Nelson Agholor and the NFL Draft: Should He Stay At USC Or Go?


Nelson Agholor made the second half of USC’s 2014 season his playground, coming into his own as the Trojans’ number one receiver, but as the year comes to a close the flashy wide out faces a tough NFL decision.

Should he stay or should he go?

The case for leaving:

The precedent for jumping to the NFL is certainly there. Marqise Lee departed after his junior season, as did Robert Woods the year before.

There is no doubt, this season was Agholor’s best season as a Trojan. He nearly doubled his reception total while actually doubling his touchdown total. Most importantly, the receiver finished strong, tallying five 100+ yard receiving games in his final seven contests.

Agholor outpaced both of his predecessors in his junior year, though both Lee and Woods saw production drop off significantly in their final seasons due to injury.

Injury, in fact, is it’s own argument for Agholor moving on.

Lee and Woods had no choice but to return following standout sophomore seasons, while Agholor’s breakout year came as a junior with the opportunity to cash in his most recent performances while his stock remains high. Upon their returns, Lee and Woods only hurt their draft stock with comparatively disappointing seasons.

The case for staying:

Nov 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver JuJu Smith (9) celebrates with receiver Nelson Agholor (15) against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Agholor carries much less clout that Woods or Lee ever had in their careers, flashing talent but a worrying lack of consistency.

Benefiting from being USC’s main passing target for most of the season, Agholor put up big numbers, but his biggest performances came against significantly weaker opposition.

In fact, three of his five 100-yard games in 2014 came against Colorado, Washington State and Cal. With just eight 100-yard receiving games in 30 career starts, the numbers start to pale.

The troublesome 3-catch, 24-yard receiving game against UCLA won’t do him any favors with the scouts either.

What all that adds up to is a simple conclusion: Agholor is a good receiver, but he’s not a great one. And only exceptional players should make the early leap to the NFL, as evidenced by the league’s new evaluation process, which will encourage players not projected in the first or second round to return to school.

The risk of potential injury does not outweigh the development Agholor still clearly needs to undergo before he is ready for the demands of the NFL.

What the scouts say:

Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports compared Agholor positively to Lee and Woods before him in terms of build and ability, with “good quickness and balance as a route-runner” and “surprising toughness as a finisher.” They also singled out his vision as a blocker, but criticized his tendency to be “a little wild in his movements at times.” CBS projects him as a second or third round talent.

Charles Davis of listed Agholor among his ten underclassmen who should stay in school. Praising his size, work ethic and technical skill, Davis ultimately believes Agholor needs more polish and has room to grow: “He faces good talent every day in practice at USC and could really vault himself up the board with another year of seasoning.”

Walter Football ranks Agholor as the tenth receiver prospect in this year’s draft, calling him a “quick receiver who lacks elite speed.” They expressed concern about his penchant for drops.

What should Nelson Agholor do?

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