Of the 335 players invited to this month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, a record 85 of them will be underclassmen. The record number of underclassmen invitees is not surprising, considering there are a record 98 underclassmen who have been accepted into the 2014 NFL Draft, per Frank Cooney of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com.
Virtually every player headlining this year’s draft, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is an underclassmen. Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater all decided to leave school early, and all three are widely projected to be the first three quarterbacks taken in the draft.
At the wide receiver position, essentially every projected first round pick will be an underclassmen. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins leads that group of wideouts that includes Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson, among others.
Defensively, the biggest name is underclassman Jadeveon Clowney, who is a surefire top five pick and would’ve gone first overall in 2013 if the rules allowed him to leave after his sophomore season. However, first round linebacker prospects Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and C.J. Mosley are on a short list of seniors projected to go in the top half of Round 1.
The record number of underclassmen in the 2014 Combine just continues a trend that we’ve known for some time. College players who are told they’re NFL-ready are leaving school early at an increasingly high rate, and it’ll be no surprise if the number of underclassmen present at next year’s combine reaches triple digits.