8 Drafted Players Who Will Be Hardest for College Teams to Replace in 2014
Being a college football fan is a lot like having a wartime romance, you fall in love knowing that it’s a short-term proposition.
You watch a young guy develop into a prolific running back, scoring glorious touchdowns clad in your team colors, all the while aware that the relationship has a definite shelf life of two to four years.
As much as it feels so right when he’s in the lineup, when it’s over, it hurts so bad.
Though all 256 players selected in the NFL draft will be missed by their college programs, some losses will be more painful to the fanbase and the scoreboard than others.
Statistics courtesy of CFB Stats.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Now that Johnny Football has officially gone pro as the No. 22 overall pick of the 2014 draft, it’s time for most of college football to move on.
That is, except for Texas A&M which still has to replace the guy who accounted for 70 percent of its total offense in 2012 and 2013.
Is he irreplaceable?
Maybe not, but it will be interesting to see how the Aggies—who ranked No. 2 in yards in the FBS in 2012 and No. 9 in 2013—fare without their master playmaker this season. In the SEC West.
Marcus Smith, DL, Louisville
Though most of the national coverage at Louisville is about replacing Teddy Bridgewater, don’t forget that the foundation of the Cardinals’ 12-1 season in 2013 was defense.
The Cardinals finished last year ranked No. 2 in scoring defense versus No. 25 in scoring offense.
Leading the charge was defensive lineman Marcus Smith, who led the team in tackles for a loss with 18.5 and sacks with 14.5.
His sack total was enough to finish No. 2 in the FBS, just a half sack behind Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy who led the nation with 15.
Smith was selected as the No. 26 overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles where he is expected to play linebacker.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
How much will Oregon State miss wide receiver Brandin Cooks?
Well, Cooks finished his junior season as the No. 1 receiver in the FBS in yards and played for the No. 3-ranked passing offense in the land.
Cooks’ 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns outpaced the Beavers’ No. 2 receiver, Richard Mullaney, by 942 yards and 13 scores.
He single-handedly accounted for 36 percent of Oregon State’s passing yards and 42 percent of its passing touchdowns.
Cooks was selected as the No. 20 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
One of the rays of hope amid Ohio State’s defensive struggles in 2013 was linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the team in tackles and tackles for a loss.
Shazier’s 144 tackles ranked No. 3 in the FBS and his 23.5 tackles for a loss ranked No. 2. He also registered seven sacks and four forced fumbles last season.
This was a huge boost for a unit that ranked No. 28 in scoring, No. 9 against the run and a dismal No. 112 versus the pass.
Shazier went to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the No. 15 overall pick.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Did you know that Washington ranked No. 10 in the FBS in scoring last season and No. 16 in rushing yards?
Leading the way was running back Bishop Sankey who rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 scores on 327 carries, enough to earn him the No. 4 spot in the FBS in rushing yards.
Sankey’s contributions amount to 60 percent of the total rushing yards the Huskies pumped out in 2013 and 57 percent of their rushing touchdowns.
Sankey’s exit will be even more pronounced with the loss of quarterback Keith Price and leading wide receiver Kevin Smith.
Sankey was selected as the No. 22 pick in the second round of the draft (No. 54 overall) by the Tennessee Titans.
Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Stanford was another team which fueled a double-digit win season with defense, winning 11 games on the backs of its No. 10-ranked scoring defense versus an offense that ranked No. 45 in points.
One of the key cogs was linebacker Trent Murphy, who led the team in tackles for a loss and sacks.
All in all, Murphy racked up 62 tackles, 23.5 for a loss (tied for No. 2 in the FBS), 15 sacks (No. 1 in the FBS), two forced fumbles, six broken-up passes and an interception for a touchdown.
Murphy was selected as the No. 15 pick in the second round (No. 47 overall) by the Washington Redskins.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
As much as defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s stats read like a dream sequence for Pitt fans, now that he’s gone it’s a double-edged sword.
How do you replace a guy who generously provided 28.5 tackles for a loss (the most in the FBS), 11 sacks (No. 11 in the nation), four forced fumbles (tied for No. 10) and 16 quarterback hurries?
Keep in mind that Pitt was ranked No. 70 in scoring defense last season, with Donald. It’s scary to think where the Panthers might have been without him.
But without him they are, cheering wildly as he was selected as the No. 13 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams.
Justin Gilbert, DB, Oklahoma State
In an ironic twist of fate the first defensive back taken in this year’s draft was from the Big 12, the conference known for racking up passing yards, not preventing them.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert finished 2013 tied for the second-most interceptions in the FBS (seven), scored two touchdowns, registered 42 tackles (37 solo) and broke up seven passes.
What his loss does to a secondary that ranked No. 80 versus the pass last season is nothing short of frightening.
Gilbert went No. 8 overall to the Cleveland Browns.