Taking Stock of Florida State's Losses: Underclassmen
The first loss Florida State fans experienced all season came a day after the Seminoles' final game when junior running back James Wilder Jr. declared for the NFL Draft.
Three more underclassmen chose to follow suit -- Wilder's backfield-mate, Devonta Freeman, as well as DT Tim Jernigan and WR Kelvin Benjamin -- and entered the Draft early. By the time the deadline to declare had passed four Seminoles had chosen to forego their remaining eligibility while a handful of others -- Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary, Cam Erving, Tre Jackson, Josue Matias and Karlos Williams -- decided to come back.
Let's take a look at the impact the loss of Benjamin, Freeman, Jernigan and Wilder will have on the team.
James Wilder Jr., RB
Projected Round: 4-5
Impact of Loss: Negligible
The bruising running back never truly came on at Florida State like many fans had hoped. That's not to say he wasn't productive, but Wilder was never the featured runner in the Seminole backfield and rarely saw more than 10-12 carries per game. Wilder will find an NFL home. He has the pedigree and his combination of size and physicality will definitely earn him a roster spot. In terms of the impact his loss will have on the Seminoles though, it will likely be negligible.
Devonta Freeman, RB
Projected Round: 3
Impact of Loss: Small
In the annals of Florida State history few players have been as habitually overlooked and underrated as Freeman was. The former Miami Central standout finishes his career at Florida State ranked 8th all-time in rushing yardage and third all-time in rushing touchdowns. In 2013 Freeman became the first 1,000 yard rusher at Florida State since Warrick Dunn in 1996. It still didn't earn him the respect he deserved though. Hopefully he gets it at the next level. Freeman is an extremely well-rounded back with a tireless work ethic. Losing him hurts more from a cultural standpoint -- he was a 'brick and mortar'-type, team-first guy per his head coach, Jimbo Fisher -- than it probably will on the field. The Seminoles are deep in the backfield right now.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR
Projected Round: 1
Impact of Loss: Moderate
FSU benefits from the fact that Nick O'Leary and Rashad Greene will be back next season, otherwise this loss would hurt a lot more. Benjamin has all the high-end potential to be an elite NFL receiver, that was evidenced by the 15 touchdowns he caught this season and the way he grew from start to finish. Benjamin's confidence and consistency could both do with a little improvement, but you can't teach being 6-6 and you can't teach the combination of speed and agility that Benjamin has been endowed with. He made the right choice for himself by turning pro, but his loss will certainly hurt next year. Benjamin would have entered the season as FSU's top receiver.
Tim Jernigan, DT
Projected Round: 1-2
Impact of Loss: Big
When you listen to Jimbo Fisher talk about building a football team he starts by talking about the big bodies on the defensive line. They're difficult to find but they are absolutely vital to everything that a team does on defense. Considering Jimbo Fisher just won a BCS title -- and that he picked a lot of this up from Nick Saban who had won three of the previous four -- you can put some stock in that. Ok, a lot of stock in that. Then consider the fact Fisher called Jernigan one of the best defensive linemen he's ever been around, it gives an indication of how important Jernigan was to Florida State last year. It was expected that Jernigan turned pro, and FSU has some depth in the middle of their defensive line, but until somebody steps up Jernigan's loss is going to hurt a lot next year in Tallahassee.
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