A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.
Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft. It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.
Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.
The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year. That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that. In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.
For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants. In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early. Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?). Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.
2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.
The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.
You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft: