Last year around this time, the NFL was announcing a record 56 underclassmen had left eligibility on the table in order to make themselves available for the April draft.
A year later? Consider that record shattered.
The NFL announced Thursday that a total of 65 eligible underclassmen have decided to take their game to the next level. Prior to last year, the record had been 53, first in 2008 then tied in 2010.
And, as is normally the case, there were a handful of players included in this year’s NFL list that had not been previously reported:
- Jamison Berryhill, RB, Texas
- Tiree Eure, TE, Minnesota
- Dorian Graham, WR, Syracuse
- Janzen Jackson, DB, McNeese State
- Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
- Ken Plue, G, Purdue
- Johnny Thomas, DB, Oklahoma State
- Phillip Thomas, DB, Syracuse
Interestingly, a pair of running backs who had previously announced they were leaving early — Washington’s Chris Polk by the school and Utah State’s Robert Turbin on Twitter — were not on the list released by the NFL. It’s unclear why they weren’t included, and emails seeking clarification from the respective schools on the status of the players have not yet been returned.
(Writer’s note: a UW official responded to CFT’s email, writing that Polk being excluded by the NFL “[m]ust be a mistake on their part. He made it official on Jan. 2, and nothing has changed.” In a followup email, the same official wrote “that the NFL considers him a senior since he never technically redshirted. Had he wanted to come back for the 2012 season, he could have gotten a year back (without any doubt), but no one had ever done the paperwork for that year (2008) for whatever reason.” So, for accounting purposes, Polk is not considered an early entry by the NFL.)
(Writer’s note, the sequel: USU’s director of media relations, Zach Fisher, wrote that “because of being five years out of high school, [Turbin] is not classified as needing to be granted the special eligibility for the draft.”)
The running back position, incidentally, saw the most attrition, with 13 players at that position on the NFL’s list. Defensive linemen (12), wide receivers (11), defensive backs (9) and offensive linemen (8) were the next hardest hit positions. Tight end saw the least attrition with three players, while just five quarterbacks made themselves available for the upcoming draft.
Conference-wise, three accounted for well over half of the early entries — the ACC (14), SEC (12) and Pac-12 (10). All 11 conferences lost at least one player, with the Big Ten (7), Big 12 (6) and Big East (6) accounting for most of the remaining future draftees. A pair of players from non-Div. 1-A — Southern Illinois RB Jewel Hampton and McNeese State DB Janzen Jackson — were included as well.
As far as last year’s draft was concerned, it seemed to be a boom-or-bust proposition for those who applied for early entry. While nearly half of the entire first round (15) consisted of juniors, redshirt or otherwise, the same number went undrafted. Add in 12 players selected in the second round, and exactly 75 percent of the players in the early-entry Class of 2011 either went in the first two rounds or were not selected at all.
What does it mean? Make the leap if you have the talent. If not, jump at your own peril.
Anyway, for the complete list of underclassmen whose future lies in the professional ranks, click HERE.