Will Beav trio stay, or go pro?

CORVALLIS – There has been some angst on the boards lately that some of the OSU talent may make an early break for the NFL. BF.C takes a long look at three OSU players being most talked about for potentially leaving early and entering next year's draft – Brandin Cooks, Scott Crichton and Sean Mannion. And I also give you my prediction on who will stay and who will go…

The Undersized Big Kahuna – Brandin Cooks
Stat Line
  • The 5-10, 186-pound wideout this regular season posted 120 receptions (Pac-12 record) for 1,670 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 contests. He also worked in 188 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the orange and black.

    Thoughts
    I don't believe Cooks is going anywhere. In covering him the past two years, I believe he is the type of feisty wide receiver that would stay at OSU just to prove that he can break his own record during his senior year. Of course, a Cooks decision to stay put in Corvallis wouldn't ride totally on that but here's what would – the junior would really benefit by packing on at least 10 pounds of muscle, if not 15, if he wants his draft stock to improve past the second-third round.

    Cooks is ranked as "only" the seventh best receiver available in the draft according to Nfldraftscout, who projects him as a second round pick if he comes out early.

    While his ability is undeniable, he's not a Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236) or Dez Bryant (6-2, 222) when it comes to the measurable/physical attributes the NFL covets. Cooks' success is predicated on his agility, awareness of the field and his blinding speed -- those are certainly sought after traits but height and strength are equally sought after in The League.

    The NFL is a completely different beast when it comes to wideouts, and Cooks knows this. I think he also knows that an additional year of training, lifting and playing will only benefit his stock moving forward. Pro scouts will be much more impressed if Cooks proves capable of having a second straight 1,500-yard, 10-plus touchdown year after putting on more muscle, which should also help avoid injuries.

    It is also worth noting that Cooks really seems to love the OSU football program, as well as the players and coaches associated with it. From this chair, he stays for his teammates and for the coaches who have mentored him into the upper echelon of not only the Pac-12, but college football as a whole.

    Crichtonite – Scott Crichton
    Stat Line
  • As a junior this season through 12 games, Crichton (6-3, 265) accounted for 44 tackles (26 solo, 18 assisted) in OSU's 2013 campaign. He also sacked the QB 6.5 times, grabbed 16 tackles for a loss and forced two fumbles, recovering another.

    Thoughts
    Crichton had a slightly better stat line in 2012 -- by 1.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and an additional fumble recovery, with the same number of tackles. No, it is not a stark contrast to his production this season. And it should be noted that Crichton drew more double-teams this year. Still, the wow factor was severely diminished this season in comparison to last. And in evaluating Crichton's potential to land in the NFL this year, I take into consideration what I saw from him in practice and in games.

    He was not the same every down player in 2013 as he was in ‘12. He was on the field, sure, but he wasn't always playing like the same guy who injected fear into the hearts of opposing QBs and OLs in 2012. I just didn't see the motor running at full tilt in '13, and I'm hardly the one who has made similar observations.

    Nfldraftscout projects Crichton as the No. 14 defensive end in the draft and a fourth round selection.

    Crichton does have decent size for an NFL D-end but pro clubs would probably feel better is he put on a few more pounds. More than half the teams in the NFL run some version of a 3-4 defense and the d-ends in a 3-4 weigh more than those in a 4-3. In 2009, the average weight of a 3-4 starting end in the NFL was 299.9 pounds; for a 4-3, it was 271.1 pounds. Of course, it's also entirely possible a 3-4 team could draft him to play outside linebacker with an emphasis on rushing the QB.

    But wherever he projects in the NFL, consistency is absolutely huge in the pros. Think of Dwight Freeney – no, he was not always in on the big play, nor did he always get a TFL or a sack or QB hurry or a fumble forced. But Freeney stayed in the head of QB's and forced them to plan around just the idea of him. Crichton, this season, just wasn't that consistent threat, real or imagined – not like he was in 2012. And I believe he will stay at OSU in order to improve his draft options after the 2014 season.

    Note
    Junior and University of Miami transfer Jalen Grimble will be eligible to play next season, and soon-to-be seniors Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau have a tough year of football under their belts, hopefully with plenty of lessons learned. The potentially lethal and distracting combination of these three DT's in the middle of the front four along with a senior DE beast in Dylan Wynn could provide Crichton ample opportunity to not only rack up the stats again, should he decide to stay, but to soar to new heights in the minds of the NFL scouts.

    Man oh Mannion – Sean Mannion
    Stat Line
  • In his junior season through 12 games, Mannion passed for 4,403 yards, 36 TD's and 14 INT's. He completed 376 of his 570 attempted passes and averaged 366.9 yards per contest.

    I see him sticking around in 2014.

    Mannion is a smart quarterback - he knows the game well and sometimes he can really pick apart a defense with his booming arm and solid field vision (Utah, Cal). Sometimes. Other times, he looks miserable (ASU, Washington), and the senior-to-be still needs to shake off the stigma that he's slow to rebound after a tough game.

    Mannion has his best games when he has a little more time in the pocket – and that's just not something you can always count on in college ball, let alone the NFL. Nfldraftscout doesn't project him on their board of 50 quarterbacks.

    One reason for that is Mannion has been very susceptible to well-executed blitzes or even just pressure from four down (Stanford, ASU, USC) – he's been an obelisk behind the center at times. He made a good-sized jump from last year to this year, but he still needs more seasoning against the blitz, in going through his reads and to keep his fundamentals consistent when under pressure.

    I would really like to see what he does with another year of football, and I should get my wish. For what he lacks in steadfast confidence, he makes up for in determination and loyalty, two aspects of the position that are impossible to quantify as is another one of his – quiet leadership.

    Mannion was working with a handful of receivers and tight ends who took their first stab at consistent playing time during the 2013 season and a hot-and-cold offensive line. And he still notched over 4,000 yards. Just imagine what he could do with a deeply experienced corps of receivers, tight ends and the resurgence of a bruising Beaver ground game. Whoa nelly.

    Drew's Sleeper List
    Neither of these two are projected on nfldraftscout for the coming NFL Draft at their respective positions but…

  • Dylan Wynn (DE) – I'm just waiting for the right NFL scout to perk up and realize that this junior has the potential to be an absolutely demoralizing outside linebacker at the pro level. He is sharp, quick on his feet and has a motor that never quits. He is an old-school bruiser who lives to whack the daylights out of an opponent, and I see him as having much more upside as an LB than I do a DE at the pro level.

  • Junior Ryan Murphy (S) – Murphy has tremendous field vision and closing speed. His tackling isn't quite on par with professional safety talent, but I get the feeling that if the right opportunity were to present itself that he could be a steal in this year's draft – I just don't think anyone sitting in an NFL office feels the same way as I do. But a monster season in 2013 for the Beavs should definitely change that around this time next year.


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