College Football 2011: 10 Juniors Who Are Locks for the NFL Draft
Last season, Andrew Luck shocked the country when he announced that he would stay at Stanford for another season even though he was guaranteed to be the No.1 pick in the draft.
That decision has hurt underclassmen in the past (i.e., Jake Locker, who was slotted in as the No. 1 overall pick two seasons ago but decided to stay at Washington for another season).
This season, it is Matt Barkley's turn to make the tough decision. The junior has come on strong late in the season and has likely put himself in the mix to be a Top 10 pick—but with USC's postseason ban lifted next season and all the young talent on the Trojans squad, Barkley may choose to return to chase the BCS National Championship.
Some underclassmen will ultimately return to school for another season, but others will see the potential to make millions in the NFL and forgo their eligibility as an amateur athlete.
Andrew Luck, Stanford
There is virtually no chance Andrew Luck, a redshirt junior, will return for his senior season of eligibility and pass up the chance to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft a second year in a row.
Luck is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and will likely play in a BCS bowl game. Short of a national championship, there isn't much left for Luck to accomplish in college football.
He owns many of Stanford's all-time passing records, including touchdowns (he passed John Elway in his last game)—it is time for the college stud to take his game to the next level.
Trent Richardson, Alabama
The junior Heisman Trophy candidate has had a breakout season in his first year as the feature back for Alabama, with Mark Ingram now in the NFL, and will likely be a Top 15 pick in the NFL Draft in April.
When you play the running back position, you need to get to the NFL as soon as possible, with the shelf life of running backs being so short. There are only so many miles on Richardson's legs and he might as well put good use to them in the NFL.
There is slim to no chance of Richardson returning to the Crimson Tide, as there are too many things that could go wrong to ruin his potential career in the NFL.
Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina
After the quarterbacks that have thrown him the ball, Alshon Jeffrey probably cannot wait to get the heck out of South Carolina and make the jump to the NFL.
Jeffrey has the size and skill set that NFL scouts drool about and he could very well be a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft in April.
He would be a fool to stay in college, as Steve Spurrier can't seem to find a QB who can consistently get him the ball. It would be shocking if he returned for his senior season.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
If there's anything that RG3 can take away from the monstrous hit he took last Saturday, it is the knowledge that one play can ruin your career.
That being said, Griffin III should take his talents to the NFL after this season, as his draft stock is at an all-time high.
It is hard for things to get any better for Griffin, as our own Matt Miller has him as the second quarterback taken in the draft. For that reason, Griffin will declare himself eligible for the draft in April.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon has probably been the most dominant wide receiver in college football this season so far.
With Blackmon's size and strength, NFL teams will be frothing at the mouth to get him in a uniform as soon as possible.
I don't see any scenario in which Blackmon returns to Oklahoma State, especially if the Cowboys make it to a BCS bowl. Blackmon is a sure-fire first-round pick and when you play a skill position, it is not smart to risk that status and return to school.
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
The No. 1-rated linebacker on most NFL Draft big boards, Vontaze Burfict should be a Top 15 pick when the draft rolls around in April.
Now that his head coach has been fired, Burfict is a guarantee to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
With people saying he hurt his draft stock with his play this year, it would be wise for him to jump to the NFL before he hurts it even more.
Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Considering the current state of Boston College football, there is no real scenario in which it would make sense for Luke Kuechly to return for his senior season.
His draft stock has been on the rise lately and likely wont get any higher, as he is projected to be a first-round pick in many mock drafts.
The Eagles have little chance of winning anything next year, making it in Kuechly's best interest to enter the NFL Draft in April.
Morris Claiborne, LSU
With LSU the favorite to walk away with the BCS National Championship this season, Morris Claiborne has the chance to go out on top.
A projected Top 10 pick, Claiborne is all but guaranteed to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft, as he can only hurt his draft stock moving forward.
Come April, he will be the first defensive back off the board at Radio City Music Hall on draft day.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Monte Te'o has been a beast for Notre Dame this season.
He is currently rated as the second best linebacker available, behind Burfict, on many NFL Draft big boards and should declare himself eligible for the draft at the end of the season.
Te'o has the potential to make an immediate impact on the NFL and is slated to be a Top 15 pick in the draft.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
With so many NFL teams in need of a quarterback, it is hard to see why any of the top underclassmen would return to college.
Landry Jones, once thought to be the second best quarterback available, has dropped a bit but is still expected to be a first-round pick in the draft in April.
If Matt Barkley ultimately decides to return to USC, Jones would be a fool not to declare himself eligible, as that would move him up one more spot on teams' big boards at the quarterback position—but either way, he should be an NFL player next season.