Florida State losing four underclassmen to NFL draft, but six decide to stay

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Devonta Freeman reportedly headed for the NFL draft, all of Florida State's draft-eligible underclassmen who had a real decision to make have made their calls. Let's take a look at them.

Going

Gloating a bit here, I predicted FSU to lose four to the NFL draft, and nailed the four.

Timmy Jernigan

Jernigan is an absolute no-brainer. The defensive tackle had a great season and might be the top interior guy in the draft. He really had nothing left to prove in Tallahassee.

Kelvin Benjamin

If Benjamin was turning 21 in a few weeks, it might have been advisable for the red-shirt sophomore to stay. But he's turning 23. And that makes a big difference. If the receiver were to have stayed, he'd be entering the NFL at 24 in 2015, and that's not a great situation. Benjamin is a freak in the Alshon Jeffrey mold, and his development curve in Tallahassee had a ridiculous slope. I think he'll go in the first round or near there. He was another no-doubter.

Devonta Freeman

I was surprised Freeman debated this for so long. In my mind, he was the easiest choice of all. The running back won't get bigger, taller or faster. He's shown everything there is to show in Tallahassee, including much improved blocking and pass catching skills. And if he came back, he would risk injury. Running backs should go pro the very second they have a shot to get drafted, except in unique circumstances. Freeman is a professional and while he won't be a star, teams will love him for his dependability and versatility. 2015 is also a loaded running back draft, perhaps the best in decades. Positional value matters.

James Wilder

Wilder plays running back and has an upright running style. He'll be drafted on his highlight runs, combine, and potential. He has a daughter, and school isn't made for everyone. Here again, going pro was absolutely the right choice. Again, running backs should almost never work for free a day more than they have to. 2015 is also a loaded running back draft, perhaps the best in decades. Positional value matters. And if he had stayed, even with Freeman going pro, I still think Karlos Williams would have overtaken him as the starter.

Staying

Cameron Erving

For some reason, people thought Erving was going to turn pro. I did not. His decision to return was very smart. He won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, but was not head and shoulders above the rest of the ACC. I think people confused Erving's adjusting to the position so well in 2012 after switching from defensive tackle with him actually being a star. That is not the same. If Erving had turned pro, he may have been the seventh or eight tackle taken. He needs more consistency, to become less of a waist-bender, to shed some bad weight, and to add upper-body strength. In 2015, he can be a first rounder if things break right and he works hard.

Josue Matias and Tre' Jackson

When breaking in a new center, returning the best guard tandem in college football doesn't hurt. I had heard whispers that both Matias and Jackson would leave, but I did not believe them because guards rarely turn pro early. I think either decision would have been correct, really. Leaving gets them started on the way to a second contract quicker, but staying could get them more money up front.

Nick O'Leary

Staying was the right decision for a few reasons. First, FSU will throw to the tight end more in 2014 because it lost Benjamin and Kenny Shaw at wide receiver. This is also an incredible tight end draft, and O'Leary would have been fourth at best were he to have come out. O'Leary could probably stand to put on 5-10 more pounds, and become an even better blocker, but there is no denying he made a big jump in 2013.

Rashad Greene

I fully expected Greene to come back, but was mixed on whether he should. He was much better in 2013 thanks to the added muscle he put on. 2014 is a pretty loaded receiver draft, and if he catches even more balls in 2014 as the main guy, he could see a big jump for 2015. Greene can get stronger still, and get off press more, and he will be one of the best receivers in the country again in 2014.

Karlos Williams

This won't be a popular opinion with Florida State fans, but if I were Karlos Williams, I would turn pro. 6'1, 223, with great highlight runs and one of the fastest players on the fastest roster in the country. I would sell myself as having fresh legs, would destroy the combine, and while some teams would correctly note I was unproven, all it takes is one team to realize that I have more skill and potential than any running back in the 2014 draft. I would not give away 150 carries from my body for free, risk injury, delay the time it takes to get to my second contract, and deal with the craziness that will be the 2015 draft pool for running backs. The counter that is that if Williams has a huge 2014 in Tallahassee, his legs are still fairly fresh, and he could be one of the first three backs selected, and the second contract then doesn't matter quite as much.

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