Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd may have been able to resist the bright lights of NFL Sundays, but his top target, DeAndre Hopkins, could not fight the temptation. The junior wide receiver announced on Thursday that he would forgo his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL draft, via a message on his personal Twitter account:
It's been one hell of a ride tiger nation but I'm takin my talents to the next level #nfl— Deandre Hopkins (@Nukdabomb) January 10, 2013
This announcement culminates a year that saw Hopkins ascend from a secondary target into arguably the best receiver in the ACC. Overshadowed by Sammy Watkins in 2011, few expected Hopkins to emerge as Clemson's top target in 2012, let alone be good enough that he could declare early for the 2013 draft.
However, as Watkins was hampered all season by injuries, Hopkins took full advantage. He finished the 2012 season with 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns, the latter two statistics ranking inside the top five in the FBS.
Hopkins also emerged on the biggest of all stages, grabbing 13 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
After that performance, it seemed like his early entrance was a foregone conclusion. Though Boyd's decision to return led some to believe that Hopkins would follow suit, it's unlikely that his draft stock will ever be higher than it is currently.
As for his prospects on Sundays, Hopkins is ranked as the fifth-best receiver in his draft class, per CBS Sports, and the site grades him as a first- or second-round pick.
In the end, it looks as if the temptation of an NFL paycheck simply outweighed the possibility of national-championship contention next season at Clemson.