Does Myles Gaskin, a junior with three seasons of impeccable performance with the Huskies, declare for the NFL draft by Monday’s deadline or return to school?
Update: Myles Gaskin announced Sunday afternoon that he would return to Washington for his senior season. “I’m comin back,” he wrote on Twitter. “#GoDawgz.” Read more.
On the football field, Myles Gaskin’s game is predicated upon patience. He bides his time — sometimes agonizingly so — until a hole opens up and he bursts through it.
But now the Washington running back is facing a decision in which the direction for him to go is murky, ambiguous and subject to multiple layers of interpretation. He is holding steady behind the line, weighing his options, as Husky fans (and teammates, and coaches) wait to see which way he’ll run.
Should he, or shouldn’t he? Does Gaskin, a junior with three seasons of impeccable performance with the Huskies, declare for the NFL draft by Monday’s deadline to do so? Or does he return to Washington for his senior year, with a chance to certify himself as the greatest back in school history?
Talk about agonizing choices. At times, the answer seems clear and unimpeachable: No way should Gaskin risk an injury that would sabotage his draft stock next year. No way should he subject his body to the wear and tear of another college season when the shelf life of a running back is notoriously short, and each brutal hit curtails it.
But an equally compelling case can be made for the other side of that debate, and the longer he delays his announcement, you wonder if Gaskin is weighing it heavily. And while I would never presume to tell Gaskin what to do — this is his life, and he deserves respect and an absence of second-guessing for whatever decision he renders — I think it deserves to be heard out, too.
For starters, there’s the stacked running-back class in this year’s draft, regarded to be on par with last year’s equally loaded group. At the top, of course, is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, but the talent behind Barkley is copious. Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLdraftscout.com, told me “there are 10 to 12 running backs I would comfortably rank ahead of Myles Gaskin.”
Rang has Gaskin rated “at best” as a fourth-round pick, and possibly a sixth- or seventh-rounder, which is consistent with other analysts.
“Gaskin’s production speaks for itself, but at the same time, he doesn’t have the elite size or speed to project as an early-round draft pick,’’ Rang said.
Charlie Campbell, a draft analyst at walterfootball.com, believes that Gaskin would go on the third day of the draft, possibly as a fourth- or fifth-rounder. But he feels that Gaskin’s proven pass-catching ability makes him attractive to NFL teams.
The natural question is whether going back for his senior year would raise Gaskin’s draft status next year. Not necessarily, according to Rang, who says his projection for the 2019 draft is roughly the same. But there’s a catch: With a much less daunting field of running backs expected in next year’s draft, and with the added attention that might come from a superlative senior year, and with the possibility of showcasing his skills in senior All-Star games, perhaps Gaskin could work himself into the third round, with the added financial boost that attaches to it.
Campbell had another good point: By making it through a fourth straight year without an injury and with continued strong production, Gaskin would “address some concerns about his size and durability, having taken a big workload in college and stayed healthy.”
But ultimately, I think the best argument for Gaskin to come back is not a financial one. It’s simply this: If he plays his senior year, Gaskin could easily become a Husky legend, a local hero out of O’Dea High School forever etched in Washington’s mythical Ring of Honor.
He’s on the brink of blowing away the career rushing records of Napoleon Kaufman, who, by the way, faced the identical decision in 1994 and chose to come back to school for his senior year. (Kaufman finished ninth in the Heisman balloting, was a first-round pick of the Raiders in ’95 and had a six-year pro career).
Gaskin and quarterback Jake Browning have developed a close kinship during three years together as starters that have seen the Huskies soar back into national prominence, yet still lacking the signature victory that would seal UW’s stature as a powerhouse. Come back to an already-loaded team with a strong freshman class coming in, and that possibility looms in front of you.
Are those factors enough of a lure to put aside the inherent risks of another grueling college season, and the financial penalty that would accrue to a serious injury? Two recent standout Washington running backs have faced a similar dilemma. Chris Polk and Bishop Sankey both opted to forego their senior seasons, with mixed results.
Polk, projected as a second-rounder in 2012, instead went undrafted because of apparent concerns over a left-shoulder injury. He signed as a free agent with the Eagles and was a reserve back with them for three years, followed by a season with the Houston Texans. Polk has not appeared in an NFL game since 2015.
Sankey went to Tennessee in the second round of the 2014 draft and started 12 games for the Titans in 2014-15. But since then, he has drifted to the practice squads of the Patriots, Chiefs and Vikings and also last appeared in an NFL game in 2015. Sankey missed the 2017 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the Vikings’ exhibition opener.
We’ll find out how Gaskin leaned on Monday. Meanwhile, he is surveying the scene, pondering his options, ready to burst one way or another.