Record 65 underclassmen apply for NFL Draft

Record 65 underclassmen apply for NFL Draft

Published Jan. 19, 2012 1:18 p.m. ET

A record-breaking 65 underclassmen have been granted special eligibility for the 2012 NFL Draft in the official list released by the league Thursday. The previous high was 56 last year.

So much for the theory that less lucrative contracts for high draft picks would curtail the mass exodus of young players into the NFL.

Prominent among the list, of course, is Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and a host of other supremely talented underclassmen.

While college coaches are likely bemoaning the loss of so many talented players, NFL teams couldn't be happier. Frankly, this was an average senior class at most positions and the underclassmen have greatly improved the talent level.

In fact, if one were to go group by group, they'd find that an underclassmen ranks at the top of 10 of the 15 offensive and defensive positions on's board. An even greater testament to the impact underclassmen will have on this draft class, consider that of the highest ranked 11 prospects graded by, 10 are underclassmen. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, currently ranked eighth overall, is the exception. Following Still and North Carolina's Quinton Coples, however, are four underclassmen -- each of whom could be first-round picks.

Besides the players already known to be leaving school early, there were a few surprises on the NFL's official list. One, Miami wide receiver Aldarius Johnson, I saw at the NFLPA all-star practices this week in Carson, Calif. The others are Texas running back Jamison Berryhill, Kansas State running back Bryce Brown, Minnesota tight end Tiree Eure, Syracuse wide receiver Dorian Graham, Purdue guard Ken Plue, Oklahoma State defensive back Johnny Thomas, and Syracuse defensive back Phillip Thomas.

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for, distributed by The Sports Xchange