as a whole sagged.

Like Williams and Kroft, James enters a thin tight end crop, and his experience in BO'B's system is sure to endear him to progressive offensive coaches (certainly, O'Brien himself knows what James can do). His speed is nothing notable, so he's probably not a first- or second-round prospect, but a midround pick on a guy with his size wouldn't be the worst move an NFL team could make.

Next Man Up: Adam Breneman. Or Carter, Wilkerson, Gesicki, whoever. This is one of the few spots where PSU is well-stocked despite the sanctions; O'Brien hoarded TEs like he was preparing for some kind of hybrid-offense nuclear winter, and most of the crew will be back next year.

DE Deion Barnes, RS Jr, Penn State

Barnes' up-and-down career with the Nittany Lions ended on a high note in 2014. He had a breakout 2012 season as a redshirt freshman, fell well short of lofty preseason expectations in 2013, and then benefited from the team's elevated overall defensive play in 2014. Having already finished his degree, Barnes is now free to succeed with honor or whatever as a pro player.

His production and physical attributes should guarantee that he's drafted at some point, but teams aren't going to be tripping over themselves to get him in a class with lots of talented pass-rushers. In the one season (2013) where he faced substantial extra attention and double-teams, he was shut down too easily by a lot of opponents. His best-case scenario is probably a mid-round selection by a team with other pass rush threats which must be accounted for.

Next Man Up: Garrett Sickels. With fellow bookend C.J. Olaniyan out of eligibility, PSU moves into 2015 with an utter lack of experience at the ends. Sickels and whoever else steps into the void will benefit greatly from the talented duo of Zettel and Johnson manning the DT spots, but somebody will need to prove themselves at DE for PSU's defense to have a shot at reprising its 2014 form.

OT Donovan Smith, RS Jr, Penn State

Certainly the conference's most surprising declaration of this season thus far, Smith possesses all the physical tools, but very little of the technical polish required of NFL tackles. He was generally an above-average to good starter for PSU, and provided badly needed stability on the blindside of an offensive line that was a train wreck for most of 2014. PSU's overall offensive struggles in 2014 were well-documented, and the season-long inability to either protect Christian Hackenberg or create sustained push in the run game generated much grumbling about the OL's poor play.

As for Smith individually, his pro prospects are hazy. His decision to declare was surprising enough that a number of the guys who do NFL scouting for a living were caught off-guard by it. That link's final paragraph speculates that Smith (and, impliedly, maybe Barnes and James as well) had simply gone through enough turmoil in their PSU careers and were ready to move on even without the sunniest professional prospects awaiting them. Again, Smith has the physical ability to get teams' attention, but I would expect his Combine (if he gets invited), pro day, and individual workouts will be critical for his prospects.

Next Man Up: Andrew Nelson/Paris Palmer. As with MSU's secondary, who knows how this muddled picture shakes out for next season. Nelson spent 2014 at RT as a redshirt freshman, so he at least has some experience at this level. Palmer, meanwhile, is a highly-regarded JUCO recruit who Franklin probably didn't sign to stand around on the sidelines. Whether either guy can offer Hackenberg better protection remains to be seen, but it'll be a primary offseason point of interest for this offense.

DE Noah Spence, Jr, OSU

Remember this guy? The former top-five overall recruit who was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for repeated failed drug tests, yet was not missed by OSU in the slightest because of how good Tressel leftover Steve Miller turned out to be?

Despite not playing all season, Spence will likely remain a very tempting prospect for the NFL. After all, season-long suspensions didn't suppress the market for guys like Robert Quinn. If Spence has stayed in shape (and what else does he have to do?), teams will still come calling.

Next Man Up: LOL. Didn't you read above? OSU already did this part.

Undecideds: DE Shilique Calhoun, RS Jr, Michigan State; DT Adolphus Washington, Jr, Ohio State

As of this article's dropping, these are the guys who may decide to go pro, but haven't yet pulled the trigger either because it's a hard decision to make or because there's the minor issue of a national championship yet to play for. Since we don't know if they're going, I'll just touch on each briefly.

Calhoun remains on the fence over a week after MSU's season ended, and from what public comments he's made, he appears genuinely torn on what to do. He took a step forward as a leader this season, and his play lived up to most expectations. He probably hasn't earned the first-round projection some people were tagging him with before the season, but he would certainly be a second-day selection. Were he to leave, MSU has promising, if mostly untested, prospects such as Demetrius Cooper and Montez Sweat behind him. However, if he were to come back, MSU's defensive line would be among the best in the country.

Washington jumped in with both feet as a true freshman in Urbz' first Buckeye recruiting class. After a strong freshman year at DE, he hit a bit of a wall. Noted force of nature Joey Bosa had arrived behind him and staked claim to the SDE spot, which pushed Washington inside. He eventually acclimated to the role, and playing between Bosa and probable first-rounder Michael Bennett, Washington has flourished. All of his public comments have indicated he's staying, but he has also seemed surprised at being graded as highly as he has been (Kiper rates him as a first or second rounder). He'll presumably make his real announcement after the title game, but will have a very narrow window to do it; the game is on January 12th, and the deadline to declare is the 15th.