Whenever a player becomes draft eligible, I like to look at each player on an individual basis. Each case presents a unique set of circumstances.
Some players are better served to stay for their senior year. Take Tim Tebow, for example. Besides Myron Rolle, Tebow is the epitome of what you want in a college athlete.
He is a smart, hard-nosed, enthusiastic football player who is a natural leader. No other player in college football has more of an ability to lead a group of young men to victory.
The problem for Tebow is that there is an overall consensus that he is no better than a third round pick.
Many don't see him as an NFL quarterback. Mel Kiper Jr. projects Tebow as an H-back.
Even if Tebow has a sub-par senior season, his draft status for 2010 shouldn't be affected much. He is already so accomplished—one Heisman trophy and two national titles—that he has guaranteed himself as at least a mid-round draft selection.
Three time zones and nearly 2,500 miles away, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez made the decision to declare for the NFL draft.
Regardless of what Pete Carroll says or may say, Mark Sanchez made the right decision to come out early for the NFL draft.
He is projected as a top-10 draft pick and could easily go in the top five. He will make millions in guaranteed money.
Unlike Tebow, Sanchez could have seriously jeopardized his draft stock if he played college ball in 2009.
If Sanchez had decided to return to USC, he would be giving scouts more of an opportunity to find faults in his game.
His relatively few number of starts may serve to his advantage. Another 13 college starts might expose his weaknesses and scare NFL front office personnel from investing a lot of money in him.
If he had decided to come back for his senior season at USC, he would be competing against guys like Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford for NFL millions. Their resumes are equal to or better than Sanchez's.
Who knows who else will emerge next season as top-five prospects?
Take it from his buddy Matt Leinart.
In hindsight, Leinart would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft. He was coming off a national title season in which he also won the Heisman trophy.
Leinart decided to stay at USC for his senior year. Though not his fault, his team lost an epic national title bout against Vince Young's Texas Longhorns.
The competition for the top spot in the 2005 draft was not very stiff. He would have easily beat out Alex Smith. Instead, he competed against the likes of Vince Young, Mario Williams, and Reggie Bush.
Leinart's decision to return for a fifth collegiate season dropped him to No. 10 in the draft and cost him an estimated $10 million in guaranteed money.
As it appears to be the case with Leinart, the rookie contract is the biggest contract of professional athletes.
I don't know how well Sanchez did academically, but it looks like he got an A in this history lesson.