College Football 2011: Predicting Whether the Top 10 Underclassmen Stay or Go
It's often one of the hardest decisions a college athlete can make. Should you forgo your senior season and enter the pros or do you stay and enjoy all of the perks that come with being a senior and earn your degree?
There are of course pros and cons to every decision.
If you stay, you have a chance to improve your draft stock and possibly win a national championship, but there is also a risk of injury. If you leave, you will receive a big paycheck in the NFL but won't graduate and might fail to live up to the hype of being a professional athlete.
There are several big-name players that will have to make that decision soon that will change their lives forever.
Here are the top 10.
Alabama RB Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson is by far the best running back in college football and will be the first back taken off the board as a guaranteed top-10 pick. He has broken several Alabama rushing records and really has nothing to prove at the collegiate level anymore.
There are reports that he may consider staying for his senior season, but that would be a big mistake.
We all saw what happened to former teammate Mark Ingram when he stayed another season. Richardson should not make the same decision.
He is NFL-ready right now and could easily become a top back at the next level in no time.
LSU DB Morris Claiborne
Claiborne is the top cornerback in the country and should be a top-10 pick in next year's NFL draft as the first corner taken off the board.
He is a player that has gotten better with every season and has probably built his stock as high as it will go. He is another player that really doesn't have much to prove to anybody and should leave now.
Especially if the Tigers end up winning the national championship this season.
Oregon RB LaMichael James
LaMichael James is a tricky one because he was ranked high on everybody's draft board before the season, but has had a sub-par season. The injury to his elbow really concerns NFL scouts because many already believe he is too small to play in the NFL.
This draft also has some talented runners and James may end up going in the second or possibly even third round if he leaves early.
I think he should stay, get another shot at the national championship and improve his draft stock with several talented runners leaving this season.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Does this really need an explanation? Luck should've entered the NFL draft last year and would be foolish to stay another year.
Luck is without a doubt the best college player in the country and will go No. 1 overall. He has everything you look for in a quarterback and there is a very large chance that he will become a franchise quarterback for some lucky team (no pun intended).
He stayed this year to try and win a national championship and it didn't happen. He needs to leave now, especially on a team with a lot of seniors leaving as well.
Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon
We've seen so many great receivers come out the last couple of seasons and it seems like they're taking over the NFL. Justin Blackmon is one of those franchise receivers that will make some quarterback very happy.
He is a big and physical receiver that has great hands and is very dangerous after the catch. The Cowboys had a very successful season and there's really no point in returning and risking a possible injury.
Turning down a guaranteed top-five selection is crazy and I don't think Blackmon will do it.
USC QB Matt Barkley
I'm not sure if there is any other player in the country that is improving their draft stock lately as much as Matt Barkley. The guy is really beginning to show that he could also be a franchise quarterback for some NFL team.
He has shown he can make every throw on the football field and has more arm strength than even Andrew Luck. He's great at reading defenses and has a fantastic release to his throws. Barkley is a winner and has impressed me a lot over the past couple of weeks.
I would love to see Barkley leave for the NFL this season, but I don't think he will. The Trojans have a shot at a national championship next season and if Barkley stays, there is little doubt that he will be the No. 1 overall pick next season.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
I'm not sure Denard Robinson is on anybody's draft board as a quarterback because he's worse than Tim Tebow as a passer. He will have to play a different position at the next level or will only be used as a Wildcat player.
But hopefully we don't have to worry about that for another year, because he should stay for his senior season. He is one of the most exciting players in the country and with Brady Hoke taking over, the Wolverines have a real shot at doing something special next year.
There's no rush for him to leave for the NFL.
Besides, who would ever want to see Robinson leave college football?
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones
Landry Jones is a solid quarterback with great accuracy, an NFL body and an extremely strong arm. He is also an underrated athlete that can pick up a nice chunk of yards with his feet if he has to. The problem is that there are a lot of strong quarterback candidates in this draft.
He will be taken within the top 20 but outside the top 10 if he leaves early.
It would be nice to have him return for his senior season, polish his game a bit and improve his draft stock, but I doubt that will happen.
Baylor QB Robert Griffin III
Everybody's favorite quarterback has gone from not-even-spoken-about to a top-three quarterback in this year's draft. Griffin is a rare breed of a quarterback that can not only run with the best of them but pass with pinpoint accuracy. Most quarterbacks have one or the other—he has both.
Griffin has really impressed this season and is making a strong case for a Heisman Trophy.
He has all of the tools to be a franchise quarterback and should leave now. He's done everything he can possibly do at Baylor and there's no point staying in the tough Big 12. His top receiver in Kendall Wright is leaving as well.
Griffin is a possible top-10 pick and would be foolish to stay.
Randy Chambers is a B/R Featured Columnist that covers college football and the NFL. You can contact him @Randy_Chambers or Randy.Chambers7@yahoo.com