TMZ dropped a potential bombshell late Friday night: Chase Young said his plan was to return to school.
If true, that would have massive implications, not just on the 2020 NFL draft, but on entire franchises for the next several years.
Next came this news on Saturday, via SI.com: the uber-talented Ohio State junior defensive end was “caught off guard” when asked that question the previous day, adding that he had not made up his mind about the draft.
And finally on Sunday came what seems to be the proverbial nail in that rumored coffin: ESPN’s Adam Schefter said teams felt it was highly unlikely that Young would skip the 2020 NFL draft.
“When you talk to people around the league,” Schefter said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, via The Big Lead, “… nobody believes that Chase Young will be back at Ohio State next season. They all believe he’s ticketed for the NFL Draft.”
So, while it’s likely that Young will enter the draft, it still begs the question: When was the last time such a prominent underclassman returned to school?
Last season provides a bit of context. Oregon’s Justin Hebert was the potential No. 1 quarterback in last year’s draft class, while Auburn’s Derrick Brown was one of the top defensive tackle prospects.
But Hebert wasn’t a prospect – then or now – on the same level as Young, despite the importance of the QB position. And Brown wasn’t even the top DT prospect in the 2019 class (Alabama’s Quinnen Williams was the No. 3 overall pick by the New York Jets).
Instead, you’d have to go back to the 1997 draft. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace was the No. 1 pick that year – but it could have been then-Tennessee-junior quarterback Peyton Manning.
Fanspeak’s Steve Shoup explains the mind-blowing possibilities of Manning’s decision to return to school that year:
“Honestly, I don’t know if there’s been as high-profile of a prospect who went back to school since Peyton Manning decided to return for his senior year,” said Shoup, who is the co-founder and creator of Fanspeak’s On the Clock draft simulator. “Manning could have left school in 1997 and would have been Bill Parcells’ first pick with the Jets, but he decided to head back to school, completely changing at least two franchises for all time.
“Who knows what other dominoes would have occurred had Manning left school a year early? Does Bill Belicheck ever take over the Patriots? Would Tom Brady be on another franchise? Does Parcells go to the Cowboys and develop Tony Romo? Does Sean Payton become a head coach if he never serves under Parcells in Dallas?
“It’s impossible to know the answers to those questions, but it’s fun to speculate. That would truly be the last time we saw a prospect of Chase Young’s magnitude head back to school.”