I sat on the NFL’s Underclass Advisory Committee for a number of years. Our job was to give an unbiased assessment of where a particular college football player (underclassman) might be selected in the coming draft. There were multiple inputs from a number of clubs, each with their own evaluation techniques and philosophies. The goal was to provide a broad but informative recommendation to a young player who might be contemplating forgoing his collegiate eligibility to enter professional football. It was customary over this time period to perhaps evaluate forty to fifty players asking for guidance, with usually around twenty-five and upwards of thirty making the choice to leave college.
Today’s numbers are staggering to me and don’t make a lot of sense (in my opinion). The Advisory Committee has its hands full with providing both that unbiased assessment coupled with a realistic scenario. With close to 100 players entering the NFL Draft early, clubs would have to consecutively draft underclassmen for three straight rounds to expend the available talent. The majority of two-deep NFL rosters are compromised of predominantly 1st & 2nd round selections and it’s my feeling that the current system appears to be leading these players down an unrealistic path. Nevertheless, here’s the complete list of underclassmen that feel it’s their time and that they’re ready. Good luck to them all.
The Football Educator
NFL Prospects – Declared Underclassmen Preview
By Taber Small, NUCSports.com
A record 98 underclassman declared on January 15th by the 4 pm deadline for the 2014 NFL Draft. The trend of increasing declared underclassmen in previous years [2013 (73), 2012 (65), 2011 (56) and 2010 (53)] has recently become a hot NFL topic for discussion.
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles was an unknown player coming into the 2013 and by mid-season blossomed into an elite quarterback prospect. Scouts are intrigued by his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, arm strength and athleticism. Bortles completed 65% of his passes for 6,640 yards, 50 TDs and only 16 interceptions the last two years. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel have been on the radar of scouts since their breakout freshman seasons as both are projected to be a top 5 draft pick.
The skill positions received a big boost with the quality number of talented underclassmen that declared. It’s an average senior draft class at the running back, receiver and tight end. There isn’t a running back projected to go in the first round which could lead to a second straight year that has happen. But it is still a good overall group with Auburn’s Tre Mason, Washington’s Bishop Sankey, LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk adding great value to the running back position in this draft class.
The wide receiver and tight end group has the most talent of the underclassmen that have declared. There are about 7-10 pass catchers who could go in the first round and make an immediate impact in the NFL. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins headlines the list with Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, USC Marquise Lee and Florida State’s fast rising receiver prospect Kelvin Benjamin following right behind. Highly regarded junior tight end’s Eric Ebron, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins are projected top 20 picks.
Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson was dominant all season and impressed scouts with his quick feet and strength as he shoots up draft boards. Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama is another projected first round projected that has shown great potential and athleticism. But his inconsistent play have scouts wondering if he will be a staring left or right tackle at the next level.
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is the top rated player at the defensive end position as he terrorized offensive backfield for three seasons. He had a disappointing junior season but possesses a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism that scouts heavily covet. Kony Ealy from Missouri is another intriguing defensive end with great size, quickness and strength.
Defensive tackles is another group that is deep with talent where NFL teams can fine lineman that can fit in a either a 3-4 and 4-3 defensive scheme. Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt along with South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles could all go in the first round. Nix battled injuries this past year but is still the top rated defensive tackle that fits perfect in a 3-4 defense. Jernigan is a strong, explosive lineman who displays great quickness and speed.
Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Arizona State’s Carl Bradford, Alabama’s Adrian Hubbard along with UConn’s Yawin Smallwood leads the linebacker underclassmen position. Shazier is the only prospect out of the group projected to go in the first round. He’s undersized but is a very instinctive weak side linebacker who fits best in a 4-3 defense. Bradford initially announced he was coming back to school but quickly changed his plans as he was exceptionally productive the last two seasons at ASU. Smallwood was a big time player for the UConn Huskies and is versatile enough to play either inside backer positions.
The value of bigger cover corners is increasing with each NFL Draft season. Bradley Roby from Ohio State has the best natural talent and size out of this group. But he had an up and down 2013 after having an outstanding sophomore season in 2012. Both Roby and Florida’s Marcus Roberson could be selected in the bottom of the first round. Another Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and South Carolina’s Vic Hampton will have a great opportunity to raise their draft status if they perform well at the NFL Combine next month.
The safeties that declared are an elite group filled with talented players such as Alabama’s All-American Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Stanford’s Ed Reynolds. Clinton-Dix is a ball hawking safety with great size, range and instincts. He is the top ranked safety in the draft followed by Pryor and Reynolds. USC’s Dion Bailey is an interesting safety prospect that played his first two seasons at outside linebacker before moving to safety in 2013. He made a smooth transition in leading his team with five interceptions.