MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 25: Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden looks on during a game against the Boston College Eagles at Sun Life Stadium on November 25, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The list of 2012 NFL Draft early entrants shows a tough year ahead for Miami, Stanford and Baylor, while LSU, Alabama and USC will just keep building.
By unofficial count, 60 non-seniors have entered the 2012 NFL Draft, which would be a new record if it holds. Players have until Wednesday to change their minds, unless they've signed with an agent, so that number can still come down. While you should head to NFL Draft site Mocking the Draft for analysis on picks and prospects, here's a quick look at what this all could mean for next year's college teams.
Leading the way in sacrificing talent to the big league? The Miami Hurricanes, who, due to their pending NCAA troubles and lean recruiting years, really couldn't afford to lose very much talent anyway. They'll be without six underclassmen due to the 2012 NFL Draft. RB Lamar Miller and OL Brandon Washington could be second-rounders, and WR Tommy Streeter and DT Marcus Forston are expected to go in the third or fourth. Depth in the trenches was among Miami's chief plagues in 2011, and losing Washington, Forston and DE Olivier Vernon isn't going to help.
No other school will lose more than three players to the draft, just for reference on how hard Miami was hit here.
The LSU Tigers looked to be without four, including potential top-five pick CB Morris Claiborne, but Russell Shepard changed his mind and will return. Rueben Randle leaves up-and-coming Odell Beckham and Shepard on LSU's receivers depth chart, but a new quarterback could mean an entirely new LSU offense anyway. The loss of second-round DL Michael Brockers will hurt, especially with senior Kendrick Adams gone, but, again, don't weep for LSU. They might be the nation's most loaded team next year.
The Alabama Crimson Tide, Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal will all give up three players each -- both Bama and Stanford could see a pair of their little birds fly into the top 10 picks. Or the top nine picks besides Stanford's Andrew Luck. However you want to term it. In fact, all of the early exiters from both Stanford and Alabama -- RB Trent Richardson, LB Dont'a Hightower, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Luck, OT Jonathan Martin and G David DeCastro -- are likely to go in the first round.
Alabama's used to this sort of thing, but isn't likely to reload to quite the same level as it did last year. For Stanford, however, replacing all that plus senior tight end Coby Fleener could make for a significant dropoff in 2012.
RB LaMichael James, perhaps the finest player in Oregon's history, seems like the surest bet from Eugene at the next level, though NFL scouts might not even realize what to do with him right away. He'll be replaced by De'Anthony Thomas and others at Oregon. The Ducks give up two NFL mysteries elsewhere, with QB Darron Thomas likely replaced by Bryan Bennett and CB Cliff Harris replaced by ... whoever had replaced him anyway. Thomas' loss will hurt, but maybe not as much as we think.
Also sending multiple early entrants into the draft: the Arizona St. Sun Devils, Boston College Eagles, Michigan St. Spartans, South Carolina Gamecocks, USC Trojans and Virginia Tech Hokies. Poor Boston College may take the hardest hit there, losing tackle sponge LB Luke Kuechly, while ASU loses its most visible player from each side of the ball: insane time bomb and misunderstood gentleman Vontaze Burfict and tall (he's so tall!) QB Brock Osweiler.
USC's Matt Barkley-powered title shot counts largely on whether the Trojans can replace top-five OT Matt Kalil and first-round DE Nick Perry. And South Carolina could've entered the year as a SEC favorite had WR Alshon Jeffery elected to return. His loss, along with that of CB Stephen Gilmore, will mean the Cocks will be picked to finish second in the SEC East.
Of course, nobody's multi-player losses are going to equal what the Baylor Bears are losing in just one guy: QB Robert Griffin III. The best player in school history, RG3 (along with his top target, senior WR Kendall Wright) leaves Baylor with likely the unproved Nick Florence as its starter next year. (These things work themselves out, though -- the Bears are already loading up thanks to Griffin's Heisman win.)
For more on the NFL Draft, visit Mocking the Draft.