During my 15 years in the NFL, each year the juniors have made a huge impact in the first round of the draft. The 2011 draft had a record 56 underclassman announce their intention to forgo their remaining NCAA eligibility, declaring themselves for inclusion in the draft. Each year this number grows despite the NFL and NCAA working together to keep the overall numbers from rising too high and hurting college football across the nation. The 2012 number has hit a record high of 65 underclassmen saying goodbye to college football.

In order for underclassmen to be eligible for the draft, they must be out of high school for at least three years. They submit their names to the NFL league office along with the blessing of the college head coach, athletics director or pro liaison. The NFL committee I sat on for eight years has three different members evaluate a single underclassman, reviewing at least three tapes of their best games submitted by them and attaches a grade upon completion. All data and information including grade transfer is done via a NFL league office computer program.

When the Carolina Panthers selected junior Cam Newton in the 2011 draft, it marked the third straight draft where the first overall player selected was an underclassman. Underclassmen were first eligible to be drafted in 1990. Last April, eight of the first 10 players chosen where underclassmen, which broke the record of six set in 1997 and matched in 2006. Jake Locker and Von Miller were the only two seniors among the first 10 draftees in the 2011 draft class.

Following are the 65 underclassmen eligible for the draft:

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

CB

Louisiana State

Cox, Fletcher

DT

Mississippi State

DeCastro, David

OG

Stanford

Eure, Tiree

TE

Minnesota

Forston, Marcus

DT

Miami

Gilmore, Stephon

CB

South Carolina

Givens, Chris

WR

Wake Forest

Graham, Dorian

WR

Syracuse

Griffin, Robert

QB

Baylor

Hampton, Jewel

RB

Southern Illinois

Harris, Cliff

CB

Oregon

Hightower, Dont’a

LB

Alabama

Hill, Stephen

WR

Georgia Tech

Hillman, Ronnie

RB

San Diego State

Holloway, Max

DE

Boston College

Hosley, Jayron

CB

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

OT

Southern California

Kirkpatrick, Dre

CB

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

OT

Stanford

Massie, Bobby

OT

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

OG

Purdue

Poe, Dontari

DT

Memphis

Randle, Rueben

WR

Louisiana State

Reiff, Riley

OT

Iowa

Richardson, Trent

RB

Alabama

Robinson, Josh

CB

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

OT

Miami

Wilson, David

RB

Virginia Tech

Worthy, Jerel

DT

Michigan State