Unlike the NFL, the college game has no opt-out deadline. As a result, big names at this level have been dropping bombshells on their collegiate programs. With the threat of the season being cancelled or compromised, players have had to make tough decisions.
How will opting out affect their draft stock? For some, there is sufficient game tape for NFL scouting teams to evaluate their talent. For others, their draft stock may fall as rival players shine in 2020.
Ultimately, the number of opt-outs prior to the 2020 season will dictate the impact on the draft stock of players across the college game. Take Miami’s Gregory Rousseau as an example. Offensive tackles across the ACC will have been hoping to best Rousseau, possibly the best pass rusher in this draft class. On a different note, Quincy Roche can now expect to be double teamed on the Hurricanes’ defensive front. Both Roche and opposing linemen could be impacted by Rousseau’s absence in 2020.
This article in no way is designed to comment on whether these individuals have made the right decision to opt-out. Each athlete has made a painstaking choice, weighing their young careers against their (and their family’s) health. Whatever decision they have made is the right one for them individually.
However, an undeniable consequence of deciding to opt-out is that their draft stock may be affected. Let’s look at some big names that won’t be taking to the field in 2020. Will their decision to opt-out have a knock-on effect in the Draft?
Cornerback, Virginia Tech
Junior, 6’2″, 195 lbs
Caleb Farley was the first college player to take the decision to opt-out in 2020. As the first player to do so, it grabbed national headlines. Speaking with NBC, he expressed his displeasure with the lack of protection and testing on offer by the Hokies’ staff.
Farley lost his mother to cancer in 2018, and was concerned about his father’s health when deciding to opt-out. It takes a bucket load of courage to be the first player to step up. A brief look into Farley’s formative years give us all a much needed dose of perspective.
He was set to be in the top group of cornerback talent in the 2021 Draft. Farley’s size and physical dominance led to 4 interceptions in 2019, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The consensus around Farley was that he was a First Round talent alongside Alabama‘s Patrick Surtain II and Ohio State’s Shaun Wade.
NFL franchises are always on the lookout for elite cornerback talent, and Farley’s two years of production in Blacksburg should be enough for a team to take him on Day One next April.
Junior, 6’1″, 210 lbs
Rashod Bateman was widely considered to be a premium wide receiver talent entering the 2020 season. Almost all talent evaluators had a first round grade on Bateman. He was the second player to opt-out, calling the decision the “hardest I’ve ever had to make”.
Bateman was undoubtedly the Golden Gophers’ premium talent, yet his decision to opt-out was met with understanding by his Head Coach, P.J. Fleck. Fleck stated that “our program will always support a teammate who makes a decision that he feels is best for him and his family”.
Bateman has the ideal physical attributes for the prototypical big-bodied receiver. Few of his draft classmates have his size. Rondale Moore, Jaylen Waddle, Tutu Attwell and Amari Rodgers all come in at under 6’0″ tall.
With over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, it is likely that Bateman’s draft stock will be unaffected in April.
OLB, Penn State
Junior, 6’2″, 245 lbs
Micah Parsons is the #1 linebacker in the 2021 Draft. That would have been true whether he decided to opt-out, or not. He had an incredible sophomore year in 2019, with 109 total tackles. 14 of those were for a loss. He also had 4.5 sacks to top off a productive season for the Nittany Lions.
A disruptive performance at home to Ohio State in 2020 would have cemented his place as a top 5 draft pick, and Parsons could easily have been the best non-QB in the 2021 Draft. He could still be, if his 2019 tape is enough for NFL scouts to go by.
Parsons has a young son, and placing his health over the possibility of confirming what most knew already was a no-brainer. While he isn’t at Chase Young levels of talent, he will improve almost any NFL pass rush corps.
Junior, 5’9″, 175 lbs
We now come to the curious case of Rondale Moore. Moore had the nation’s attention during a phenomenal freshman year. In his first year at Purdue, he had over 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a further 200 yards and another 2 TDs rushing the ball.
Moore had 7 100+ receiving yards in 7 games in 2018. Of those, his most impressive performance came against Ohio State, where he had 170 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 catches.
Injuries limited Moore to just 4 games last year. Most spectators were looking forward to Moore’s return to the field before he decided to opt-out in 2020.
A receiver of Rondale Moore’s size has to compensate with elite talent to prove their on-field worth. Unfortunately, tape that is now two years old will not cut it for most NFL scouting departments.
Standing at just 5’9″, a great Combine performance might halt his draft stock decline. There will be some NFL franchises that eye a steal come Day Two.
Redshirt Sophomore, 6’5″, 260 lbs
Gregory Rousseau was the fifth big name to opt-out last week. Some considered him the best pass rusher at the collegiate level going into the 2020 season.
With the edge rusher position so highly valued, Rousseau can have expected to be a top 10 pick in April. His ability to fit comfortably into most defensive systems may have even seen him drafted ahead of Micah Parsons.
Playing in his home state of Florida, Rousseau had an eye-watering 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 2019. Chase Young was the only collegiate athlete to have more sacks. Unsurprisingly, he was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
However, his mother is a nurse in the state of Florida, and has witnessed first hand the effects of the coronavirus. As a result, he has decided to opt-out and has declared for the NFL draft.
With his numbers and comparisons to Danielle Hunter, NFL franchises will be more than happy to risk a first round pick on Rousseau.
It is almost a certainty that more players will decide to opt-out of the 2020 college season. When they do, we’ll be there to break the news to you.
Saturdays are for rushing too.