NFL Draft History: 10 Worst Decisions to Leave School Early

Brandon Alisoglu@@BrandonAlisogluCorrespondent IApril 23, 2012

NFL Draft History: 10 Worst Decisions to Leave School Early

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    Every year, multiple underclassmen declare for the NFL draft for a variety of reasons. Some of these players do so prematurely.

    The players on this list all left college early. Each one could have used at least one more year with the structure and atmosphere for growth that only a college can provide.

    It's difficult to handle the pressures of a professional athlete when you haven't matured into a responsible adult.

    Here's a look back at 10 players who could have used just a little more seasoning before jumping to the next level. 

Maurice Clarett, Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Maurice Clarett was born to become an Ohio State Buckeyes legend. He entered college as one of the most highly publicized recruits in the nation.

    Clarett quickly proved those reports accurate as he barnstormed the Big Ten. He was a key component of OSU's national title team and made several big plays in the championship game.

    Unfortunately, Clarett's personal life was a mess. Multiple incidents led to the school being forced to suspend him for the entire 2003 season after he was charged for filing a false police report. 

    The running back decided to challenge the NFL's three-years-from-high-school rule. Basically, you cannot enter the league until you are three years removed from high school.

    While Clarett's attorneys convinced a judge of his case at the District Court level, the United States Court of Appeals told him he would have to wait. 

    Clarett did get drafted the next year, but his life had spiraled too far out of control. He was out of the league shortly thereafter.

    He will forever be a question of "what if" in the fans' minds.

Charles Rogers, Michigan State

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    Charles Rogers appeared to be a sure thing. 

    During his three years with the Michigan State Spartans, he set the school career record for most touchdown catches with 27, won the Fred Biletnikoff award and was generally unstoppable.

    There appeared to be little chance he would flame out at the next level. However, there were deeper psychological issues that would eventually derail him.

    It's impossible to know if another year in college would have helped. In fact, another year of smoke-blowing may have caused further negative effects.

    Yet, if he had been given an opportunity to work through his issues in college, he would have had a better chance. The pressures of living up to No. 2 overall pick status can be daunting when you're not focused.  

JaMarcus Russell, LSU Tigers

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    JaMarcus Russell's story is a cautionary one. He's a prime example of too much talent and success getting to one's head before he has matured enough to handle the trappings.

    Russell put together a stellar career at LSU. He brought home the Manning Award, was a Davey O'Brien semifinalist and was named to the All-SEC first team.

    His efforts at the NFL Scouting Combine are what set him apart. Russell showed off the type of arm strength that causes scouts' jaws to drop.

    The Oakland Raiders were hard pressed to pass up the gunslinger with the first overall pick. 

    Russell never seemed comfortable with the pressure that was being heaped on him, and he turned to drugs. 

    After holding out his rookie year, he never caught up. The Raiders eventually released him after a string of off-the-field incidents mixed with poor production on the field. 

Kenny Britt, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    This selection will probably be the most controversial. That doesn't mean it is without merit.

    Kenny Britt had an excellent career at Rutgers. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman and finished his college stint as a third-team All-American wide receiver. 

    Britt has performed admirably during his professional tenure. In 2010, he caught nine touchdown passes despite only hauling in 42 receptions.

    The problem for Britt has been maturity. He has now been arrested twice, and both occurred within the span of a few months.

    The first arrest is the most troublesome as he led the police on a car chase before succumbing to authority.

    There's plenty of time for Britt to change the ending to his story and here's hoping that he's currently on the right path. However, one has to wonder if this all could have been avoided with another year in the college structure.  

Ryan Leaf, Washington State Cougars

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    This list could not be compiled without Ryan Leaf. His story started out with great potential and now becomes more sad with each passing arrest.

    In 1998, there was a seemingly legitimate debate about whether the Indianapolis Colts should select Leaf or Peyton Manning. The Colts chose Manning's intangibles over Leaf's measurables.

    The rest of the tale followed the same suit.

    Leaf started out poorly by skipping the last day of the rookie symposium (resulting in a $10,000 fine) and held out for a couple days. He then followed these actions up with inferior play.

    The young signal-caller was never able to handle the pressure of being selected just behind Manning. Whether before or after that catastrophic stretch, Leaf turned to prescription drugs.

    He's currently awaiting a Texas court's decision regarding his probation after he was arrested twice within two days

Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Michael Crabtree had an outstanding career at Texas Tech. He won back-to-back Fred Biletnikoff Awards and was named to multiple All-American teams during his two years on the field.

    When Crabtree announced that he would forego his remaining two years of eligibility, there was little doubt regarding his physical ability at the next level.

    Yet, few could know that he would not be ready to mentally handle it.

    Crabtree had to have a screw inserted into his foot prior to the combine. This event preceded him slipping to the San Francisco 49ers at the No. 10 spot in the 2009 NFL draft.

    Then things started to turn ugly. 

    He held out until the first week of October and never hit his stride. Perhaps, if he had stayed in college one more year, he would have had the maturity to utilize his draft-day fall as fuel.

Lawrence Phillips, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Lawrence Phillips was a one-man wrecking crew during his tenure with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    He just couldn't limit the devastation to the field.

    Phillips began his odyssey with the law and the media shortly after a game against the Michigan State Spartans. He was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and suspended from the team.

    He was later reinstated and shared the football with Ahman Green as they led the Cornhuskers to a national title. 

    After the season, Phillips declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, and nothing went well afterwards. Had he stayed within the structure of the program, there's a possibility that things may have turned out differently.

    He's currently serving a 31-year sentence in a California prison for assault. 

Tim Worley, Georgia Bulldogs

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    Tim Worley is a player few will remember now except for the Georgia Bulldogs faithful. 

    He wasted little time after arriving in Athens establishing himself as a future star. As a freshman, he led the team with 10 touchdowns.

    He continued his stellar play and was named a first-team All-American as well as the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in his junior season.

    After being selected in the first round, he never reached his potential.

    Worley had a mediocre rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was eventually traded to the Chicago Bears. However, prior to the trade he battled injuries and was suspended for missing drug tests. 

    Shortly thereafter, he began to rack up the arrests, and the Bears had to cut him loose.

Andre Smith, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Andre Smith has developed into decent starting tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals

    It just took a little longer than expected.

    Smith was a stud for the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

    He had just won the Outland Trophy and was named to the All-American team in 2008. Nobody questioned his value as a first-round pick.

    Yet, the warning bells began to sound when he was suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl for alleged inappropriate dealings with an agent.

    Then Smith arrived at the NFL combine out of shape and ran the 40-yard dash shirtless. The lack of shame was somewhat scary.

    Smith followed up these actions by holding out for roughly a month. He was injured during his rookie campaign and failed to make an impact.

    Smith has since gotten it together and become an effective NFL player. He's the epitome of a player coming out one year too early and then turning it all around.

Adam Jones, West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Adam "Pac-Man" Jones has had a turbulent NFL career. 

    Jones didn't start out that way. At West Virginia, he was a standout cornerback and punt returner who flashed serious NFL potential.

    He was even named the defensive secondary captain during his junior year.

    Unfortunately, Jones' immaturity would cost him dearly upon his entry into the league.

    The Tennessee Titans selected him sixth overall despite off-the-field problems and were burned for taking the risk. Jones promptly held out and was arrested prior to the start of his first training camp.

    He would continue to run afoul of the law so often that the Titans, and eventually, the Dallas Cowboys, had no choice but to part ways with the once-promising defensive back.

    One incident at a Las Vegas strip club resulted in Jones being charged with two felonies in connection with a shooting.

    Jones is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals and is nine months removed from his latest arrest.