2020 NFL Draft: Top 20 college football players who spurned the pros to return for another season
These players could have gone pro but will be stars in college in 2020
The deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, and while many top programs are bidding farewell to some of their best players, the season also comes with announcements from draft-eligible who decided to return to school instead of going pro.
These players have considered their NFL Draft outlook, their personal and family goals as well as the situation at their current school and decided to return for a senior (or redshirt junior in come cases) season in college football. Below, we've highlighted 20 names that turned down the 2020 NFL Draft, and because they did, will have a major impact on the 2020 college football season.
1. DeVonta Smith, Alabama, WR: With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III gone, Smith becomes the alpha in the wide receiver room for 2020. It could be Mac Jones or Bryce Young, but no matter who starts at quarterback we should expect Smith to lead the team in most major receiving categories.
2. Travis Etienne, Clemson, RB: Already the ACC's career rushing touchdown and total touchdown record holder, Etienne will have a chance to win ACC Offensive Player of the Year for a third straight season with his return to Clemson. The key to Etienne's decision to come back to the Tigers might lie in his workload, averaging less than 14 rushing attempts per game in each of the last two seasons.
3. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State RB: Hubbard thrilled Oklahoma State fans with his decision to return and the declaration that he's planning to "bring a national championship to Stillwater." While the Pokes' title contention is yet to be determined, Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace (more on him below) do give Mike Gundy arguably his best chance to make a run at the College Football Playoff.
4. Najee Harris, Alabama RB: After leading the Tide with 1,224 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, Harris has decided to return for another season as Alabama's primary option at running back. Harris has been a factor in Alabama's offense for three years, but his senior season could be when we see the former five-star prospect's ceiling at the college level.
5. Marvin Wilson, Florida State DL: Mike Norvell is fortunate to have Wilson in the mix for 2020, not only for his defensive line dominance but for the leadership he can provide in the locker room. When Wilson underwent hand surgery in early November -- at the time, he was the team-leader in sacks and ranked second in tackles for loss -- it was assumed he'd be off to the NFL at the conclusion of the year. But instead he wants to be a part of building with Norvell, and that's great news for the Seminoles.
6. CJ Verdell, Oregon RB: As a redshirt sophomore, Verdell was eligible to capitalize on back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons with a go at the NFL. But instead, he's choosing to return to Eugene for at least one more season of College Football Playoff pursuit. While Justin Herbert is the focus of much NFL Draft conversation, the heart and soul of the Ducks' offense in 2019 was on the ground with Verdell leading the way.
7. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State RB: It was thought heading into the Music City Bowl that Hill would be taking off for the NFL, but after the hire of Mike Leach, he decided to return for a senior season in Starkville. Hill's 1,350 rushing yards was good for third in the SEC and in 2020 he gets to showcase his abilities as a runner and receiver in Leach's offense.
8. Big Kat Bryant, Auburn DL: This decision follows in the footsteps of Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, who like Bryant, had a chance to go pro after their junior season but chose to return to the Tigers. The hope for Bryant is that he, like Brown and Davidson, will be such a force along the defensive line that he solidifies a first-round grade heading into 2021.
9. Tyler Vaughns, USC WR: With offensive coordinator Graham Harrell staying in Los Angeles and a loaded quarterback room, Vaughns sets himself up for a second straight year as one of the most prolific wide receivers in the country.
10. Trey Smith, Tennessee OT: It's hard not to root for Smith, who not only worked his way back into NFL Draft consideration after blood clots in his lungs cut his sophomore season short. He's returning for his senior year to fulfill a promise to his late mother.
11. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State WR: Good news offseason in Stillwater not only includes the return of the offenses top rusher and top receiver, but this week an update indicated that Wallace is ahead of schedule on his rehab process after suffering a torn ACL on Oct. 30. The plan, Mike Gundy told reporters, is to protect Wallace until around mid-August then "turn him loose."
12. Paulson Adebo, Stanford CB: David Shaw was confident going into 2019 that Adebo, the team's best defensive back, would be a part of the NFL Draft process this spring. Adebo did battle through some injuries but still had the kind of season that carried a first-round expectation, yet he will be back with the Cardinal in 2020. Look for Adebo, and Stanford in general, to bring a bounce-back edge to the program after an uncharacteristic 4-8 season.
13. Kadarius Toney, Florida WR: A shoulder injury limited Toney's contributions to the Gators' offense in 2019, so it made sense when he announced that he's still "got goals to accomplish" with his teammates in Gainesville. The all-purpose threat averaged 10.6 yards per touch during his first three seasons with Florida. There's plenty of room for more touches in 2020 due to roster turnover at the skill positions.
14. Tamorrion Terry, Florida State WR: The 6-foot-4 highlight reel wide receiver became the 13th player in Florida State history with 1,000 receiving yards in a season in 2019. Then after seeking feedback from the NFL, he decided to return for another year. Terry joins Wilson as key figures both on the field and in the locker room for Year 1 of the Mike Norvell era in Tallahassee.
15. Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Wake Forest DE: Dave Clawson is getting both of Wake's First Team All-ACC selections back for 2020, with Basham and wide receiver Sage Surratt both announcing their decision to return in December. Basham was the program's first All-ACC First Team selection since 2002, and there's no reason to believe he won't repeat that feat again in 2020.
16. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech CB: After rating as one of the top cornerbacks in the country, Farley decided to return to Blacksburg instead of pursuing the 2020 NFL Draft. Farley had four interceptions and 12 passes defended in a breakout season this fall, and his addition to the 2020 Lunch Pail Defense is the headline for Year 1 of the post-Bud Foster era.
17. Thomas Graham, Oregon CB: Graham was a top prospect coming out of high school who saw action early in his career for the Ducks defense, but while an early exit was considered, the NFL Draft Advisory Committee recommended a return to Oregon. That's great news for Mario Cristobal and a defense that should be stout in 2020.
18. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma OL: An All-America candidate on offensive line, Humphrey has been a mainstay for a position group that consistently rates as one of the best in the country. Continuity is always a bonus in the trenches, and when it's continuity with one of the game's best lineman, it's a huge boost to the offense's outlook.
19. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama OT: A first-round future seemed set in stone for Leatherwood, but he joins other Alabama teammates in leaving that opportunity on the back burner for now and returning for another season with the Tide. Leatherwood is skilled, experienced and capable of being one of the top lineman in the country next season, blocking for either Mac Jones or Bryce Young and paving the way for Najee Harris and the run game.
20. Richard LeCounte III, Georgia DB: Two interceptions in the Sugar Bowl win against Baylor made for a strong finale to the 2019 season that quickly got reframed as a preview of 2020 when he announced his decision to return to Athens just a few days later. In two years as a starter, the big-play safety has forced nine turnovers and will be one of the leaders for a Georgia defense that is not expected to see any kind of drop-off next fall.
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