Allowing underclassmen to enter the NFL draft has brought an annual infusion of elite talent into each draft, since many of the top picks are underclassmen. It's not unusual to see seven or eight of the top 10 picks and more than half of the first round be underclassmen.
But, while being a young blue-chip talent has its perks, more and more underclassmen keep foregoing their final season or two of college without a guarantee of being drafted. Over the last five years, while the number of players has continued to grow, the number actually drafted has remained effectively the same.
Over the last five years, the number of underclassmen that have declared for eligibility in the draft has risen each year from 2009-13 (46-53-56-65-73). But, the number of players actually taken has remained constant, significantly dropping the percentage of rookies who get selected.
In 2009, 89 percent of the players who declared were drafted. In 2010, it fell to 87 percent – a drop, but not a concern for players convinced they would get drafted. In 2011, it dropped to 77 percent, another significant drop. Last year, it fell to 68 percent. With a record number of underclassmen out there, it may turn out to be a record number that take the plunge and go undrafted.
With such a glut of young talent, the competition after the draft is over may be as fierce as it has been in years.
Here is the list of the declaring underclassmen (from the Honey Badger to the spell-check prompting Jose Jose).
Quarterback – Tyler Bray (Tennessee).
Running Back – Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State), Giovani Bernard (North Carolina), Knile Davis (Arkansas), Michael Ford (LSU), Jawan Jamison (Rutgers), Stefphon Jefferson (Nevada), Eddie Lacy (Alabama), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), Bradley Randle (UNLV), Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State), Spencer Ware (LSU), Cierre Wood (Notre Dame).
Wide Receiver – Keenan Allen (Cal), Stedman Bailey (West Virginia), Duron Carter (Ohio State), DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), Ace Sanders (South Carolina), Kerry Stills (Olahoma), Marquess Wilson (Washington State), Robert Woods (USC).
Tight End – Zach Ertz (Stanford), Gavin Escobar (San Diego State), Jordan Reed (Florida), Dion Sims (Michigan State), Levine Toilolo (Stanford).
Offensive Tackle – David Bakhtiari (Colorado), Chris Faulk (LSU), Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M), Menelik Watson (Florida State) Guard – Alvin Bailey (Arkansas).
Center – Travis Frederick (Wisconsin).
Defensive Tackle – Sharrif Floyd (Florida), Kwame Geathers (Georgia), Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State), Jose Jose (Central Florida), Bernie Logan (LSU), Brandon Moore (Texas),, Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), Darrington Sentimore (Tennessee), Akeem Spence (Illinois).
Defensive End – William Gholston (Michigan State), Joe Kruger (Utah), Corey Lemonier (Auburn), Maponga Stansly (TCU), Barkevious Mingo (LSU), Sam Montgomery (LSU), Demontre Moore (Texas A&M), Bjoem Werner (Florida State).
Linebacker – Dwayne Beckford (Purdue), Jelani Jenkins (Florida), Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Kevin Minter (LSU), Alec Ogletree (Georgia), Tom Wort (Oklahoma).
Defensive Back – David Amerson (North Carolina State), Terrence Brown (Stanford), Mike Edwards (Hawaii), Matt Elam (Florida), Jajuan Harley (Middle Tennessee), Tony Jefferson (Oklahoma), Tyrann Mathieu (LSU), Dee Milliner (Alabama), Eric Reid (LSU), Greg Reid (Florida State), Xavier Rhodes (Florida State), Nickell Robey (USC), Logan Ryan (Rutgers), Tharold Simon (LSU), Steve Williams (Cal).
Punter – Brad Wing (LSU).
Many of the future stars of the NFL come from these underclassmen ranks. Underclassmen typically dominated the top of the draft and are scattered throughout and snapped up in the later rounds. This year will be no exception. With so many players from the SEC (11 from LSU alone), there will be no shortage of viable game film to evaluate those players with – seemingly every SEC game was televised somewhere.
All of the names on that list are convinced they're going to hear theirs called draft weekend. Many will have that wish met. More will have it come later than hoped. For some, there will be heartbreak late Saturday afternoon of draft weekend. For now, hope springs. In the spring, it may be different.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.