Path To '12 Draft: Underclassmen

A record 65 underclassmen applied for the NFL Draft, upgrading what was considered average senior class at most positions.

A record-breaking 65 underclassmen have been granted special eligibility for the 2012 NFL Draft in the official list released by the league Thursday. The previous high was 56 last year.

So much for the theory that less lucrative contracts for high draft picks would curtail the mass exodus of young players into the NFL.

Prominent among the list, of course, is Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and a host of other supremely talented underclassmen.

While college coaches are likely bemoaning the loss of so many talented players, NFL teams couldn't be happier. Frankly, this was an average senior class at most positions and the underclassmen have greatly improved the talent level.

In fact, if one were to go group by group, they'd find that an underclassmen ranks at the top of 10 of the 15 offensive and defensive positions on's board. An even greater testament to the impact underclassmen will have on this draft class, consider that of the highest ranked 11 prospects graded by, 10 are underclassmen. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, currently ranked eighth overall, is the exception. Following Still and North Carolina's Quinton Coples, however, are four underclassmen -- each of whom could be first-round picks.

Besides the players already known to be leaving school early, there were a few surprises on the NFL's official list. One, Miami wide receiver Aldarius Johnson, I saw at the NFLPA all-star practices this week in Carson, Calif. The others are Texas running back Jamison Berryhill, Kansas State running back Bryce Brown, Minnesota tight end Tiree Eure, Syracuse wide receiver Dorian Graham, Purdue guard Ken Plue, Oklahoma State defensive back Johnny Thomas, and Syracuse defensive back Phillip Thomas.

The full list of names released this morning from the NFL:

Player, Pos., College

Alexander, Alvester, RB, Wyoming

Allen, Dwayne, TE, Clemson

Baker, Edwin, RB, Michigan State

Ball, Mike, RB, Nevada

Berryhill, Jamison, RB, Texas

Blackmon, Justin, WR, Oklahoma State

Brockers, Michael, DT, Louisiana State

Brown, Bryce, RB, Kansas State

Burfict, Vontaze, LB, Arizona State

Charles, Orson, TE, Georgia

Claiborne, Morris, DB, Louisiana State

Cox, Fletcher, DT, Mississippi State

DeCastro, David, G, Stanford

Eure, Tiree, TE, Minnesota

Forston, Marcus, DT, Miami

Gilmore, Stephon, DB, South Carolina

Givens, Chris, WR, Wake Forest

Graham, Dorian, WR, Syracuse

Griffin, Robert, QB, Baylor

Hampton, Jewel, RB, Southern Illinois

Harris, Cliff, DB, Oregon

Hightower, Dont'a, LB, Alabama

Hill, Stephen, WR, Georgia Tech

Hillman, Ronnie, RB, San Diego State

Holloway, Max, DE, Boston College

Hosley, Jayron, DB, Virginia Tech

Jackson, Janzen, DB, McNeese State

James, LaMichael, RB, Oregon

Jeffery, Alshon, WR, South Carolina

Johnson, Aldarius, WR, Miami

Johnson, Damaris, WR, Tulsa

Jones, Chandler, DE, Syracuse

Kalil, Matt, T, Southern California

Kirkpatrick, Dre, DB, Alabama

Konz, Peter, C, Wisconsin

Kuechly, Luke, LB, Boston College

Lewis, Ronnell, DE, Oklahoma

Luck, Andrew, QB, Stanford

Manning, Terrell, LB, North Carolina State

Martin, Jonathan, T, Stanford

Massie, Bobby, T, Mississippi

Mercilus, Whitney, DE, Illinois

Miller, Lamar, RB, Miami

Osweiler, Brock, QB, Arizona State

Page, Eric, WR, Toledo

Paige-Moss, Donte, DE, North Carolina

Perry, Nick, DE, Southern California

Pierce, Bernard, RB, Temple

Plue, Ken, G, Purdue

Poe, Dontari, DT, Memphis

Randle, Rueben, WR, Louisiana State

Reiff, Riley, T, Iowa

Richardson, Trent, RB, Alabama

Robinson, Josh, DB, Central Florida

Sanu, Mohamed, WR, Rutgers

Scott, Darrell, RB, South Florida

Streeter, Tommy, WR, Miami

Thomas, Darron, QB, Oregon

Thomas, Johnny, DB, Oklahoma State

Thomas, Phillip, DB, Syracuse

Trotter, Barrett, QB, Auburn

Vernon, Olivier, DE, Miami

Washington, Brandon, T, Miami

Wilson, David, RB, Virginia Tech

Worthy, Jerel, DT, Michigan State

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