Thursday’s NFL draft decisions: Defensive linemen dominate departures

— The Sports Xchange —

Many college underclassmen are making their decisions ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline to declare for the NFL draft.
Here is Thursday’s roundup of who is leaving and who is staying:

ENTERING DRAFT
DE/OLB Arden Key, LSU — One of the most intriguing edge rushers in the draft, Key set the LSU single-season sack record with 12 in 2016 but had a disappointing 2017. He took a leave of absence in February for personal reasons, underwent shoulder surgery in the summer, then showed up out of shape, playing in only eight games.
DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford — Noted for his power and motor, Phillips bulled his way to 103 tackles this season, including 17 for loss and 7.5 sacks. NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang has Phillips going No. 25 overall in a mock draft, although he notes that Phillips might be “more of a try-hard performer than an elite athlete and may be tapped out in terms of upside.”
DE/OLB Dorance Armstrong, Kansas — He’s been a bright spot amid the dismal Jayhawks’ program, with a nice mix of speed and athleticism, although he could bulk up a bit from his listed weight of 246. He posted 20 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks, in 2016 but those numbers dipped to nine and 1.5 this season. NFLDraftScout.com projects him as a second- to third-round pick.
DE Josh Sweat, Florida State — He skipped the Seminoles’ bowl game and made his draft decision official on Wednesday. He made 5.5 sacks this season and is listed as the fourth-best junior defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com.
DT Tim Settle, Virginia Tech — The redshirt sophomore was a second-team All-ACC selection after a season in which he had 4.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, impressive numbers for an interior lineman that goes 6-foot-3, 335 pounds.
OL Sam Jones, Arizona State — The redshirt junior has been the Sun Devils’ starter at left guard. He’s currently rated as a free-agent prospect by NFLDraftScout.com.

STAYING IN SCHOOL
WR Stanley Morgan, Nebraska — Morgan should be an offensive centerpiece, along with junior-to-be wideout JD Spielman, for new head coach Scott Frost. Morgan caught 61 passes for 986 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
DE CeCe Jefferson, Florida — Jefferson, a former top-10 national recruit, will help the Gators’ transition to new head coach Dan Mullen. Jefferson had his best season in 2017, with 13.5 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks.