Underclassmen Leaving For The NFL: January 4

With the bowl season over, more eligible underclassmen have made the decision to jump to the next level. Here's an update on the players that have publicly announced their intentions. Also is late word on Brian Calhoun, Charles Rogers and Brian Leonard.

This story was originally published on TheNFLExperts.com

North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams announced Tuesday he will leave for the NFL.  A two time All-ACC player, Williams leaves the Wolfpack as their career leader in sack with 25.5.  Williams accounted for 14.5 sacks this season and  is likely a top five selection who will battle to be the first defensive end off the board in April.

Florida receiver Chad Jackson is on his way to the next level.  One of nine Gators who petitioned the NFL to find out their draft ranking, Jackson had a breakthrough season as a junior posting 88 receptions for 900-yards.  A physical specimen, reports have Jackson at 6-1\205 pounds and is expected to run under 4.4-seconds in pre-draft workouts.  Jackson will compete to be the first receiver selected in the draft.

Even after missing the season with a knee injury Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie will leave for the NFL.  Graded as a potential first round choice before the season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during summer workouts.  Sources have told us Cromartie may have had his hands tied because of poor grades.  One went as far as saying Cromartie tried to play in Tuesday night's Orange Bowl to show off his skill to scouts as it was a last chance to suit up for the Seminoles.

Offensive lineman Rob Smith of Tennessee is leaving but for different reasons.  Smith, a 24 game starter at both center and guard, was angered at the release of the Volunteers offensive line coach.  At the earliest Smith is a late round choice.

Sources have told us two more UT lineman, defensive tackle Justin Harrell and multi-purpose blocker Aaron Sears are both leaning towards entering the draft.  Each holds a first day grade.

One junior who won't be entering the draft is Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard.  A triple threat player, Leonard had been pretty adamant all along he would return to school and help his team "finish what they started".  Rutgers ended the longest draught of any I-A school in the nation by returning to a bowl game this year.  With Leonard out of the mix the fullback position may have just a single player selected in the first day of April's draft.

Another player who also is not in the mix next April is Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas.  As we reported in our Capital Bowl preview, the Badgers left tackle was also used at defensive end.  It was there, late in the game, that Thomas went down with a serious knee injury.  He is scheduled to undergo an MRI this Friday and those around the team suspect Thomas tore his ACL.

Badger running back Brian Calhoun his expected to announce his future intentions early next week and word this evening is the elusive ball carrier will enter the draft.  One source put it at "60%" that Calhoun enters the draft.  Later on another told us everything coming out of Madison indicates Calhoun is leaving for the next level.

Finally, we've been alerted that Kansas cornerback\return specialist\wide receiver Charles Gordon is in the final stages of choosing an agent and will also enter the draft.  A shutdown corner, Gordon is expected to be selected in the middle of round two.


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