Daily Blog • January 20th, 2010

Last Friday was the final date that underclassmen could declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Although a record-tying 53 players declared for early entry for this year’s NFL draft, that number released yesterday by the NFL was short of most projections.

Here are the number of players declaring early for the Draft the past 10 years.

Players that left early in 2010: 53
Players that left early in 2009: 46
Players that left early in 2008: 53
Players that left early in 2007: 40
Players that left early in 2006: 52
Players that left early in 2005: 51
Players that left early in 2004: 43
Players that left early in 2003: 47
Players that left early in 2002: 38
Players that left early in 2001: 35

Out of the 53 players, 14 were DBs, 11 DL, 9 WRs, 6 RBs, 4 OL, 3 QBs, 3 TEs, and 3 LBs.

Florida led the way with 5 players declaring early followed by Oklahoma and Georgia Tech who both had 4 players. USC lost 3 players while Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Notre Dame, South Florida and Tennessee all lost two. There were 5 non BCS players.

In Monday's Blog I broke down which teams were hit hardest and which teams have the best returnees that turned down the NFL. Today I give you our analysis of whether it was a good move/bad move by player.

Here are the 53 players that have been granted special eligibility for 2010 NFL Draft. (Stanford RB Gerhart added to the list)

Kevin Basped, DE/OLB Nevada-Basped had 32 tkl and 9.5 sk in ’09 and possesses good speed but will have to excel in the combine workouts to be selected in the top 100. However coming off of two productive years Basped probably wouldn’t have improved his draft stock too much potentially making this a good move.

Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois-Benn was projected to be a top 15 pick coming into the year but after a disappointing junior season with just 490 rec yds (12.9), his draft stock has dropped. Benn could have used another year to show why everyone was high on him but there is a lot of turmoil at Illinois right now forcing his hand somewhat to go pro.

Eric Berry, S Tennessee-Berry made the no-brainer decision as he is a certain first rounder and probably will be the first safety taken in the draft. Berry finished his junior season with 87 tkl, 7 tfl, and 9 pd.

Jahvid Best, RB California-Best had a serious concussion and missed the final four games of the 2009 season. Despite the injury Best still ran for 867 yds (6.1) and will go either late in the 1st or early 2nd making this a wise decision,

Navarro Bowman, LB Penn State-Bowman does not have great size (6-1 230) but was very productive for the Nittany Lions with 93 tkl, 3 sks, and 14 tfl last year. Bowman is versatile enough to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He is being projected to go in the 2nd round thus making this the right move.

Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma-Despite an injury plagued junior season Bradford still has a great chance of being the 1st quarterback taken. Bradford made the right choice in coming out even with the injury concerns.

Dezmon Briscoe, WR Kansas-Briscoe had another great season with 1337 rec yds (15.9) and definitely made a good move with QB Reesing leaving and a new coaching staff taking over. Briscoe is projected to go somewhere in the 2nd round.

Antonio Brown, WR Central Michigan-Brown had a great junior season with 1198 rec yds (10.9). He will no longer have LeFevour throwing him the ball and could play right away on ST’s returning kicks and punts. Brown will probably go somewhere in the 4th-5th round and another year would not have made much of a difference.

Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State-Bryant missed most of the season after a conflict with the NCAA. Despite the setback, Bryant has a chance to be the 1st WR taken.

Bryan Bulaga, OT Iowa-Bulaga had a great Orange Bowl vs Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan and could see himself going in the mid- 1st round if he is impressive in the workouts.

Morgan Burnett, S Georgia Tech-Burnett did not have the same type of production (85 tkl, 8 pd) he had his sophomore season but he still has a lot of versatility and great size at 6-1 210 and probably will be drafted somewhere in the 2nd round. However with this year’s class being loaded at Safety, Burnett could have used another year if he wanted to go in the 1st round.

Bruce Campbell, OT Maryland-Campbell has great size (6-6 315) and good athleticism. He will need a great combine however to go in the early rounds and probably could have used another year.

Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame-Clausen made the right move leaving early. After having a great junior season with 3722 pass yds (68%) and a 28-4 ratio, Clausen has a chance to be the 1st QB taken and will probably be a top 15 pick.  Also Notre Dame will be running a different offense next year with new coach Brian Kelly.

Rennie Curran, LB Georgia-Curran had a great junior season with 130 tkl and 5 tfl for the Bulldogs and will go in either the 2nd or 3rd round. Curran probably could not have improved his status so this was a good move.

Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers-Has great size and a lot of talent but there are some questions about his work ethic. Nonetheless he is still a 1st round pick and made the right move.

Carlos Dunlap, DE Florida-Dunlap made a good move and could easily play as a 3 or 4 technique as he possesses great size at 6-6 280. However there were some off the field concerns and questions about his work ethic that could have him slide to the mid 1st round.

Jonathan Dwyer, RB Georgia Tech-Dwyer made a good move after running for 1395 yds (5.9). He has good speed to go along with his 245 lb frame and will likely battle Jahvid Best to be the 2nd RB taken behind CJ Spiller.

Dominique Franks, CB Oklahoma-Franks (47 tkl, 7 pd) did not have a great year for the Sooners and there are question marks about his consistency.  Franks could have used another year as he doesn’t appear to be one of the top DB’s coming out.

Toby Gerhart, RB Stanford-Gerhart ran for an NCAA-best 1871 yds (5.5) and nearly won the Heisman Trophy. While there may be question marks about his speed, he had nothing else to prove in college and made the right move. Gerhart is looking at a possible 2nd-3rd round selection. Another year with 300+ carries would have hurt his stock.

Clifton Geathers, DE South Carolina–Geathers had a decent junior season with 41 tkl, 3.5 sk, and 5 tfl but probably could have used another year to improve his draft status. Despite his great size at (6-8 280) he probably won’t be taken until the later rounds.

Thaddeus Gibson, OLB Ohio State-Gibson had 45 tkl, 4 sk, and 9 tfl last season for the Buckeyes and could be a perfect fit for DE in a 3-4 defense. Gibson will probably go in the 2nd round and probably made a good move making critics forget about Vernon Gholston.

Jermaine Gresham, TE Oklahoma-Gresham a probable 1st-rd pick after the 2008 season did not play at all in ’09 after suffering a knee injury in preseason practice. Gresham decided not to risk another injury in 2010 and turned down his redshirt. If his knee checks out, he could be a 1st round selection.

Everson Griffen, DE USC-Griffen has a lot of potential and had a decent ’09 season with 45 tkl, 8 sk but never really fulfilled the high expectations that were placed upon him coming out of high school. Since he is kind of a high risk/high reward type of player look for him to go in the early 2nd round but if he has a great combine he could jump into the 1st round which would make his move a good one.

Rob Gronkowski, TE Arizona-Gronkowski missed almost all of last year with a back injury but he does have great size at 6-6 265 and drew favorable comparisons to former Arizona St TE Zach Miller. Gronkowski will battle TE Gresham who also missed the season to become the #1 TE selected.

Joe Haden, CB Florida-Haden (68 tkl, 14 pd in ‘09) easily made the right move and probably will be a Top 10 pick in a weak CB class.

Aaron Hernandez, TE Florida-Hernandez had 912 rec yds (15.0) in ’09 winning the John Mackey award for the nation’s top TE. A solid combine could move him into 1st rd considerations. Hernandez made the right move especially with QB Tebow graduating.

Kareem Jackson, CB Alabama-Jackson (49 tkl, 14 pd) benefited from being surrounded by a lot of great players in the Bama defense and could have used another year to show off his coverage skills.

Chad Jones, S LSU-Jones (74 tkl, 9 PD) has a chance to be a top prospect in the MLB and could opt to play baseball. However he has said it is his dream to be play in the NFL but with a lot of great safeties in this year’s draft, Jones should have stayed another year and been possibly a top 20 pick.

Reshad Jones, S Georgia-Jones (73 tkl, 11 pd) has a lot of upside but probably could have used another year to improve his coverage skills.

Linval Joseph, DT East Carolina-Linval had 60 tkl, 3 sk, and 10 tfl for the Pirates. He was a 2-time All-CUSA performer but will probably be drafted in the later rounds. The coaching change probably effected his decision to forego his senior season.

Darius Marshall, RB Marshall-Marshall ran for 1131 yds (5.0) for the Herd in ’09.  Marshall does not have great size and there are questions about whether or not he can be an inside runner in the NFL. However Marshall was never going to be a 1st-2nd round pick and made a good move avoiding a potential disastrous injury that would have prevented him from being drafted at all in 2011.

Ryan Mathews, RB Fresno State-Mathews had a great junior season for the Bulldogs with 1808 yds (6.6). Mathews did miss time in all three of his seasons and durability could be a question mark that drops him to the 2nd-3rd round.  Mathews still probably made a good move as it would be hard to improve his stats from a year ago.

Rolando McClain, LB Alabama-McClain (105 tkl, 4 sk, 10.5 tfl) made the right move and has a chance to be the 1st LB taken in the Draft. McClain will probably be a top 15 pick and possesses enough athletic ability to be on the field immediately.

Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma-McCoy (34 tkl, 6 sk, 9.5 tfl) made a good move to skip his senior season and if not for Nebraska DT Suh he would probably would have been the 1st DL taken. Nonetheless McCoy is still a certain Top 10 pick.

Joe McKnight, RB USC-McKnight led the Trojans with 1014 yds (6.2) and had some trouble with the NCAA that saw him miss the bowl game. With his eligibility in question McKnight made the right move to jump to the NFL and will probably be drafted somewhere in the 3rd-4th round.

Shawnbrey McNeal, RB SMU-McNeal was a Miami transfer that had a great season with 1188 rush (5.0) in June Jones’ pass happy offense. While McNeal has had some knee problems, he catches the ball out of the backfield well and in a weak RB draft could find himself drafted in the late rounds in a weak RB class.

Carlton Mitchell, WR South Florida-Mitchell had 706 yds (17.6) in ’09 and will have to have a great combine to be selected in the top 50. He probably could have used another year especially with QB Daniels probably getting better as a passer in the new HC Skip Holtz offense.

Joshua Moore, DB Kansas St-Moore had a nice season with 64 tkl and 13 pd. Despite his size (5-11 184) Moore has good coverage skills and will be drafted in the later rounds.

Derrick Morgan, DE Georgia Tech-Morgan has great size (6-4 275) and had a good ’09 season with 55 tkl, 12.5 sk, 6 tfl.  Morgan made the right move and should hear his name called in the middle of the 1st round.

Jerell Norton, DB Arkansas-Norton finished last season with 14 tkl and 2 int in two starts. He was the Razorbacks' interception leader in the 2007 season, with five grabs, but missed the 2008 season after undergoing hamstring and hernia operations. He played both safety and cornerback in 2009. Norton decided to withdraw from school this semester and will probably be a late round pick or free agent signee.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE South Florida-Coming into the season all the talk was on Pierre-Paul’s teammate George Selvie.  However, Paul had better stats (45 tkl, 6.5 sk, 10 tfl) across the board in ‘09 and has a chance to be drafted in the 1st round. Good move.

Maukice Pouncey, C Florida-Pouncey was one of the reasons the Gator offense has been so productive the past couple of years. With their being a new QB under center for the Gators next year, Pouncey made the right move and will be the 1st center taken in the draft.

Brian Price, DT UCLA-Price had 7 sks and 16.5 tfl in his junior season with the Bruins. While Price will get drafted in the 1st round, he will be behind other DT’s Suh and McCoy and would have had a chance to be a Top 5 pick in next year’s draft.

Dennis Rogan, DB Tennessee-Rogan had 69 tkl and 7 pd and will be making the jump along with teammate Eric Berry. Unlike Berry, Rogan looks to be a later round pick but likely made the move with the coaching change in Knoxville.

Jevan Snead, QB Ole Miss-Snead's move may have been the worst one this year. He was projected to be a 1st round pick coming into the season but after a disappointing year which saw him throw 20 interceptions he will probably slip to the 2nd round or 3rd round and definitely could have used another year to improve his draft stock.

Amari Spievey, CB Iowa-Spievey came to Iowa from the JUCO ranks and had a good ’09 season with 56 tkl, 10 pd. He could have used another year but was looking to make the jump all along.

Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame-Tate made the good move with the coaching and QB changes in South Bend for next year. Tate who won the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top WR setting ND records with 1496 rec yds (16.1). He is looking at a 2nd round selection.

Demaryius Thomas, WR Georgia Tech-Thomas had a great year in the run dominated Tech offense with 1154 yds and a sensational 25.1 ypc! Thomas will have to improve on his pass routes as he was mainly used as a deep threat. Although he probably won’t be drafted until the 2nd round Thomas probably could not have improved his stock from last year and made a good move.

Earl Thomas, S Texas-Thomas had a great ’09 season with 77 tkl and 24 pd! Thomas could earn a 1st round nod with a good combine thus making this a good move.

Donovan Warren, CB Michigan-Warren was a 3-year starter for the Wolverines and had 66 tkl and 7 pd.  While he won’t be the 1st corner taken, Warren has all the experience needed to be drafted somewhere in the Top 40-50 range and made the good move.

Damian Williams, WR USC-Williams was true frosh QB Barkley’s top weapon with 1010 rec yds (14.4). While he does not have great size at 6-1 195, he does have great ball skills and will be drafted somewhere in the 2nd round. In the end probably a good move by him.

Mike Williams, WR Syracuse-Williams has great talent but there are a lot of off the field concerns that will drop him in the draft. However with those concerns, Williams made the right move jumping to the NFL but probably won’t be drafted in the 1st two rounds.

Jason Worilds, DE Virginia Tech-Worilds had a productive season with 49 tkl, 4.5 sk, and 6.5 tfl but has a shoulder injury that could drop him to the 3rd-4th round. Worilds probably could have used another year.

Major Wright, S Florida- Wright only had 32 tkl, 5 pd in his junior season and probably made the jump since a lot of his teammates did. Wright has a lot of upside but could drop some with the heavy depth of safeties ahead of him.

Top Players Staying in School:

Jake Locker, QB Washington-Although Locker is still raw in some areas, he was projected to go in the 1st round and possibly the top 10.  He is coming off his best season with 2800 pass yds (58%) and a 21-11 ratio. With some injury problems in the past, it will be interesting to see where his draft stock is next year. Also with the injury to Bradford, it’s a major surprise to see Locker heading back to school.

Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas-Mallett was coveted by many pro scouts for his great arm strength but needed to improve his accuracy (55.8%) and next year has the chance to be the 1st QB selected.

Cameron Heyward, DE/DT Ohio St-Heyward had a chance to be a 1st round pick but decided to stay in school for another year. With the DE/DT being loaded in this year’s draft, Heyward has a chance to be a top 10 pick next year.

Greg Jones, LB Michigan St-After getting feedback from multiple NFL sources, Jones decided to stay for another year despite having 154 tkl last year. With a similar type of season in 2010, Jones could find himself in the 1st round.

Greg Romeus, DE Pittsburgh-Romeus probably would have went in the late 1st round but this year’s DL class is deep and with a great senior season, Romeus could be a Top 15 pick next year.

North Carolina had several players that passed up chances to be selected in the 1st couple of rounds in OLB Bruce Carter, DT Marvin Austin and LB Quan Sturdivant. The players are staying in hopes of leading the Tar Heels to their best season since ’97.