In the final analysis, Jahvid Best decided to take his NFL stock into his own hands.
Cal's star running back announced Saturday that he is forgoing his senior season to enter the 2010 NFL draft, bypassing a chance to possibly increase his prospects with a productive senior season. Instead, he will try to impress professional scouts on the workout circuit.
"I feel like I can definitely improve it (by staying in school), but nothing is guaranteed," Best said on a conference call. "Right now I have an opportunity, so I have to take advantage of it. If I go out there and perform badly, then I shouldn't expect to go in the early rounds. But if I go out there and perform the way I should, then I should expect to go in the early rounds. It's all predicated on how I perform. I think I'll improve my stock quite well if I perform the way I should."
Best submitted the appropriate paperwork to be evaluated by the NFL Draft Advisory Committee and said he was given estimates ranging from the first to the third rounds. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. projects Best as a first-round pick and ranks him as the top junior running back in the country. Todd McShay of ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. ranks Best as the 22nd-best overall prospect in the 2010 draft.
Best's stock might have dropped slightly after he suffered a season-ending back injury and concussion when he took a frightening fall on Nov. 7 against Oregon State. He missed the
Best said he's still not fully recovered but expects to be when he works out for NFL teams at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February and at Cal's pro timing day at Memorial Stadium.
"I have no doubt in my mind that I'll be ready to perform the way I should be by that time," Best said.
While many believed Best's season-ending injuries would sway him toward the NFL, he said it was one of the reasons he considered returning to Cal.
"It meant that I didn't finish my junior season. That kind of made me want to go back to Cal to finish a whole season," Best said. "I know I can do better than what I did this year. So that kind of made me want to stay. But at the end of the day, football is a game where injuries are kind of common. I just felt like I can get past this injury and I'll be able to play again."
Best rushed for 867 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games this season. Last year, his 1,580 yards rushing were the second-most all-time in a single season at Cal.
"Everybody knows the impact that Jahvid has on our program," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We wish him well. He's done a great job for this program, on and off the field. He's been a great representative of this program and he's going to be a big success at the next level. I think the sky is the limit. I think Jahvid has great potential."
Best's departure leaves Shane Vereen as Cal's featured back. Vereen started the final four games of the season in Best's absence and finished the year with 952 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tedford always has given his backup running back significant reps in games and doesn't expect that to change in 2010. Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Dasarte Yarnway and Isi Sofele all should compete for playing time.
"I think we're going to be very solid and have some depth at that position," Tedford said. "I'm confident that we're going to move forward just fine. Going through the springtime, competition is going to be there at that position for sure. I'm anxious to get that going because I think we do have some guys who are very versatile."