The Pac-12 is losing five juniors who likely will be first-round picks in this year’s NFL draft, plus its two best running backs — Oregon’s LaMichael James and Washington’s Chris Polk.
And that first-round number could be six if Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict can get his act together.
Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.
James could slip into the first round, too.
As it stands now, nine juniors have declared early, with Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler announcing his intentions this afternoon. That presumably wouldn’t have happened if not for the Sun Devils’ coaching change.
Anyway, there will be a significant talent drain from the Pac-12, which wasn’t all that hot in 2011 outside of Oregon, Stanford and USC.
Seven of the 11 first-team all-conference juniors are leaving, with Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas still undecided.
Good news for the Pac-12, bad news for the rest of the Pac-12 South, is that USC is in great shape to make a run for the national title because quarterback Matt Barkley opted to come back for his senior season despite being a potential top five pick.
Question his business sense if you will, but he’ll have a lot of fun throwing to the nation’s best pair of receivers — Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
Players have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft. Here is how it shapes up right now:
*Rankings from CBSSports.com’s mock draft from senior analyst Rob Rang
Vontaze Burfict, LB, ASU
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (No. 17)
Matt Kalil, LT, USC (No. 3)
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (No. 1)
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (No. 13)
Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
Nick Perry, DE, USC (No. 9)
Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Here is what Rang wrote on CBSSports.com: “If considering Burfict with anything higher than a third-round pick, a team will have to be convinced through interviews that he’s going to demonstrate better discipline, commitment — and quite frankly, production — than he did at any point in his junior season.”
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Franklin isn’t a superstar, although he has led the Bruins in rushing the past two seasons. He did say after the bowl game that he would the draft, but he announced this week he would return. Lotulelei won the Morris Trophy as the league’s best defensive lineman, as voted by the Pac-12′s offensive linemen.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
Losing two running backs would hurt, although the Ducks still have super speedy De’Anthony Thomas to plug in at running back and become an instant Heisman contender. Chase Thomas gives Stanford a major needed game-changer on defense; he had 17.5 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles.