Making A List: Declaration Day

Ryan McDowell


I’m a list guy. I make “to do” lists, follow “honey do” lists, and will take time to read a top ten list of almost anything. This series of articles will bring you a top five ranking about a myriad of topics in the world of dynasty football.

You may not realize this, but Monday is a big day around these parts. No, I’m not talking about a government holiday, no offense to the great Dr. King. Monday is also Declaration Day, the final opportunity for college underclassmen to bypass the remainder of the amateur career for a chance at the greener pastures of the National Football League.

The list of underclassmen who have already opted to begin their NFL careers includes players such as Ezekiel Elliott, Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell and more. On the other end of the spectrum, some players dynasty and devy owners were looking forward to seeing on Sundays are headed back to school, including Corey Davis, Mike Williams and Evan Engram.

With just a few days remaining for these young men to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives, there are a few I have my eye on. These are players who have already made an impact on their college teams and could make a splash in rookie draft as well. All five of these players would be in contention to be late first or early second round rookie picks, adding some excellent value to the current crop of rookies.

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1. Derrick Henry, RB Alabama

While most of the players on this list seem destined to return to school, it is widely assumed Alabama running back and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry will declare by Monday. Henry looked dominant in Monday’s National Championship win over Clemson, rushing for 158 yards and three scores. While some draftniks and dynasty players seem to be down on Henry’s pro prospects, this class is below average, especially at the running back position. If Henry somehow shocks everyone and returns to the Crimson Tide for his senior year, there would be major ripples across rookie drafts and dynasty leagues.

2. Kareem Hunt, RB Toledo

While Henry has the name value, he’s not the only running back I am watching closely as Declaration Day approaches. Small school back Kareem Hunt from Toledo only suited up for nine games this season, but still nearly hit the 1,000 yard mark. Hunt, a powerful six-footer weighing over 220 pounds, broke out and made a name for himself as a sophomore in 2014, which really put him on the radar for devy players. That season saw him average eight yards per carry on over 200 rushes. While he didn’t enjoy quite the same level of success in 2015, he still merits a high initial rank our our brand new 2016 rookie rankings, ranking as our fifth running back in hopes he does declare. There has been almost no news on Hunt’s decision since the team’s bowl game in late November, which might be a bad sign.

3. OJ Howard, TE Alabama

After entering college as one of the top ranked tight end recruits in the country, Alabama’s OJ Howard has been an overall disappointment. It’s not that he’s played poorly, but rather has consistently been a non-factor in the Tide’s offense. Of course, that all changed in this week’s national championship game. Howard matched his career touchdown total of two. Not only was his 208 receiving yards a career best as well, but it nearly matched his yearly production from both his freshman (269) and sophomore (260) seasons in that game alone. Talk about going out on a high note! Howard wasn’t really being discussed as an early entry candidate prior to the title game, but with both Bucky Hodges and Evan Engram staying in school, Howard could be the top tight end off the board in both the NFL Draft and rookie drafts.

4. Rashard Higgins, WR Colorado State

Like Hunt, Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins burst onto the scene thanks to a huge sophomore season, but failed to live up to expectations as a junior in 2015. Higgins totaled 1,750 receiving yards in 2014 for the Rams, also scoring 17 times that year. This past season was not as strong though, but he did eclipse 1,000 yards and found the end zone eight times. While the drop in statistics don’t worry me much, his thin frame (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) could push him down my draft board just a bit. An early report had Higgins likely bound for the league, but more recent updates suggest he’s leaning toward staying in school for another season. If he enters the draft, he’ll be a target in the late first or early second round.

5. Travin Dural, WR LSU

LSU junior wideout Travin Dural’s difficult decision became even tougher as the Tigers’ season ended and he suffered a torn hamstring and missed the team’s bowl game. Dural’s numbers don’t stand out, but it’s widely known the LSU passing game has been lacking in recent years. Even with a top devy target and highly recruited receiver Malachi Dupre lining up beside him the past two years, Dural has been the team’s best receiver. The hamstring injury and the surgery that followed is expected to keep Dural out of action for three to four months, which would cost him a spot in the February NFL Combine. If he declares, Dural is certainly worth a shot in the mid to late second round of rookie drafts.


ryan mcdowell