The Longhorns best linebacker, receiver and defensive tackle will forego the opportunity to return in 2015 and take their chances with the NFL draft. It's the right decision for all three. Brown is a junior and Harris and Hicks were both eligible for another season if they'd applied for a medical exemption.
Brown is a dominant player who I'm confident can adapt to a 3-4 two gap or 4-3 scheme playing 3 tech or nose. He'll do well under film scrutiny and in draft testing and I can't imagine him falling past the second round.
Hicks will need to demonstrate his soundness at the most underreported but important part of the NFL combine - the medical examinations. If he can persuade NFL trainers and doctors that his injuries were freak occurrences and his 2014 season is an indication of what they can expect, he's going to be drafted somewhere between Rounds 4-6. Hicks has lost a half step with his injuries, but a great draft prep and his game instincts will serve him well.
John Harris came out of nowhere to record a 64 catch, 1015 yard final season at Texas. He demonstrated excellent body control and he's a tough guy to bring down after the catch. He also has a penchant for unforced errors along with his big play ability and he'll need to show the ability to get separation from NFL level coverage. The late rounds of the draft are not out of the question, but right now I think he's working up from a Free Agent grade. Fortunately for Harris, the move from UFA to draft status happens all of the time with a productive draft prep.
So how does Texas replace its Offensive MVP and the two best players on the 2014 defense?
At LB, don't sleep on redshirt freshman Edwin Freeman. One of my favorite recruits from the 2014 class. The now 230 pounder has eaten himself out of any illusions of a safety role (I never thought he'd play there), but maintained his range and instincts. Cover him up, let him fly to the ball and this young man should blossom. Expect some growing pains early. Freeman should be a player for us.
At DT, Hassan Ridgeway will slide over to the 3 technique while Desmond Jackson mans the nose. Ridgeway is an extraordinary physical talent fully capable of being drafted in the 1st round in 2015. Pairing a mature Ridgeway and Brown together would have been sick, but this will be Ridgeway's chance to shine. Expect the rotation to be rounded out by Paul Boyette and Poona Ford - two players who still haven't tapped into their own upsides. As long as the DTs remain healthy, we'll be just fine.
At WR, expect Lorenzo Joe to take the next step in his development outside with Foreman and Johnson manning the other two spots in 3 receiver sets. Joe has the body control and size to threaten a defense downfield - he reminds me of former Longhorn Sloan Thomas. He'll be pressed by other big receivers like Oliver, Leonard and Gray. Gray, contrary to popular perception, may have the highest ceiling of that bunch if he can adapt to the physicality of football.