NFL Draft 2012: 7 Underclassmen Who Made Monumental Mistakes Declaring

Hal NicholsCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: 7 Underclassmen Who Made Monumental Mistakes Declaring

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    Every year, a few dozen collegiate underclassmen decide to forgo the remainder of their NCAA eligibility in favor of entering the NFL draft.  For some, like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, the early jump to the professional level is a fairly straightforward decision.  If you know you will be picked in the first round, the lure of making millions is often to much to resist, especially when it means taking another season of injury risk, which could devastate their career prospects later on.

    However, other players decide to make the jump for reasons that baffle the rest of us.  Perhaps, with the assistance of an overzealous agent, they vastly overestimate their own draft stock.  Or maybe they have discipline or academic issues that cause them to wear out their welcome at their respective universities.  Regardless of the reason, inevitably each year there are players who make a major blunder when they jump early that can derail their NFL career before it even gets started.

    Click through the slideshow to see seven underclassmen who have made a major error in judgement by declaring early for the 2012 NFL draft

Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon

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    Perhaps the most ridiculous early commitment of the entire group is Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas.  On the one hand, he has a chance to stay at Oregon and compete in a system that is perfect for his personal playing style, challenge USC for the Pac-12 title and potentially even compete for a national championship.  

    Or, he can throw himself into a league that may not even give him a shot at playing his college position.  There has been some discussion even of moving him to WR.  The problem with that is he's going to have an incredibly tough time selling himself at that position, too, as the market for slim, totally inexperienced WRs who run the 40 in the mid-4.5s is impossibly small.

    The smart move, obviously, was to come back for another season and try to work on polishing his mechanics and and improving his accuracy.  Instead, he may not even get drafted.

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

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    Granted, Nick Perry is probably going to be drafted by the mid-second round at the latest this year, barring something unforeseen between now and April.  However, Perry is seriously jumping the gun and could potentially be costing himself millions of dollars over his first few seasons in the NFL.

    With USC fresh off its bowl game probation, the Trojans will come into the 2012 seasons with as much championship hype as any program outside of the SEC.  With the kind of exposure he could get by performing at an elite level for a championship contender, Perry could very possibly enter the 2013 draft as a top-15 level prospect.

    While Perry may not be making a massive blunder, being picked in the top 15 would net him roughly twice as much money over the life of his first contract as being drafted in the late first or early second round.  When you can compete at the highest level of NCAA football, while also doubling your market value, leaving early makes little to no sense.

Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

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    Vontaze Burfict's decision is a bad one in the same way the Nick Perry's is, but for different reasons.  Burfict has all the physical tools to be the No. 1 ILB prospect in the draft, both this year or next year.  However, he's coming off a season where he picked up countless stupid penalties and experienced a serious regression in his on-field performance, recording fewer than 70 tackles and only one forced turnover.

    Burfict is physical beast, but he single-handedly hung red flags all over himself this season, causing questions about his discipline, work ethic and general intelligence as a football player.  A team will eventually not be able to resist his physical gifts, but another season of college and gaining some maturity, while reminding people what a force he can be, could have pushed him into the discussion as a top-10 pick in 2013.

Donte Paige-Moss, DE, UNC

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    When it comes to Donte Paige-Moss making bad decisions, declaring early for the draft is only the tip of the iceberg.  For those unfamiliar with Mr. Paige-Moss, he's the brilliant young man who decided to use Twitter to firebomb his coaches, UNC fans and the city of Shreveport, La. during the immediate aftermath of the beatdown Missouri laid on him and his team at the Independence Bowl this season.

    So in a lot of ways his entrance into the draft was all but assured, as it's very unlikely UNC would want anything to do with him were he to try and return.  Unfortunately for him, Paige-Moss is coming off a torn ACL in that bowl game, so you can add injury concerns and a total inability to improve his draft stock during workouts to his obvious character flaws.  

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

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    Orson Charles is a really interesting player to choose to come out early.  On the one hand, he had a solid season in 2011, showing the ability to make big plays down the field.  However, he's also unlikely to chart any higher than third or fourth among tight ends on a team's draft board, which really begs the question of why he decided to rush out.  

    Charles is easily the smallest of all the highly regarded tight ends in the draft, lacking both the prototypical height and bulk that almost every NFL tight end possesses.  It seems like Charles could have really done himself a favor with an additional season to prove himself as downfield receiving threat, as his blocking abilities will like be marginal at best at the NFL level.

Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State

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    Brock Osweiler is likely leaving Arizona State because he is wary of how dealing with a coaching transition at ASU could complicate his development and affect his draft status.  While that line of thinking certainly has merit, one really has to wonder why a guy who isn't even a top-five or -six prospect at his own position would rush into the NFL draft.

    Osweiler has one thing going for him, though, and that's his NFL-caliber arm strength.  But any team drafting him probably wouldn't expect him to contribute for several years, so that means he will go somewhere in the mid rounds at best.  Again, what's the rush?  One more solid season in college and he could conceivably have been a top-three QB prospect in 2013. As is, he's probably looking a fourth-round grade. 

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

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    Unlike the rest of the players in this slideshow, Montee Ball is making a terrible decision by not declaring for the 2012 NFL draft.  Coming off a massively impressive 2011 season, Ball should absolutely have taken the leap into the NFL and cashed in on his great season.  Ball finished the season with more than 330 touches, and there is no reason to think he will see a lighter work load in 2012 given Wisconsin's offensive tendencies.  

    Ball is risking major injury by coming back for another 300-plus-touch season at Wisconsin.  Hopefully everything will work out for Ball, as it would be incredibly unfortunate to see his young career get short-circuited because he decided to come back for his senior year.  I wish Ball all the best, but the risk he is taking is puzzling to say the least.