Josh Stewart has heard a lot of opinions about his NFL draft prospects recently, but on Tuesday he said the only one that matters is his own as he officially declared for the upcoming NFL draft following his junior season at Oklahoma State.
Stewart played his final college game on Friday in the Cotton Bowl at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium and scored a 40-yard touchdown before leaving late in the game with a concussion.
On Tuesday, he had hired an agent and declared for the draft, more than week prior to the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare. He is the 17th underclassman wide receiver to declare for the draft. Last year, 29 receivers were selected over the three-day, seven-round draft.
“I’ve talked with a lot of people, and everyone has their own opinions and at the end of the day it had to be for me and my family,” Stewart said. “That’s what I felt would be best and the decision I’d be happy with. That’s really all that matters, and that’s what it came down to. I’m willing to take whatever comes. I’m excited for the chance to live out my dream. It’s going to be a good journey.”
Stewart is now in line to become the first Guyer graduate to be selected in the NFL draft and the second Guyer graduate to be drafted to a major professional sport, following Jacob Rhame’s selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Baseball draft over the summer.
Stewart’s big offensive year came in 2012 as a sophomore when he racked up 1,210 yards on 101 catches with seven touchdowns, but injury and more depth at wide receiver in 2013 caused his production to dip after an All-Big 12 first-team selection as a sophomore.
He finished the 2013 season on Friday with Oklahoma State’s Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri and totaled 707 yards and three touchdowns on a team-high 60 receptions while missing two games due to injury.
While his offensive production dropped in 2013, he proved to be valuable in the return game, earning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week twice. He averaged 16.7 yards on 22 punt returns, good for fourth-best in the country, and scored twice on punt returns.
Stewart was named second-team All-Big 12 as both a wide receiver and punt returner.
For the rest of the story on Stewart declaring for the NFL draft, check out Wednesday’s Denton Record-Chronicle.
As for what this means for Stewart, it’s a risk, and he acknowledged that fact on the phone. It would’ve been easy for him to stay in Stillwater for another year, and likely catch passes from his best friend and former high school quarterback J.W. Walsh. If he stayed healthy as a senior, he most likely would’ve had another 100-catch season. Instead, he decided to chase his dream a year early.
Slot receivers don’t exactly have a track record of getting drafted as guys like Wes Welker, Danny Amendola and Cole Beasley all went undrafted and had to go about it the hard way, which is making the league as an undrafted free agent. But now, the league has changed and slot receivers have carved out a nice role in the NFL. The fact Stewart proved he can be a lethal punt returner this season will also help his chances of getting drafted.
Imagine Stewart in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. It could happen, as the Cowboys will be looking to add some wide receivers with the expected departure of Miles Austin, but then again, they already have Beasley. Being a New Orleans native, Stewart would love nothing more than to get drafted by the Saints, but that’s not likely to happen. It’s all chance when you get to this point. When you’re undrafted, you get to choose your team and a good situation. When you’re drafted, which you want to be, you go where you’re told.
But after talking to Stewart on Tuesday, it’s clear all he wants is a chance. And knowing Josh Stewart and what he’s been through and overcome in his life, he’s a pretty hard guy to count out, even with his size and speed questions he’ll have heading into the draft, and more importantly, the combine.
I think it seems to be a pretty universal opinion from folks I’ve talked to that they thought he should stay for his senior season, but they all are ready to support Stewart and his decision to leave early. And like I said, it’s hard to count Stewart out. He’s proven that much.