As expected, SS Budda Baker, CB Sidney Jones and DT Elijah Qualls Tuesday joined WR John Ross in skipping their senior seasons at the University of Washington to enter the 2017 NFL draft. Ross declared for the draft Monday.
“These four players have been a big part of the progress this program has made during their time here,” said Husky head coach Chris Petersen. “We wish them all the success in the world as they pursue their professional goals.”
The Huskies completed a 12-2 season in the College Football Playoffs semifinal Saturday at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, losing to No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Baker, from Bellevue High School, was a consensus first-team All-America selection as a junior in 2016. He led the defense with 71 total tackles and 10 tackles for a loss. He also recorded three sacks and two interceptions for a defense that led the Pac-12 in both scoring and total defense. Baker started all 41 games of his three-year career.
“Playing in the state of Washington, in front of my family, friends and peers, has been a blessing,” Baker said on his Twitter account. “Playing under coach Petersen and staff has been a privilege. This is why the decision was so difficult to make, although I believe it’s the right one. I am not only excited to turn the page to a new chapter in my life, but I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our great program. UW is back on the map and I’m proud to say I helped with it.”
Jones was a three-year starter (39 of 41 games). He led the Huskies (or shared the lead) in interceptions as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior, the Diamond Bar, CA., product earned second-team All-America honors from the Football Writers and Sports Illustrated, as well as first-team honors from scout.com. He had three interceptions with six additional pass break-ups.
“These past three years have been the best time of my life,” Jones wrote on his Twitter account. “So many people helped me along the way to develop into the man I am today. I would like to thank Coach Petersen for the opportunity, Coach Lake for helping me take my game to the next level.”
Qualls, from Petaluma, CA., is a fourth-year junior, having redshirted in 2013. A two-year starter, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2016, recording 38 tackles and five tackles for loss. FOX Sports named him second-team All-America.
Ross came back from injuries that cost him the 2015 season to record one of the most successful seasons by a wide receiver in UW history. His 17 touchdown receptions were second-most in both school and Pac-12 history. He earned second-team AP All-America honors as well as first-team honors from ESPN and scout.com. The Long Beach, CA., native also played cornerback, had a school-record four kick returns for touchdowns and had five scoring plays of 90 yards or longer.
“As I close this one chapter in my life and begin another one, I will always treasure the skills and knowledge that the University of Washington has fostered in me,” said Ross on Twitter. “I will forever be a proud Washington Husky.”
According to several mock drafts, including this one by USA Today, Ross, Jones and Baker are considered potential first-round picks. Washington also had multiple first-round picks in 2015 when DT Danny Shelton went to Cleveland (15th overall), CB Marcus Peters to Kansas City (18th) and LB Shaq Thompson to Carolina (25th).
According to the same mocks, Alabama could have as many as six first-round picks.