Graduating seniors such as Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell (quarterback), Ohio State’s James Laurenaitis (linebacker), and Chase Daniel of Missouri (quarterback), are already set to go pro.
For third-year players (juniors and red-shirt sophomores), however, the past few weeks have been decision time. Stay another year in college or declare for April’s NFL Draft. The deadline was Thursday, January 15.
Some decisions were made early on. Quarterback Colt McCoy had decided he was coming back to Texas for another year. Andre Smith, offensive tackle from Alabama, declared in early January that he would enter the draft. Speculation of illegal agent contact with Smith and a Sugar Bowl suspension by the university were already fueling the speculation that Smith was finished playing for the Crimson Tide.
Other decisions came at the last minute, as the deadline was winding down. Mark Sanchez, quarterback for USC, declared for the draft during a press conference attended by a less-than-enthusiastic head coach Pete Carroll who believes Sanchez is not ready for the NFL. Sanchez and Georgia’s Matthew Stafford, however, are tops on many lists of predicted first picks for quarterback.
Here is a list of other prominent underclassmen who have declared their eligibility for April’s draft:
Knowshon Moreno, running back, Georgia
Asher Allen, cornerback, UGA
Shonn Greene, running back, Iowa
Michael Crabtree, wide receiver, Texas Tech
Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Missouri
Percy Harvin, wide receiver/running back, Florida
Donald Washington, cornerback, Ohio State
Brian Hartline, wide receiver, Ohio State
Christ “Beanie” Wells, running back, Ohio State
The NFL Combine will be held at the end of February and will be a major factor in determining position in the draft.
Sam Bradford, tapped to be the first quarterback picked in the draft (and possibly the first overall pick), decided to return for his junior year at Oklahoma. Other players who opted to stay in college another year include:
Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida
Brandon Spikes, linebacker, Florida
C.J. Spiller, running back, Clemson
Greg Hardy, defensive end, Ole Miss
Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma
Taylor Mays, safety, USC
All three of this season’s Heisman finalists will be returning for the 2009 season, which includes 2008 winner Sam Bradford and 2007 winner Tim Tebow. This will mark the first time all three Heisman finalists from the previous year return to play at the college level, with two of the three being trophy winners.
Myron Rolle, a safety for Florida State, has opted for a different course for the next year. He has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar and will attend Oxford University in England. He intends to enter the draft in 2010. Rolle was expected to be a first-round pick.
The 2009 NFL Draft will be held in New York City on April 25-26.