In a widely expected decision, Stanford left guard David Yankey announced today that he will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-5, 313-pound senior has been a fixture on a dominant Stanford offensive line for the past three seasons and earned consensus All-American status the past two seasons, becoming the first Stanford player in over 30 years to achieve the honor in consecutive years. Although Yankey has played in each of the past four seasons, he could have earned an additional year of eligibility through a medical redshirt because he suffered a season-ending injury early in his freshman year.
With Yankey’s departure, the Cardinal will lose its only offensive captain from last season and an instrumental cog in its bread-and-butter power run game. With his impeccable body control that defied his gargantuan size, Yankey frequently pulled from his guard position to open holes for Stanford running backs, allowing running back Stepfan Taylor ‘13 to rush for 1,530 yards in 2012 and senior running back Tyler Gaffney to gain 1,709 yards in 2013.
Yankey’s decision, along with the departure of fifth-year seniors Kevin Danser and Khalil Wilkes, leaves Stanford with considerable amount of turnover on the offensive line. Sophomore Josh Garnett, who replaced Yankey in the starting lineup against Washington State after Yankey returned home following the death of his father, appears to be the obvious heir apparent at the left guard. Aside from his one start, Garnett’s frequent presence on the field as the Cardinal’s extra lineman or fullback in jumbo formations gives him a sizeable amount of experience under his belt as he will likely try to replace one of the most decorated players in Stanford history.
At the next level, Yankey is expected to be among the first interior offensive linemen taken in the draft. Because NFL teams typically do not value guards as a high-priority position, the senior from Roswell, Ga., is currently projected to go in the late first round or early second round.
Regardless of where he falls in the draft, Yankey’s size, athleticism and durability will almost certainly provide him with an opportunity to compete for a starting job right away and give him a chance to level defenders and open running lanes for NFL running backs, as he has done countless times as the anchor of Stanford’s offensive line.
Last week, senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley and senior defensive end Henry Anderson announced that they would return to Stanford for the 2013 season. Senior right tackle Cam Fleming and senior free safety Ed Reynolds have yet to announce their decision. The deadline to declare is this Wednesday.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.