When the 2015 draft commences in late April, the incoming class of players with expired college eligibility will be enhanced by 86 players who had remaining years of play in the NCAA.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, 76 players applied for “special eligibility” (i.e., at least three years removed from high school graduation) and 10 players who will be graduating but who have remaining eligibility.
The total for 2015 represents a sharp drop from 2014, when a record 102 players opted for early entry to the draft. Of those, 98 were not due to graduate.
The 2015 numbers remain higher than the total for 2013, when 73 applied for “special eligibility” and six early graduates entered the draft.
The number of underclassmen requesting an official NFL pre-draft evaluation fell from 214 in 2013 to 149 in 2014. While some may see this as players making more informed decisions about their futures, others could interpret the decline as fewer players choosing to factor the NFL’s assessment into their final decision.
According to the source, there were six official first-round evaluations this year, and all six players declared. Of 20 second-round evaluations, 14 entered the draft.
Of the 149 underclassmen who were evaluated, 123 of them were advised to stay in school (which apparently is the advice given to players not pegged for rounds one or two). Thirty-three of them ignored the advice.
The numbers won’t be official until Monday, because all players who applied for early eligibility have until Sunday night to change their minds. Although the official NFL evaluation process is far from perfect, those who received a recommendation to stay in school had better feel good about their chances to be drafted and/or to stick on a roster in 2015, especially if one more year of college would have made them better prepared to earn one of the 2,016 spots available on active rosters and practice squads.