15 Best College Football Stars Who Declared Early for 2013 NFL Draft

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJanuary 15, 2013

15 Best College Football Stars Who Declared Early for 2013 NFL Draft

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    The deadline to leave school early and become eligible for the 2013 NFL draft has passed by. Guys have either made the decision to enjoy college life for another year or they will test the waters at the next level and begin playing football for a hefty paycheck. If any player was still pondering this decision, it looks like their mind has already been made up by the deadline passing.

    But now with the list official with who is staying and who is leaving, who are some of the best college football players that decided that college was no longer for them?

    This season’s list is quite lengthy, and there are many guys who dominated college football over the years who have made the decision to bolt for the NFL. In fact, a whopping total of 74 underclassmen have decided to leave school a year early, which beats last year's record of 65.

    With a bunch of amazing talent to choose from, here are the Top 15 college football stars who have declared early for the upcoming draft. 

15. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

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    What He Did in College: Cordarrelle Patterson was a 5-star JUCO transfer who only played one season with the Tennessee Volunteers. Still, despite being the second best receiver on the team, he finished the year with 46 receptions for 778 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He was also effective running the football and was valuable on special teams for the Volunteers. He earned All-SEC first team honors.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Patterson is an athletic player who brings great height to the table at 6'3", 200-plus pounds. He is a physical receiver, but also has the ability to get down field in a hurry and help contribute in many different ways with his quickness. He is an intelligent player, with a great work ethic and somebody who will compete for a starting job the second he is drafted.

    Draft Projection: Second round.

14. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

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    What He Did in College: Tyler Eifert was the best receiving target for Notre Dame last year and was productive throughout his three year career. He holds the single-season school record for receptions (53) and receiving yards (803). Eifert also won the John Mackey Award last season, which is given out to the best tight end in college football.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Eifert is somebody who can line up all over the field from outside wide receiver to the slot position. Much like a wide receiver, he has excellent body control for somebody who is 6'5", 252 pounds, and he catches nearly anything and everything thrown his way. He is not much of a productive blocker, but is somebody who would provide an NFL team with a sure-handed option on the offensive side of the ball.

    Draft Projection: First to second round.

13. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

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    What He Did in College: Xavier Rhodes finished his career at Florida State with eight interceptions and broke up a total of 23 passes. In 2010, Rhodes was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a consensus freshman All-American.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Much like many of the guys who come out of Florida State, Rhodes is an athletic player who likes to get physical. He wants to put his hands on you once the ball is snapped and he likes to knock receivers off their routes. While Rhodes is solid in coverage, he is best known for his ball skills and playmaking ability. Being a wide receiver in college, Rhodes is somebody who can make a quarterback pay with a bad throw.

    Draft Projection: First round.

12. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

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    What He Did in College: The first two seasons as a full-time starting right tackle (missed some of the 2010 season due to injury), D.J. Fluker helped his team win back-to-back national championships. Last season he was a second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Due to the lack of athleticism and ability to handle speedy defensive ends in the SEC, Fluker may end up being forced to move to the guard position. However, with his combination of size and power, the former Alabama lineman is terrific at opening up running lanes and has good instincts on the field. Fluker is also somebody who works his tail off and will give you 100 percent on every play.

    Draft Projection: First round.

11. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

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    What He Did in College: Sheldon Richardson finished second on the team with 75 tackles his junior year, which was better than any other defensive tackle in the SEC. Just for good measure, Richardson also had 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and four sacks.

    What He Brings to the NFL: The thing that stands out with Richardson is his quickness off the ball and how he is able to change direction for somebody who is 6'2", 290 pounds. When you combine that athleticism with his motor and effort he puts onto the field, you end up with a very valuable player. Richardson isn't the best pass rusher at defensive end, but is an above-average run defender.

    Draft Projection: First round.

10. Matt Elam, S, Florida

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    What He Did in College: Matt Elam finished second on the Florida Gators team in tackles the last two years. His junior year was his best yet, as he also had four interceptions, 11 tackles for loss and broke up five passes. His performance was good enough to make him a first-team All-American.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Elam may not go as high as he should, but just watch some of his tape and you will see why scouts should be all over this kid. There isn't anybody in this class as physical as he is, as Elam consistently delivers bone crushing hits and seems to always be in on the action with his terrific instincts. Elam still needs to improve in coverage, but with his athletic ability and physicality, this is someone who can add toughness to a struggling defense.

    Draft Projection: First to second round.

9. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

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    What He Did in College: Sam Montgomery led the LSU Tigers in sacks in each of the last two seasons. He was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2011 and finished his three-year career with 19 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Montgomery looks like that future great pass rusher at the next level. He has the great size at 6'5", 260 pounds, flies off the snap and he has enough speed to give an offensive lineman more than they can handle. However, Montgomery is more than a pass-rusher, with his long and rangy frame; he is also fabulous against the run. He locates the ball well and has no problem with laying out the ball carrier when given the opportunity.

    Draft Projection: First to second round.

8. Keenan Allen, WR, California

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    What He Did in College: Keenan Allen has been the top receiving target for the California Golden Bears the last two seasons, while finishing No. 2 back in 2010. He finished his three-year career with 205 receptions, 2,570 yards and he hauled in 17 touchdowns. Allen was also effective running the ball as well throughout his career.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Allen is going to be a tough cover at 6'3" and with his ability to go up and get the football. He isn't a burner that would have put his draft stock over the top, but he has underrated quickness and is scary after he catches the ball. Allen has terrific hands and is somebody who has no problem making those tough catches across the middle. He isn't a freakish athlete like many top receivers before him, but is productive and sure-handed.

    Draft Projection: First round.

7. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

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    What He Did in College: Johnathan Hankins wasn't as productive stat wise as one might think with his overall ability. He struggled with his weight throughout his career at Ohio State. However, he was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2011 and finished his career with 15.5 tackles for loss.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Hankins is that big boy in the middle that every dominant defensive line needs to have. At 6'3", 320 pounds, the defensive tackle has a wide frame that clogs running lanes and usually demands double teams. But even with his massive frame, Hankins moves surprisingly well and gets off the ball quick for a guy his size. If your NFL team struggled to stop the run, this is the guy you want.

    Draft Projection: First round.

6. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

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    What He Did in College: Barkevious Mingo was that other relentless defensive for LSU, as he came off the edge along with Sam Montgomery. Mingo finished his career with 14 sacks and was a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2010 and a second-team All-SEC selection in 2011.

    What He Brings to the NFL: The reason Mingo is higher than his former teammate is because he has the ability to play multiple positions. While he has the speed to explode off the ball at defensive end, due to more of his tweener frame, Mingo can play that hybrid linebacker role for an NFL defense. Mingo uses his hands well and is one of the best pass rushers this draft will feature.

    Draft Projection: First round.

5. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

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    What He Did in College: Dee Milliner was the best defender in the Alabama secondary and helped the Crimson Tide win two straight national championships. He finished his career with 36 broken up passes, six interceptions and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award last season.

    What He Brings to the NFL: If you want the best cornerback in this year’s draft, look no further than Milliner. He has great awareness and instincts of what is going on at all times. This isn't somebody who is just great in coverage; Milliner is also terrific in run support, as he had 54 tackles last year, 34 of which were solo. He is a physical player who will help out a defense in more ways than one.

    Draft Projection: First round.

4. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

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    What He Did in College: There wasn't much Jarvis Jones didn't do in college, as he racked up 28 sacks in two years at Georgia and was named a first-team All-American twice. The two years at Georgia, Jones led the SEC in sacks.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Jones is arguably the best pass-rusher in this draft. He simply knows how to get to the quarterback and his relentless pursuit on the ball carrier makes him an effective outside linebacker prospect. He has explosive speed off the edge and is about as sure of a tackler as you are going to find. Jones still needs to improve as a run defender, but he remains one of the best playmakers on defense this draft has seen in a while.

    Draft Projection: First round.

3. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

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    What He Did in College: Damontre Moore was an effective player his first two seasons at Texas A&M, but was even better his junior year when the school entered the SEC. Moore led the Aggies last season with 85 tackles and finished third in the SEC with 12.5 sacks.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Moore is a valuable prospect to any NFL team, as he has experience playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and he has played defensive end in a 4-3. Much like Jarvis Jones, Moore is known for his top-notch pass rushing ability, but he is also solid in run support. Moore has a high motor and with his ability to play sideline-to-sideline, this is somebody who could instantly become that next great defensive player.

    Draft Projection: First round.

2. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

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    What He Did in College: Bjoern Werner led the ACC last season with 13 sacks and was a Consensus All-American. In his three-year career at Florida State, Werner finished with 23.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.

    What He Brings to the NFL: For somebody who was born in Germany and hasn't played the game very long, Werner sure makes a lot of these prospects look inferior. This isn't somebody who is going to blow you away with his athleticism or natural ability. However, Werner does all of the little things right by using his hands well and unleashing a relentless motor. He has a quick first step that allows him to get to the quarterback and he is excellent against the run. Overall, Werner is a very solid prospect and you wonder what his upside may be once he continues to understand the game more.

    Draft Projection: First round.

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

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    What He Did in College: Was the centerpiece to a Texas A&M offensive line that helped Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy. Luke Joeckel was also a Consensus All-American last season and won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football.

    What He Brings to the NFL: Anything you are looking for in the next great left tackle, Luke Joeckel has it. He isn't considered much of a power blocker that is going to overwhelm a defender with great strength, but Joeckel does have quick feet to help seal the edge and his pass protection is top-notch. Joeckel also has great awareness and uses his hands well to keep defenders from blowing by him. He is arguably the best overall prospect in this entire draft.

    Draft Projection: First round.