Top 5 Senior Season NFL Draft Slides
5. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin (2008)
“Don’t be a fool, stay in school”? Not so much for USC’s Matt Barkley and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. Both passed on last April’s NFL draft only to start the 2012 college football season looking shaky. Will they end up like the following five players since ‘05 for whom bypassing the draft was a mistake?
In 2007, Beckum broke his own school record for receptions by a tight end (75, up from 61 in 2007). And he saved his best for big games, burning Big Ten rivals Michigan State, Illinois and Ohio State for over 10 catches and 100 yards. His size and speed were ideal for an NFL-caliber tight end.
Then the injury bug bit, and hard. He broke his leg during October of his 2008 senior season and slid to the third round of the 2009 draft after folks said he could have been a first-rounder the year before. Then he tore his ACL as a member of the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI.
It’s as if Beckum’s decision to return to school was cursed from the start.
4. Taylor Mays, USC (2009)
USC dominated the Pac-10 in the mid-2000s, and Mays — a man-child-of-a-safety at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds — was considered one of the defense’s best pro prospects. He helped solidify a unit in 2008 that had more than three times as many INTs (19) as TD passes. He was the best safety in college football.
Until he wasn’t. The 2009 defense got burned, most egregiously in late-season blowout losses to Oregon and Stanford. Suddenly Mays was labeled as “stiff and mechanical with his defensive back fundamentals,” a onetime Ronnie Lott clone being projected as a linebacker at the next level.
After being projected as a mid-first round pick in ‘09, Mays slid to the middle of the second round in 2010 (No. 49 overall) and was traded by the 49ers after his rookie season.
Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/US Presswire
3. Matt Leinart, USC (2005)
Had Leinart ended his career following his 2004 Heisman-winning season and his five-touchdown romp over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, he would have been a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick. He had the size and acumen that pro scouts loved and had piloted the offense of a college football dynasty.
While he threw for a career-high in yards in 2005, he failed to throw 30 TDs for the first time in three years as a starter (28). His weak arm started scaring scouts away, as did his being caught up in the Hollywood life style.
Since being drafted 10th overall in 2006, Leinart has failed to solidify a starting job at any of his three NFL stops. He might never have been as mature to lead a pro team as he was in 2005. And it’s too late to go back now. Even worse? Any time someone’s return to school ends up as a mistake, the media refers to it as “Pulling a Matt Leinart.” Ouch.
2. Jake Locker, Washington (2010)
Had he entered the 2010 NFL Draft, Locker would have likely gone No. 1 or two overall. He returned to Seattle and promptly completed a smaller percentage of passes (55.4%) and threw for fewer TDs (17) than in 2009 (58.4% and 21 TDs). It was such a significant step back that ESPN’s John Clayton stated that October that Locker might drop to the second or third round.
Only strong pre-draft workouts and impressive Combine measurables kept Locker in the first round. And the Titans reaching for him at No. 8 saved Locker from losing millions of dollars.
Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
1. Brian Brohm, Louisville (2007)
Brohm did nothing less than lead a traditional college basketball power to the near-top of the college football world. (At one point in 2006 the Cardinals were 8–0 and ranked No. 4.) The high school phenom had been masterful under Bobby Petrino and could have been the top overall pick in the ‘07 draft, but it was a national title he craved after leading Louisville to an Orange Bowl win.
Alas, the Cardinals limped to a 6–6 record in 2007 under Bobby Petrino’s successor, Steve Kragthorpe. While Brohm threw for 4,024 yards and 30 TDs, he also threw a career-high 12 INTs and had his consistency questioned. The decision to stay also meant that he’d have to go up against fellow pro-style passers in Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in scouts’ eyes.
Brohm fell to the 56th pick overall (second round) in 2008, going to a Packers team that already had Aaron Rodgers ready to take over. His career NFL stat line: 252 yards, zero TDs and five INTs along with a 26.0 QB rating.