In 1995, I was hired by the NFL expansion team Carolina Panthers as an Area Scout. As I climbed the ladder into management, I worked hard at tracking trends and data of the NFL Draft, the bloodline of every NFL organization. The Underclassmen or juniors have made a huge impact in terms of numbers to boost options for teams. The yearly surge of top notch talent gave the draft depth in the first four rounds.

From ’95 -’10, 70 Underclassmen were drafted in the top ten, that’s 14.8%. Were the underclassmen make their biggest impact as far as numbers and talent is in the first round. Generally, juniors decide to give up their collegiate eligibility because there is nothing else to accomplish at that level. Several others are cheating themselves by not staying in school and finishing their college degrees, because of agents, parents and financial issues with families that make their decisions easy.

Between ’95-’10 there were 185 underclassmen drafted in the first round, 39.2% of the players drafted in that time frame. The remaining rounds 2-4 stack as follows; Second round 91 players for 19.3%, Third round 72 players for 15.3% and Fourth round 54 players for 11.4%. The late rounds in the NFL draft for underclassmen are fairly even in numbers, Fifth round 28 players for 5.9%, Sixth round 20 players for 4.2% and Seventh round 22 players for 4.7%.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, because you forgo your final year in college, and apply for the draft thru the NFL office, doesn’t guarantee the prospect will get drafted, let alone play in the National Football League. The total number of Underclassmen that declare in this time frame of ’95-’10 was 665, only 472 were drafted, leaving 29.0% non-drafted or 193 players standing outside looking in. All teams have benefited from the infusion of young talent every year, 71% of all Underclassmen that declare get drafted.

QUARTERBACKS:

Nick Foles Arizona

Andrew Luck Stanford

Ryan Mallett Arkansas

Cam Newton Auburn

RUNNING BACKS:

Mark Ingram Alabama

LaMichael James Oregon

Shane Vereen California

Ryan Williams Virginia Tech

TIGHT ENDS:

Kyle Rudolph Notre Dame

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Johnathan Baldwin Pittsburgh

Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State

Ryan Broyles Oklahoma

Michael Floyd Notre Dame

A.J. Green Georgia

Julio Jones Alabama

Marvin McNutt Iowa

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN:

Tackles:

Matt Reynolds BYU

Tyron Smith USC

CORNERS:

Brandon Harris Miami

Janoris Jenkins Florida

Patrick Peterson LSU

Aaron Williams Texas

SAFETIES:

Mark Barron Alabama

Will Hill Florida

Rahim Moore UCLA

LINEBACKERS:

Travis Lewis Oklahoma

Don’ta Hightower Alabama

Akeem Ayers UCLA

Jerry Franklin Arkansas

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN:

Ends:

Da’Quan Bowers Clemson

Marcell Dareus Alabama

Robert Quinn North Carolina

Aldon Smith Missouri

J.J. Watts Wisconsin

Tackles:

Nick Fairley Auburn

Jared Crick Nebraska

Jurrell Casey USC

The bottom line, Underclassmen have a huge effect on the yearly draft in the early rounds. During ’95-’10 window, 2515 prospects were drafted, and of those picks 18.8% were Underclassmen.