Daily Blog • January 19, 2011

Last Saturday was the final date that underclassmen could declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. The NFL labor agreement seem to have no effect as a record 56 players declared for early entry for this year’s NFL draft, that number released yesterday by the NFL was higher than most projections.

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

Players that left ealry in 2011: 56
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 56 players, 13 were DL, 12 RBs, 10 DB's, 10 WR's, 4 LBs, 3 QBs, 2 OL, 1 FB and 1 TE.

Alabama, Auburn, North Carolina and Pittsburgh led the way with 3 players declaring early There were 6 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 56 players that have been granted special eligibility for 2011 NFL Draft. (Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones added to the list)

Good Move:

Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama-Dareus had a lot of hype coming into the season and was bit of a disappointment. However, I still have him rated as #3 DT and he should be easily be a Top 15 pick in the draft. He might have only benefited 5-7 spots had he came back and had a monster year.

Julio Jones, WR Alabama-Jones had his best year yet and with Blackmon, Broyles and Floyd all announcing their return, Jones clearly is the #2 WR in this year’s class and will be a top 20 pick.

Mark Ingram, RB Alabama-Ingram had a disappointing year coming off his Heisman campaign in 2009. However in a weak RB class, he still is among the best and did the right thing in coming out early.

Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas-Mallett seems to be dropping on some boards as scouts prefer the more mobile big QB’s like Gabbert, Newton and Locker. Despite the footwork issues, he still has an unbelievable arm and should be a 1st round pick.

Nick Fairley, DT Auburn-Fairley was a difference maker in the national title game and not only solidified himself as the top DT prospect but may be the top overall prospect in the entire draft. Great move to come out early as his stock will never be higher.

Cam Newton, QB Auburn-It would be tough for anyone to duplicate Newton’s magical 2010 season. With the off-the-field concerns, Newton made the wise decision in coming out early and I think he will get drafted in the 1st round.

Darvin Adams, WR Auburn-Adams was the last player to declare early and I wonder if weighed the fact that 3 of the top 5 prospects announced their return. With the uncertainty at QB for Auburn next year, I can’t blame him for leaving early despite the fact that I have him rated as a 3rd-4th round prospect right now.

Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson-I have Bowers as my #1 DE and he should be a Top 5 pick. This was a slam-dunk decision to come out early.

Jordan Todman, RB Connecticut-Todman lacks the size to be a early round pick but after a great season with nearly 1,700 yds and with the Huskies bringing in a new coaching staff next year, I easily see why Todman is leaving.

A.J. Green, WR Georgia-Green made an easy decision here as he is my #1 WR and will easily be a top 5 draft pick.

Justin Houston, LB Georgia-I have Houston rated as my #4 OLB and he has exp both in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. I think he will go in the 2nd round and while he will need some development with creating another pass-rush move, I feel he made the right choice.

Mikel Leshoure, RB Illinois-Nobody had a better finish to the season than Leshoure and he is rising on many draft boards. I currently have him as the #3 RB and will be a late 1st-early 2nd round selection.

Martez Wilson, LB Illinois-Wilson is my #6 OLB as he is versatile and can cover a lot of ground from sideline to sideline. He will go in the 2nd-3rd round and made the right move.

Tandon Doss, WR Indiana-Doss had a nice career and can contribute on special teams right away. I have him as my #10 WR and with another great WR class in line for next year, I don’t think he would have improved his stock by coming back.

Tyler Sash S, Iowa-Sash was never going to be a 1st or early 2nd round pick so I feel he made the right move in avoiding injury and coming out.

Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky-Cobb will be one of the more intriguing prospects in this upcoming draft. Lots of teams could use a smart utility player and I think he will be a 2nd-3rd round guy and would not have improved his draft stock by coming back.

Patrick Peterson, CB LSU-Another slam dunk decision as Peterson is my #1 CB prospect and clearly will be among the Top 10 overall players selected.

Torrey Smith, WR Maryland-I watched Smith closely in the NCState gm and he didn’t disappoint with a career day. Does not have ideal size but I think he will go in the 2nd round and made the right move.

Brandon Harris, CB Miami, Fl-I have Harris rated as my #5 CB and I think he could be a sleeper at the combine with his strength. I think he goes in the 2nd round but could slip into the late 1st.

Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri-I originally had Gabbert as my #5 QB but with Luck leaving and Mallet (footwork) and Locker (accuracy) having clear weaknesses, Gabbert has risen to the top of the heap and many have him now as a top 10 pick.

Aldon Smith, DE Missouri-Smith battled injuries this past year before getting healthy late and did not want to risk further injury by coming back for another year.

Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina-Austin was kicked off the team prior to TY and before the season he was probably the #1 DT. Now he has fallen to #5 but naturally could not have gone back to school.

Greg Little, WR North Carolina-Naturally the suspension hurt Little’s stock but I still have him as my #5 WR and he should be a 2nd-round pick with his size.

Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina-Quinn did not even play this year with the NCAA suspension but still is my #2 DE and will be a 1st round selection.

Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame-Despite missing the final 6 gms of the season with a hamstring injury Rudolph clearly is the best of the bunch in this year’s TE class but will fall to the mid-2nd round.

Jon Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh-With many of the top WR’s coming back Baldwin is my #3 WR and will be a late 1st-early 2nd round selection.

Henry Hynoski, FB Pittsburgh-Fullbacks are never taken high in the draft and the fact that new HC Graham’s offense will probably not utilize Hynoski’s blocking abilities he made the right move in coming back.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple-After talking to coach Al Golden last spring I knew Wilkerson was in store for a good year and he didn’t disappoint. He is my #10 DT and his stock would not have improved by coming back.

Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA-Ayers is my #2 OLB and can drop in coverage and support the run well. While there are concerns on his pass-rush ability I still think he is a 1st rounder.

Rahim Moore, S UCLA-Moore is my #1 S prospect and with Mark Barron returning to school there is no question that he should be the first safety taken.

Tyron Smith, OT USC-Smith is rising on many boards and with the OT class weaker than most years, he has the opportunity to be taken in the 2nd round.

Jurrell Casey, DT USC-Casey is my #6 DT and will be better suited to play in a 4-3 defense. He will be a 2nd-3rd round pick and would not have changed that by coming back.

Brandon Burton, CB Utah-I have Burton as my #6 CB and have been high on him since the start of the year. With Utah going to the Pac-10 next year maybe he could have improved his stock by playing better competition but still will be a solid 2nd-3rd round guy.

Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech-Williams is my #2 RB and in a weak RB class he will get late 1st-early 2nd round consideration.

Robert Sands, S West Virginia-Sands is my #8 S and has “freakish” size for the position. Staying another year would not have improved his stock as he had a productive career to begin with.

J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin-Watt is rising on some draft boards and made the right decision in coming out early. Should be off the board sometime in the 2nd round.

John Clay, RB Wisconsin-Clay was never going to be a high draft pick and clearly with the emergence of Montee Ball and James White this year, he would have had to split carries again if he came back.

Bad Move:

Lawrence Guy, DT Arizona St-I don’t have Guy rated among my top 10 DT’s so I think he will be a later-round prospect. He probably could have used another year.

Jamie Harper, RB Clemson-Harper split carries with Andre Ellington TY and would probably do the same in 2012. I think he could have used another year to solidify his stock as I don’t have him among the Top 10 RB’s in an otherwise weak year.

Shane Vereen, RB California-Despite filling in nicely for Best in ’09 and having nearly 900 yds TY, I think that Vereen probably could have used another season.

Taiwan Jones, RB Eastern Washington-Jones had an outstanding season for EW but a foot injury kept him out of the last couple of games. He is being touted as a late-2nd-3rd round pick but I felt with the injury he could have used another year and possibly improved his draft stock.

Will Hill, S Florida-I have Will as my #7 Safety which would probably put him in the mid-rounds. I believe had he come back for another year he would have been among the top 3 safeties and could have greatly improved his draft stock.

Jamel Hamler, WR Fresno St-After leading the Bulldogs with 54 rec, Hamler made a surprising move to come out early. I do not have him ranked in my top 10 and I feel that he is late-round prospect.

Nick Claytor, OT Georgia Tech-I do not have Claytor among my top 10 OT’s and with him only having one full-time year as the starter, he should have come back for another year.

Jarrard Tarrant, S Georgia Tech-Tarrant had a solid career at GT but some off-the-field issues may have him slipping to the later rounds.

Corey Liuget, DT Illinois-Liuget had a great year for the Illini and earned all-Big 10 honors. I think he will be a 3rd-4th round selection but had he stayed for another season and had another productive year he could have gone higher.

Stevan Ridley, RB LSU-I only have Ridley as my #10 rated RB and feel had he come back for another season he could have clearly improved his draft stock and been a top 5 back.

Jacquizz Rogers, RB Oregon St-While Rogers was never going to be a early round pick, I thought he would come back and play with his brother James who was granted a medical RS for another season.

Dion Lewis, RB Pittsburgh-I understand why Lewis left as he had to split carries with Graham this past year and with a new coaching staff coming in, his role would have been in question but after a disappointing 2010 season I think he should have came back and tried to improve his stock.

Tori Gurley, WR South Carolina-Gurley was the #2 rec option behind Jeffery and would have been better suited to come back for another year.

DeAndre Brown, WR Southern Miss-Brown has been a disappointment since his frosh ssn and could have used a big senior year to improve his draft stock.

Thomas Keiser, LB Stanford-Keiser is a “tweener” that could play either LB or DE but could have moved up the draft boards by sticking around for another season.

Aaron Williams, CB Texas-I have Williams as my #8 CB. Scouts loved his size, but by playing in the “nickel” this past season, his production was not great and he could have been a clear-top 5 CB next year had he come back for his senior year.

Sealver Siliga, DT Utah-I do not have Siliga in my Top 10 DT’s and do not think he will be drafted until at least the 4th-5th round. He should have comeback for another season.

Zane Parr, DE Virginia-I don’t have Parr in my Top 10 DE’s and do not think he will be drafted until the later rounds. Clearly he would have been better served to come back for another year.

Darren Evans, RB Virginia Tech-With Williams leaving early, Evans would have been better served to come back for another year and take advantage of his expanded carries.

Javes Lewis, CB Oregon-Lewis was not a regular starter for the Ducks this past season and should have come back for another year. He will go no higher than the 5th-6th round.