The NFL draft is both a culmination of hard work and a commencement of new challenges for the top players in college football, and several of them will have an opportunity to experience it on the big stage in Chicago.
A confirmed list of attendees for the 2015 NFL draft released Tuesday features many of the elite prospects expected to be selected in the first round on April 30.
Here is a full rundown of the players who will don the colors of their new teams at Auditorium Theatre, as NFL director of NFC football communications Randall Liu tweeted:
NFL Network's Gil Brant added two more names to the list on Wednesday, as Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith and Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi will also be in attendance.
While many high-profile players will certainly be attendance, much of the recent talk has focused on who won't be present in Chicago.
According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, Florida State quarterback and potential No. 1 overall selection Jameis Winston opted against making the trip so that he could spend the day with his grandmother:
Jameis Winston says he’s not going to the draft partly because his grandmother, with type-2 diabetes, can’t travel.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 31, 2015
Although it is rare for a top pick to not to attend the draft, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that he doesn't take issue with Winston's decision, per The MMQB's Peter King (h/t NFL.com's Mike Huguenin).
"I'm not concerned with that," Goodell said. "I think that it's something we respect when a player says, 'I'd like to be with my family on that day.' It's an important day for them also."
In addition to Winston, Oregon signal-caller Marcus Mariota declined the opportunity to be present when his name is called in favor of staying home in Hawaii, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Marcus Mariota told NFL it is important to him, personally and culturally, to be in Hawaii to celebrate next step in life. No draft for him.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 31, 2015
Mariota is also expected to be among the first few players off the board. He looks to be in play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1 and the Tennessee Titans at No. 2.
Should Winston and Mariota be the first two players selected, it will certainly make for an interesting start to the draft, as Goodell would not have anyone to greet walking across the stage until potentially the third pick.
While some may feel like Winston and Mariota have a responsibility to appear, CBS Sports' Dane Brugler is among those who think otherwise:
Somewhere someone is bashing them for it, but good for Winston and Mariota, choosing to spend the NFL Draft with family. Good for them.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 31, 2015
Even without Winston and Mariota showing their faces, though, there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the prospects who will attend the draft, especially since the first round as a whole is far from clear-cut.
The likes of West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Florida pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. could all become elite players at the NFL level but have some question marks attached to them as well.
This year's draft is stacked with talent, which should make for an entertaining first round regardless of who is actually in the building.
Seeing the draftees in their new gear is always exciting and will be just one of many things to look forward to in what promises to be an unpredictable draft.
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