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Greg Dortch Could Regret Early Declaration

By Dave Holcomb
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In 2018, 38 of the 120 early declarees went undrafted. That means 68.3 percent of the early declarees for the NFL draft heard their names called during draft weekend.

Counting the players who fulfilled their degree requirements early, a record 135 underclassmen declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. That breaks last year’s record for most underclassmen in a draft pool.

In 2018, 38 of the 120 early declarees went undrafted. That means 68.3 percent of the early declarees for the NFL draft heard their names called during draft weekend.

Not that that’s a low percentage, but for me, if you’re going to give up your scholarship and head to the NFL early, the chances on paper of getting drafted should be much higher -- almost a near guarantee. Nearly one-third of early declarees weren’t drafted last season, and with more of them this spring, that percentage could rise.

That ultimately means players such as Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch could come to regret leaving school early.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2018, Dortch had two years left of eligibility. Last fall, he posted 89 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns while also recording 11.04 yards per punt return and two more touchdowns as a returner.

During his freshman season, Dortch registered 53 catches for 722 yards and nine touchdowns in eight games, missing five contests due to injury. He also didn’t play in the Birmingham Bowl in December because of a hand ailment.

Dortch was an electric player for Wake Forest and the ACC, but he could quickly find out that his skillset comes as at dime a dozen. Draft experts project Dortch as an NFL slot receiver and punt returner but evaluators are questioning his speed, strength and route running.

At the end of December, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said NFL teams could view Dortch as “a potential Tyreek Hill piece.” Miller expects the former Wake Forest receiver to test very well in the 40-yard dash and broad jump at the NFL combine.

But don’t misinterpret Miller’s statement for a comparison. What he’s saying is Dortch could play the Hill role in whatever NFL offense he plays in this fall -- not that Dortch is as talented as Hill.

Dortch and Hill are really only comparable in size. Sure, Dortch is athletic, but Hill is arguably the fastest and most electric player in the NFL, so a comparison between the two on that level is very premature. The Draft Network also questioned his route running.

“I have concerns over his overall game, as I’m not convinced of his high-end athleticism,” wrote Brad Kelly of The Draft Network. “On top of that, there are too many raw aspects to his route running. He can struggle to process space, handle contact or win in contests spots.”

One of the most underrated facets of Hill’s game for the Chiefs is his route running. He’s so fast that fans don’t appreciate how good of a receiver he is. Hill doesn’t simply just run fly patterns, and he isn’t merely a slot receiver. Hill made the NFL All-Pro team in 2018 because he’s a legitimate No. 1 wideout with excellent route running, strength and hands.

As a raw route-runner, Dortch will be limited, at least initially, in what he can provide an NFL team.

Kelly admitted that his potential as a receiver could get an organization to bite on Day 2, but he seemed more suited as a Day 3 selection. Other draft projections weren’t so kind.

“Dortch is another undersized receiver who would be fortunate to be drafted,” claimed Walter Football, who ranked him the No. 36 wideout available in the 2019 draft.

Miller, who again gave the Dortch camp hope with including him in the same breathe as Hill, mocked the former Wake Forest receiver in the seventh round last week.

That can’t be what Dortch was expecting when he declared for the NFL draft with still two years remaining of college eligibility.

Every kid’s situation is different, so it’s hard for us in the media to judge when a kid leaves early and then goes undrafted. For Dortch, maybe the prospect of suffering another injury in college weighed too heavily on his mind, or perhaps he’s just mentally ready to make money in his football career?

It’s also not as if it’s unheard of for undrafted players to experience success even as a rookie. Notre Dame running back Josh Adams didn’t get picked last year and then played in 14 games for the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie. Because of injuries in the backfield, he started five games and rushed for 511 yards.

But that’s certainly the exception. Dortch may need to post exceptional measurables at the NFL combine to avoid fighting for a practice squad spot as Adams did to begin his NFL career.