James Wilder Jr. is leaving college on top.
One day after being crowned a national champion, the Florida State running back is declaring for the 2014 NFL draft, according to ESPN's Joe Schad:
FSU RB James Wilder will enter the next NFL Draft per source— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 7, 2014
Wilder Jr. was part of the Seminoles' explosive three-headed rushing attack, splitting time with starter Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams throughout the year. He finished third among that trio with 81 carries, 563 yards and eight rushing TDs.
At first glance, that would seem to make Wilder's decision a curious one. If he couldn't even crack second string on his college team, what makes him think he's ready for the NFL?
But it's more complicated than that. For one thing, Florida State is not your average backfield. All three of those guys could have an NFL future, so getting a light workload is far from indicting.
For another thing, Wilder Jr. has a daughter to support, according to Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation, which factors into his decision:
Wilder has a young daughter, and there is very little reason to stay in school if you play running back. Career is such a short shelf life.— TomahawkNation.com (@TomahawkNation) January 7, 2014
This move comes as little surprise due to those reasons and also because he told a recruit he would be gone next season, according to Chris Nee of 247Sports. Much as Seminoles fans would like to have Wilder Jr. back next season, they've long known this day would be coming.
How does Wilder Jr. project at the next level? Despite getting far fewer carries than Freeman, the big, muscular running back (6'2'', 229 lbs) is considered a better pro prospect, according to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com. He doesn't have the speed to be a three-down runner, but he could be useful in short-yardage situations.
As for Florida State, the Seminoles should be just fine at the position next year. Freeman and Williams haven't declared their NFL intentions—though Freeman "hinted he could bolt," according to Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times—and incoming freshman Dalvin Cook, a 5-star recruit who flipped from the Gators to FSU, is supposed to be a game-changing talent from Day 1.
Jameis Winston will still have someone to hand the ball to next year.