Near-record number of underclassmen opt for NFL Draft
It’s simple math.
Nearly 100 college football players have decided to forgo their remaining eligibility to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, according to the league’s list of eligible underclassmen that was officially released on Friday.
They and the 11 others who are opting for the professional ranks after fulfilling their degree requirements with a year of college eligibility remaining all hope to hear their names called when the NFL holds its annual draft April 28-30 in Chicago.
Many will walk away disappointed.
The 96 underclassmen declaring for the draft is just shy of the record 98 who did so in 2014, leading to a dubious record 36 of whom went undrafted.
That means that more than a third of those who thought they were good enough to play right away in the NFL were given rude awakenings. Many can blame the misinformed agents, family members and hangers-on for pressuring them into their ill-fated decisions.
Some stuck with NFL teams as undrafted free agents, but the misinformation proved disastrous for many others, who quickly faded into obscurity to likely never be heard from again.
While there’s no guarantee that staying in college an extra year would have assured them an NFL future, an extra year to get bigger, stronger and more knowledgeable about the game likely would have enhanced their prospects.
In wake of that debacle, both the NFL and the NCAA refined the process so as to make sure college players received a more accurate read of their draft stock from NFL personnel people and could make more informed decisions.
The issue was thought to be largely in the past by 2015, when just 74 underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft.
This year’s spike again raises the prospect of a lot of NFL dreams getting rudely tossed to the side as just 256 players overall will get drafted. It’s unlikely that 96 underclassmen will make up more than a third of those who hear their names called.
Among those from the SEC leaving early and expected to be drafted early are former Florida All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, Alabama’s defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry, Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd, Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry and a trio of former Ole Miss stars in wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Tunsil could be the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.
Georgia tailback Keith Marshall was among the 11 players who have already graduated and opted to forego their final college eligibility to make themselves available for the draft. Marshall was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, but was hampered by serious injuries throughout his collegiate career.