Alabama S Vinnie Sunseri
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft has come and gone, and the list of players moving on to Sundays is quite substantial.
A record 95 underclassmen decided to forgo their remaining college eligibility and declare for the NFL draft, with 27 of those being SEC players, according to Mike Herndon of AL.com.
Some of those early entrants are obvious like former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, both of whom are slated to go in the top five by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and top seven by B/R's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller.
Others? Perhaps not so much.
Which players from the SEC made mistakes by jumping early to the NFL?
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri
The deadline has passed, and Sunseri has yet to make his decision official through the Alabama athletics department, but multiple sources including AL.com and ESPN's Joe Schad indicate that the junior safety for the Crimson Tide is leaving Tuscaloosa.
The obvious next question is "why?"
Sunseri tore his ACL against Arkansas on Oct. 19 and missed the final six-plus games of the season.
When he was in there, he was a stud.
He had 20 tackles, one tackle for loss, four pass breakups and two interceptions—both of which he returned for touchdowns. But coming off of an ACL injury with such a small sample size for NFL scouts to work off of from 2013, it seems a bit premature for Sunseri to leave.
Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer explained his rationale.
On Vinnie Sunseri, Landon Collins is set at SS so unless VS feels he can play/start at FS, coming back doesn't improve his stock.— Marquavius Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) January 12, 2014
Sure, head coach Nick Saban would have had some shuffling to do had Sunseri stayed, but he's too good of a player not to find his way to the field.
Florida linebacker Ronald Powell
Ronald Powell's decision to move on from Florida is another case of a player leaving with money still on the table.
He came to Florida as the top player in the 2010 class, according to 247Sports.com, and showed signs of living up to that hype during his true sophomore season in 2011, notching 32 tackles, nine for loss and six sacks as Florida's BUCK linebacker/defensive end.
An ACL injury took him out of action in 2012, and he fought injuries as an outside linebacker in 2013. Rather than risking another injury, Powell chose to move on.
"This hasn't been an easy decision because this is a tough place to walk away from -- but really you never walk away from being a Gator," Powell said according to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. "I never thought it would be this hard to make this decision -- most people think it's easy -- go for the money."
Powell was one of several Gator defenders who fought through injuries in 2013. He's slated as a fourth- to sixth-round pick by WalterFootball.com and ranked 171st in CBSSports.com's prospect rankings.
Sure, coming back to college would have placed Powell at risk for another injury. Is that a risk worth taking? It's hard to say, but his draft stock would surely soar had he played another year in Gainesville and stayed healthy.
South Carolina cornerback Vic Hampton
If you can go get your money in the NFL, you get it whenever the opportunity. But Victor Hampton may have been better served sticking around South Carolina for his senior season because there could have been a pot of gold waiting for him at the end of the 2014 season.
Don't get me wrong, Hampton was solid as a junior, picking off three passes and tallying 51 tackles, nine pass breakups and five tackles for loss. That's good enough for a third-round grade according to WalterFootball.com.
Not bad, but it could be much better.
Hampton was the Gamecocks' top cover corner in 2013 but was inconsistent at times, was suspended for the first half against Georgia and removed from the starting lineup versus Arkansas.
A third-round grade is probably his floor. Another year with some more polish and Hampton could have cashed in at the 2015 NFL draft.