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Following the Sugar Bowl, NFL decisions loom on the horizon for three Texas players

Several major Longhorns contributors will have to decide in the coming weeks whether their future lies in burnt orange or at the next level.

West Virginia v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

In 2017, five juniors declared for the 2018 NFL Draft after leading the Texas Longhorns to the program’s first bowl game in three years. Five of the six heard their names called and all six found their way onto NFL rosters.

A year later, after taking another step forward as a program, three key pieces of the rebuilding effort — wide receiver Collin Johnson, wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and safety Brandon Jones — have decisions to make about their future following the bowl game.

In 2018, Humphrey had what can only be described as a breakout season, creating the need for him to make an NFL decision. Last year, Humphrey found himself as a part of the rotation at wide receiver and managed 431 yards on 37 catches. A promising campaign to set up that breakout junior season, but nothing that indicated he was likely to have face a critical decision following the 2018 campaign.

A year later, Humphrey eclipsed that mark through six games and was more than halfway to becoming the ninth player in school history to pass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. His success came, in part, thanks to his ability to break tackles and outrun defenders after the catch.

As his national prominence continued to rise, talk about the possibility of Humphrey leaving early began to surface.

Humphrey has not commented on his intentions, but in a conversation with 247Sports his parents tried to shed some light as they could on the situation.

“I know he wants to go,” Wade said. “But I know he wants to win a championship at the school, too.”

That’s when Chevette chimed in: “It’s one of those things Jordan feels like he has to do — win a championship.”

His mother also weighed in on Twitter, saying that she wants her son to return to school, but it is ultimately his decision.

It’s pretty easy to assume that he will hear his name called by an NFL team whenever the day comes, but with a fairly deep class of draft-eligible players in 2018 figuring out when is the lynchpin.

According to’s mock draft, Humphrey should expect to hear his name called in the third round by the Cleveland Browns, a sentiment echoed by sources of Zack Barnett of

Heading into the season, it was Johnson’s name that was the focus of analysis surrounding the Texas passing game and the possibility of an early exit. Even though Humphrey seized headlines, too, Johnson’s physical tools and abilities still makes him an appealing target for NFL scouts.

Ahead of the season, both Bleacher Report and projected Johnson as a first-round pick, going No. 22 to the Atlanta Falcons and No. 25 to the Green Bay Packers, respectively.

According to more recent mock drafts, Johnson has seen his status slide a bit, falling to the second round, but would still be one of the first receivers off of the board.

In November, The Draft Network released their prospect rankings and four of their five analysts have Johnson ranked in the top 10 draft-eligible receivers, with one ranking as high as No. 4. In their preseason evaluation, Johnson’s size and ability to win contested balls earned him praise, but they also highlighted his need to develop his aggression when balls are not contested.

One of the best receiver prospects I have ever scouted in stretching his body horizontally to make diving receptions. Consistent contested catch winner in all levels of the field, with the ability to position in frame in desirable spots to make plays despite the presence of defensive backs. Easily plucks the ball out of the air with natural hands, effortlessly extending his hands with late stabs....

Almost needs to be in a position that forces full extension or contested catches to release his potential. Otherwise, he has a small tendency to let the ball come into his body and doesn’t reach away from his chestplate.

Johnson has already put his name all over the Texas record books, but a return for another season with similar performance would put him among the all-time greats in school history.

With just 55 yards in the Sugar Bowl, Johnson would become the 10th player in school history to pass 1,000 yards in a season. In that scenario, Johnson and Humphrey would become just the second pair in school history to both record 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson currently sits No. 9 in career receiving yardage with 2,205 yards — just 373 yards would put him in the top five all-time at Texas.

On the other side of the ball, junior safety Brandon Jones has already indicated a lean for 2019, but will likely still explore where his draft stock sits currently.

“Honestly, going to just take it one step at a time,” Jones said following the Big 12 Championship loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. “This feeling hurts. I know what we have and what we’re capable of doing so I really want to be a part of that next year.”

Jones was a bright spot for the defense early on, as both a tackler and in coverage on the back end of the defense until injuries hampered him down the stretch. Heading into the contest against the West Virginia Mountaineers, Jones was the team’s second-leading tackler, but a pregame injury cost him three games.

When he returned against the Kansas Jayhawks, Jones suffered a head injury in the second quarter that cost him the rest of the game.

The junior out of Nacogdoches definitely has the size and upside to play on Sundays but has to determine whether or not one year of development — and the opportunity to win a conference championship - is motivation enough to return.

But before any decisions are made, the trio has one more opportunity to show off for a national audience and, presumably, NFL scouts. Taking on the Georgia Bulldogs will test both sides of the ball, as the SEC opponent ranks No. 15 in pass yards allowed, while quarterback Jake Fromm ranks No. 3 in passing efficiency and No. 14 in pass touchdowns.

Once the confetti flies in the Superdome and the winning team takes home the trophy, the three players will determine their own futures and the upside of the 2019 Longhorns.