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17 for '17: Top players who bypassed 2017 NFL Draft


College Football 24/7's 17 for '17 series continues with a look at the 17 best college football players who bypassed a chance to apply for early entry into the 2017 NFL Draft, a group that makes up a strong core of the game's seniors and fourth-year juniors returning this fall. Among last year's top returners, every one of them was selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, including three first-round picks (Jonathan Allen, Tre'Davious White, O.J. Howard).

17. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

Blanding has been a tackling machine at UVA since becoming a starter as a true freshman, and he's within striking distance of Jamie Sharper's school record for career tackles (435; Blanding has 358). As for his draft status, however, it's Blanding's coverage ability that will draw scouts' attention this fall. Safeties who can clean up against the run aren't hard to find; those who can lock down tight ends and slot receivers are in much shorter supply. analyst Bucky Brooks liked what he saw from Blanding last year.

16. Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt doesn't often lose underclassmen to the draft, but it happened in January when LB Zach Cunningham made the jump, and he nearly had company. Webb, who already has broken Zac Stacy's school record for career and single-season rushing yards, announced his decision immediately after VU's Independence Bowl loss to N.C. State. Webb ran for 1,283 yards last year and his 3,345-yard career total already ranks 21st in SEC history.

15. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Nagging injuries slowed Freeman considerably last year, and he just didn't look quite like the back who slashed through opponents for 1,836 yards in 2015. After his off-year, coming back to school was a logical decision that gives him a chance to play like he did in 2015 as a lasting impression for scouts. Although in announcing his return, Freeman instead cited as his reason to return a desire to finish his education and play for new Ducks coach Willie Taggart.

14. Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa

Jewell's decision to return will not only give the Hawkeyes another year with the anchor of their defense, but will allow Jewell to graduate in the fall as well. His feedback from the NFL College Advisory Committee suggested he remain in school, and the senior took heed. He led Iowa with 124 tackles last season and in pass breakups (9). He was also a Butkus Award finalist and would be Iowa's first Butkus winner if he takes home the honor in 2017.

13. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Notre Dame's promising left tackle offered some refreshing honesty about his decision to return to college: He simply didn't believe he was ready for the pros. One part of his game he'll look to improve is in the area of false starts; he committed nine of them last year. But a premature jump to the NFL is one false start that can't be corrected.

12. Billy Price, C, Ohio State

Just as center Pat Elflein decided to stay with the Buckeyes the year before, Price made the same decision for 2017 and cited Elflein's decision as a model for his own. But he certainly had the kind of resume that would make a jump to the NFL tempting. Price was a first-team All-Big Ten pick, an AFCA first-team All-American and a team captain with 41 consecutive starts.

11. Lowell Lotulelei, DL, Utah

Lotulelei's return was big news for the Utes' run defense. He's a 310-pound interior anchor who is tough to move at the point of attack and can penetrate for big plays as well. But 2016 wasn't the way to go out, as he was hampered by injury. Coming back gives him a chance to show scouts peak performance in his exit year.

10. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State got one of the nation's elite receivers back when Washington decided to stick around. He's built more like a running back than a receiver at 6-foot and 205 pounds, but he plays taller than that when competing for jump balls downfield. Last year, he caught 71 passes for 1,380 yards and 10 TDs.

9. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

Nobody could blame Chubb if he had come out for the draft after the year he had as a junior in 2016. He notched 22 tackles for loss (fourth in the FBS) and 10.5 sacks, earning the Wolfpack's Defensive MVP honor. Citing a desire to be selected first-team All-ACC, along with achieving team goals, the younger brother of Detroit Lions LB Brandon Chubb decided one more year of college was in order.

8. Vita Vea, DT, Washington

To whatever extent the early draft entries of Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Elijah Qualls stung the Huskies defense, Vea's decision to stay helped stop the bleeding. He made 39 tackles and five sacks last year, impressive production for a 350-pound interior lineman, and will draw plenty of scouting attention this fall as one of the Pac-12's top defenders. Former UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate reportedly saw Vea as more talented than Cleveland Browns 2015 first-round pick Danny Shelton, who also played at Washington.

7. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Less than a week before the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, Falk sent music to the ears of Cougars fans in announcing he would return as a fifth-year senior. That meant a guy who already has over 10,000 career passing yards would lead Mike Leach's Air Raid offense for one more go-round. Two Pac-12 coaches with NFL coaching experience, UCLA's Jim Mora and Stanford's David Shaw, are believers in Falk's NFL potential. Another year in Pullman will surely make believers of more.

6. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma

Nobody can say the son of the late former NFL starter Orlando Brown isn't big enough for the NFL; he's 6-foot-8, 360 pounds, and knows how to carry it on the field. He was a first-team All-Big 12 pick last year, but said in December: "I'll be an Oklahoma Sooner until I get a first-round grade."

5. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Rudolph's return ensures another dynamic offense in Stillwater and gives him another year to help scouts evaluate how well he could make the transition from OSU's fast-paced spread offense to a pro-style system. He now enters his third year as a starter having thrown for 49 touchdowns over the last two years. He applied for feedback from the NFL College Advisory Committee, but announced his decision to return during Oklahoma State's preparations for the Alamo Bowl.

4. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

One of only two edge rushers listed here, Landry led the nation last year in sacks (16.5) and forced fumbles (7). But stats alone don't make anyone a first-round draft pick, and both Landry and coach Steve Addazio cited Landry's desire to be a first-rounder as one reason for his return. He's undersized at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, but his quickness and ability to finish plays in the backfield will have scouts playing close attention to the Eagles' senior.

3. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama

Scarbrough told College Football 24/7 in January that he had decided to return to Alabama in 2017, describing the decision as an easy one. Perhaps it was -- after all, he didn't even play much over the first half of the season -- but in his breakthrough game (180 yards vs. Washington in a College Football Playoff semifinal) he looked readily capable of making the jump. At 240 pounds, he brings thunderous power to the Crimson Tide backfield. He'll be a fourth-year junior this fall, but comes off a broken leg suffered in the title game against Clemson.

2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Oklahoma's star quarterback is back for one final season, citing a desire to win a third consecutive Big 12 title for the Sooners and make another run at a College Football Playoff berth. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he's not the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. But analyst Bucky Brooks likes his arm talent, and he'll get plenty of chances to show it off again this fall.

1. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

At one point, Allen decided he would enter the 2017 NFL Draft, and there was certainly plenty of pressure to do so -- after all, half a dozen reps from a top agency shared his living room to watch the CFP title game. He changed his mind, though, and the result has been a palpable offseason scouting buzz for the Cowboys' gunslinger. There's plenty of anticipation for his season-opening performance against a Big Ten foe in Iowa. Scouts will flock to Laramie this fall, and rightfully so.



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