NFL Draft 2013: Underclassmen Who Altered Face of Draft by Returning to School

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2013

Nov 3, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Michigan Wolverines offensive linesman Taylor Lewan (77) makes a block in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL draft has already been criticized for its lack of elite talents. Check out this tweet from Bleacher Report's resident draft expert:

2013 may be the weakest draft I can remember, at least in pre-draft grades. Bring on 2014.

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 10, 2013

Apparently a few NFL prospects think 2014 is a better year as well.

As underclassmen with the potential to become first- or second-round picks chose to return to school, the draft class looks even weaker.

Within 48 hours, two significant players have decided to return to school for their senior seasons. Here is a look at those players and a few others whose exclusion hurts the quality of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Did the Left Tackles Make the Right Decisions?

Taylor Lewan, LT, Michigan

Lewan seemed like he was destined to be a top 10 or 15 pick in the NFL Draft. CBS Sports' draft expert Rob Rang had Lewan going No. 11 to the San Diego Chargers in his mock draft published on Jan. 7.

Shortly after that mock posted, Lewan announced he would return to Michigan for his senior season. Perhaps he's still trying to figure out how to block Jadeveon Clowney. 

Taylor Lewan will return to the University of Michigan.

— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) January 9, 2013

I kid, but if Lewan can build on what has already been a solid career in Ann Arbor, he could possibly make himself a top five pick in 2014.

Jake Matthews, LT, Texas A&M

The LT crop took another major hit when the Aggies' monstrous RT decided to return to A&M for his senior season, per ESPN.

He played the right side while possible No. 1 overall pick Luke Joeckel played LT. With Joeckel headed for the NFL, Matthews will get an opportunity to prove he can be an elite LT, and not just a RT that could probably play the weak side.

His return does make sense because LT is the more coveted position and carries the higher contract potential.

It also means he'll get the pleasure of trying to block his cousin, Green Bay Packers' pass-rushing ROLB Clay Matthews as much as twice a season.

Ooh, goody.

Matthews and Lewan's departure instantly improves the stock of prospects like Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson. Both were considered beneath Lewan and certainly Matthews, but now teams that need a tackle may spring for them in the first round.

Overall, it makes what was a fairly decent crop of LTs ordinary.

The Short QBs Decide to Stay Longer

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

Murray decided against making the jump to the NFL after his junior season (ESPN), and I think he made the right decision. He wasn't going to be a first-round pick.

He threw 36 touchdown passes and led the Bulldogs to a 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, but he didn't do enough to cause teams to fall in love with him, despite his height.

Murray stands 6'1" and many NFL general managers still haven't let go of the 6'3" or taller height requirement.

Perhaps another year of Russell Wilson proving people like myself and others wrong will open up a few more eyes.

Murray and Georgia have an opportunity to do big things in 2013, and his individual and team accomplishments could get him into the first round.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Boyd is also 6'1", and he too had a great junior season, capped off with a huge performance against LSU in the Chick fil-A Bowl.

Boyd threw for 346 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Tigers' awesome defense. On the strength of that performance, there was reasonable speculation that he would make the leap.

I also think he made the right decision returning (USA Today). 

Although he'll lose fellow Chick fil-A-Bowl star, DeAndre Hopkins, to the NFL draft, he'll still have freakishly talented receiver Sammy Watkins as a weapon in 2013.

He stands to find himself in the same position as Murray if he and the Tigers excel in his senior season.

Oddly enough, the two players' fates are connected.

Georgia will face Clemson in the 2013 season-opener, and they have already taken to Twitter to discuss the huge regular season showdown.

Boyd tweeted:

See y'all in 234 days Bruh hah comin to the house @aaronmurray11 #deathvalley #gotigers

— Tajh Boyd (@TajhB10) January 9, 2013

Murray replied:

“@tajhb10: See y'all in 234 days Bruh hah comin to the house @aaronmurray11 #deathvalley #gotigers” It's gonna be wild! #dawgsontop

— Aaron Murray (@aaronmurray11) January 9, 2013

It is never too early for hype.

If they both perform well in this game, they'll have great momentum to carry them through the season, and up to the 2014 NFL draft.

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