Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt coaching staff got confirmation that an eighth player from their 2020 team would be testing the waters at the pro level on Sunday, as Panthers slot receiver D.J. Turner declared for the 2021 NFL draft.
Thank you God ! pic.twitter.com/Lwt4WzUQNM— DJ (@_DjTurner1) December 13, 2020
“My whole life, I have dreamed of playing in the NFL,” Turner wrote in a message on Twitter. “After many hours of prayer and conversation with my family, I’ve decided that it’s best for me to declare for the 2021 NFL draft.”
Turner’s time with the Panthers was brief but impressive, as he joined the team in 2020 after a four-year stint at Maryland in which he was seldom relied upon. After accruing 452 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns with the Terps between 2016 and 2019, Turner transferred to Pitt and came up with 1,135 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as a receiver and return man in 2020.
The 5'9", 205-pound receiver accrued much of his yardage against NC State and Virginia Tech, as he topped 180 receiving yards and 200 all-purpose yards in each of those outings. However, he also posted respectable totals in Pitt’s season-opening win over Austin Peay and season-ending win over Georgia Tech, as he topped 75 receiving yards and scored one touchdown in each of those games.
With Sunday’s news, Turner joins a growing list of Pitt players who will enter the draft despite minimal buzz around them at the time of their departures. Two players in similar situations are Bryce Hargrove and Jason Pinnock, both of whom decided to forgo their final years of eligibility to enter the draft. Hargrove may well pique the interest of a few pro scouts and garner some attention in the coming months, but Pinnock will likely face an uphill climb.
As for Turner, he has the skill and big-play ability to turn some heads, and after the season he posted at Pitt, he could have a future as a slot receiver in the NFL if he catches on with the right team and is given a decent chance. Of course, that’s not a given, so time will tell how he fares at the next level.