How risky is it for early entrants in the NFL Draft?

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

A whopping 102 players gave up college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. For some, that was a wise decision. For others ... not so much.

More than 100 players opted to forgo remaining college eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. For some -- like Jadeveon Clowney -- the decision was a no-brainer. A guaranteed first-round pick, Clowney would have delayed and possibly risked millions by returning to school. For many others the decision to leave school early didn't result in as prosperous an outcome.

Deciding whether to stay or go can be a difficult task. While players can ask for an opinion from the NFL College Advisory Committee and gauge their stock from the various NFL Draft analysts, there is no surefire way to know where they will be drafted. The deadline to enter the draft early comes in the middle of January, nearly four months before the draft. A lot can happen in four months and a player can see his perceived stock drop dramatically. Once you're in, you're in for good and there is no going back. A total of 98 players were granted special eligibility for the 2014 draft with another four entering after earning their degree, but with eligibility remaining. That leaves a total of 102 players who opted for NFL minicamps instead of summer classes.

The good news is 15 of those players were drafted in the first round and will receive multi-million dollar singing bonuses. The bad news is 39 of the 102 players weren't drafted at all. Those players are lucky to get a five-figure signing bonus as an undrafted free agent, or even sign at all. Let's take a closer look at how the early entrants fared.

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Day 1 picks

Player

Position

College

NFL Team

Jadeveon Clowney

DE

South Carolina

Texans

Greg Robinson

T

Auburn

Rams

Blake Bortles

QB

Central Florida

Jaguars

Sammy Watkins

WR

Clemson

Bills

Mike Evans

WR

Texas A&M

Buccaneers

Eric Ebron

TE

North Carolina

Lions

Odell Beckham

WR

Louisiana State

Giants

Ryan Shazier

LB

Ohio State

Steelers

Calvin Pryor

DB

Louisville

Jets

Brandin Cooks

WR

Oregon State

Saints

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

DB

Alabama

Packers

Johnny Manziel

QB

Texas A&M

Browns

Kelvin Benjamin

WR

Florida State

Panthers

Bradley Roby

DB

Ohio State

Broncos

Teddy Bridgewater

QB

Louisville

Vikings

Early entrants made up slightly less than half of the first-round picks, including the first four picks in the draft. All of the players obviously made wise decisions and are now guaranteed millions. Teddy Bridgewater, the final pick of the first round, received a $3.3 million signing bonus as part of his rookie deal. Some of the players selected late in the first round may have been able to improve their stock slightly with another year. But there is no guarantee of that.

Day 2 picks

Player

Position

College

NFL Team

Drafted

Xavier Su'a-Filo

G

UCLA

Texans

2nd round, No. 33

Demarcus Lawrence

DE

Boise State

Cowboys

2nd round, No. 34

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TE

Washington

Buccaneers

2nd round, No. 38

Marqise Lee

WR

Southern California

Jaguars

2nd round, No. 39

Cyrus Kouandjio

T

Alabama

Bills

2nd round, No. 44

Paul Richardson

WR

Colorado

Seahawks

2nd round, No. 45

Stephon Tuitt

DE

Notre Dame

Steelers

2nd round, No. 46

Timmy Jernigan

DT

Florida State

Ravens

2nd round, No. 48

Jace Amaro

TE

Texas Tech

Jets

2nd Round, No. 49

Ego Ferguson

DT

Louisiana State

Bears

2nd round, No. 51

Troy Niklas

TE

Notre Dame

Cardinals

2nd round, No. 52

Davante Adams

WR

Fresno State

Packers

2nd round, No. 53

Bishop Sankey

RB

Washington

Titans

2nd round, No. 54

Jeremy Hill

RB

Louisiana State

Bengals

2nd round, No. 55

Cody Latimer

WR

Indiana

Broncos

2nd round, No. 56

Kony Ealy

DE

Missouri

Panthers

2nd round No. 60

Allen Robinson

WR

Penn State

Jaguars

2nd round, No. 61

Jarvis Landry

WR

Louisiana State

Dolphins

2nd round, No. 63

Marcus Martin

C

Southern California

49ers

3rd round, No. 70

Scott Crichton

DE

Oregon State

Vikings

3rd round, No. 72

Tre Mason

RB

Auburn

Rams

3rd round, No. 75

Louis Nix

DT

Notre Dame

Texans

3rd round, No. 83

Donte Moncrief

WR

Mississippi

Colts

3rd round, No. 90

Trai Turner

G

Louisiana State

Panthers

3rd round, No. 92

Terrance West

RB

Towson

Browns

3rd round, No. 94

Richard Rodgers

TE

California

Packers

3rd round, No. 98

While every player would like to be a first-round pick, that simply isn't realistic. The 102 early entrants would take up more than the first three rounds. Leaving school early isn't necessarily a bad decision even if the player wasn't a first-round pick. Those selected on Day 2 of the draft will sign a sizable rookie contract and receive a good opportunity to make the team and contribute. The investment cost of a second or third round pick makes it rare for that player to not make the team as a rookie. NFL teams are willing to invest development time in those picks. The players receive a six-figure singing bonus and can start building a NFL career. Some may have been able to improve their stock with another season, though you could argue they are better off establishing themselves now and working toward that second contract.

Day 3 picks

Bashaud Breeland

DB

Clemson

Redskins

4th round, No. 102

Devonta Freeman

RB

Florida State

Falcons

4th round, No. 103

Bruce Ellington

WR

South Carolina

49ers

4th round, No. 106

Russell Bodine

C

North Carolina

Bengals

4th round, No. 111

Ka'Deem Carey

RB

Arizona

Bears

4th round, No. 117

Martavis Bryant

WR

Clemson

Steelers

4th round, No. 118

Carl Bradford

DE

Arizona State

Packers

4th round, No. 121

De'Anthony Thomas

RB

Oregon

Chiefs

4th round, No. 124

Khairi Fortt

LB

California

Saints

4th round, No. 126

Cameron Fleming

T

Stanford

Patriots

4th round, No. 140

David Yankey

T

Stanford

Vikings

5th round, No. 145

Aaron Lynch

DE

South Florida

49ers

5th round, No. 150

Ed Reynolds

DB

Stanford

Eagles

5th round, No. 162

Vinnie Sunseri

DB

Alabama

Saints

5th round, No. 167

Ronald Powell

DE

Florida

Saints

5th round, No. 169

Jeoffrey Pagan

DE

Alabama

Texans

6th round, No. 177

Alfred Blue

RB

Louisiana State

Texans

6th round, No. 181

Lache Seastrunk

RB

Baylor

Redskins

6th round, No. 186

Storm Johnson

RB

Central Florida

Jaguars

7th round, No. 222

Jonathan Dowling

DB

Western Kentucky

Raiders

7th round, No. 247

Yawin Smallwood

LB

Connecticut

Falcons

7th round, No. 253

Terrance Mitchell

DB

Oregon

Cowboys

7th round, No. 254

Day 3 of the draft is where early entrants might really start to regret their decision. The money and chances for making a roster drop significantly with each pick. Signing bonuses get much smaller too. Getting drafted still comes with an opportunity to make a roster, but teams are less reluctant to cut players picked in the later rounds should they struggle in training camp. Players going to be competing against veterans already on the roster. In some cases, they might be the second or even third player selected at their own position.

Another year of development at the college level may have benefited to the 22 underclassmen drafted on Day 3. The concept of getting a head start on working toward a second contract isn't a factor for most of these players. Making the 53-man roster is the primary concern.

Undrafted

Player

Position

College

NFL Team

Deal

Nick Addison

DB

Bethune-Cookman

Texans

Camp invite, no contract

George Atkinson

RB

Notre Dame

Raiders

UDFA

Kapri Bibbs

RB

Colorado State

Broncos

UDFA

Brendan Bigelow

RB

California

Buccaneers

UDFA

Chris Boyd

WR

Vanderbilt

Cowboys

UDFA

Brandon Coleman

WR

Rutgers

Saints

UDFA

Isaiah Crowell

RB

Alabama State

Browns

UDFA

Austin Franklin

WR

New Mexico State

Rams

UDFA

Carlos Gray

DT

North Carolina State

Packers

UDFA

Xavier Grimble

TE

Southern California

Giants

UDFA

Terrance Hackney

T

Bethune-Cookman

Saints

Camp invite, no contract

Victor Hampton

DB

South Carolina

N/A

N/A

Kameron Jackson

DB

California

Colts

UDFA

Nic Jacobs

TE

McNeese State

Saints

UDFA

Anthony Johnson

DT

Louisiana State

Dolphins

UDFA

Jamel Johnson

WR

Alabama State

Buccaneers

Camp invite, no contract

Henry Josey

RB

Missouri

Eagles

UDFA

A.C. Leonard

TE

Tennessee State

Vikings

UDFA

Albert Louis-Jean

DB

Boston College

Bears

UDFA

Colt Lyerla

TE

Oregon

Packers

Camp invite, signed

Chris McCain

DE

California

Dolphins

UDFA

Viliami Moala

DT

California

Ravens

Camp invite, no contract

Adam Muema

RB

San Diego State

N/A

N/A

Jake Murphy

TE

Utah

Raiders

UDFA

Loucheiz Purifoy

DB

Florida

Colts

UDFA

Kelcy Quarles

DT

South Carolina

Giants

UDFA

Darrin Reaves

RB

Alabama-Birmingham

Panthers

UDFA

Antonio Richardson

T

Tennessee

Vikings

UDFA

Marcus Roberson

DB

Florida

Rams

UDFA

Brett Smith

QB

Wyoming

Buccaneers

UDFA, released

Jerome Smith

RB

Syracuse

Falcons

UDFA

Willie Snead

WR

Ball State

Browns

UDFA

John Spooney

RB

Brown

Ravens

Camp invite, no contract

Josh Stewart

WR

Oklahoma State

Titans

UDFA

George Uko

DE

Southern California

Saints

UDFA

Pierre Warren

DB

Jacksonville State

Saints

UDFA

James Wilder

RB

Florida State

Bengals

UDFA

Dion Bailey

DB

Southern California

Seahawks

UDFA

Adrian Hubbard

LB

Alabama

Packers

UDFA

While many of the Day 3 picks may have regretted the decision, the 39 early entrants who went undrafted were left to hoping for an opportunity. 31 of those players signed deals as undrafted free agents. Six others were invited to mini camp. Victor Hampton is yet to sign, and Adam Muema reportedly quit football. Of the six who earned mini camp invites, only Colt Lyerla signed a contract. That leaves eight of the 39 players off NFL rosters entirely. That number grew to nine on Wednesday when the Bucs released quarterback Brett Smith.

Smith was a three-year starter at Wyoming before entering the draft following his junior season. He signed with Tampa Bay following the draft, but apparently didn't impress in rookie mini camp and was released in favor of Alex Tanney. That shows just how little margin of error undrafted free agents have. A bad practice or two and their chance to make a roster might be done. Of the 39 undrafted underclassmen, only Bailey and Hubbard already earned their degrees, according to the NFL.

Stay in school, running backs

The prevailing thought used to be that running backs should head to the NFL as soon as possible. Now, with the value of the position declining in the NFL, the opposite may be true. Twenty running backs declared for the draft early, but just four were selected before Day 3. Just seven were selected during the first five rounds of the draft and only 10 of the 20 were picked at all.

Recent early entrant results

With record numbers of players entering the draft early, record numbers are also going undrafted. This year, 38.2 percent of early entrants went undrafted, nearly 6.0 percent more than in the previous three years.

20140522090319

While more players are coming out early and going undrafted, the number of first-round picks remains close to the same. The 15 first-round picks this year are one more than last year, but four less than 2012.

20140522085905

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