Non-seniors flock to draft, and to NFL Combine

The NFL combine is the first test for 86 players giving up a year of college.

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North quarterback Tajh Boyd (10), of Clemson, looks to pass during the first half of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game against the South on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Photo: Butch Dill, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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– Cordarrelle Patterson, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd, first-round picks by the Vikings last year, were three of 73 non-seniors who left college early to enter the 2013 NFL draft.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd nearly made it 74.

Boyd was convinced he would leave college after his Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP performance in a victory over LSU as a junior. Instead of reacting to his emotions, Boyd evaluated his situation over the next month and opted to return for his senior season.

“I felt like I could’ve made a move last year, but at the same time I wanted to go back and make sure I was fully ready to make that leap,” Boyd said.

His decision to return to school is a rarity among top college football players now. While Boyd prepares for the NFL, so will a record number of underclassmen — 98 in all — who have declared for the draft.

That number creates a deep draft class for 2014, but also some players who might be ill-equipped for the NFL. Teams will have a chance to sort through the eligible players beginning today at the NFL combine.

Extra seasoning

Boyd’s statistics in 2013 were similar to his stats from 2012, but his draft stock likely dropped thanks to poor performances in big games and a rough Senior Bowl practice week. He definitely will be drafted after Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, all non-seniors.

But Boyd accomplished a few team and individual goals in his final season and felt he matured on the field.

The Tigers finished the season 11-2 and defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

“I understand defenses a little bit more,” Boyd said. “I feel like I was able to operate the system better at Clemson. I just wanted to take what I learned from there and just apply it here.”

Boyd met with many NFL teams at the Senior Bowl in January, and hopes to impress more of them at the combine. Also looking to impress will be the non-seniors who are having their coming out parties here. Of the 98 who are leaving college early, 86 were invited to the combine. Of the 73 underclassmen who declared early last year, 20 were picked on Day 3 (rounds 4-7) and 19 went undrafted.

Following the NBA

“I think more and more, we’re getting the basketball mentality in football that, ‘I can go right from high school to the NBA,’” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “More parents, more players are going to college with the idea that I’m going to be there for three years and then I’m going to get out as fast as I can and get to the NFL.”

Saban supports underclassmen who declare early for the draft if they’re potential first-round choices. Otherwise, he said he thinks players should return to school to get their degree and develop as a senior to enhance their draft status.

Only four of the 98 non-seniors have graduated, including Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard and Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford.

“If I didn’t graduate, I definitely would’ve been back,” Bradford said. “But I felt like getting a degree and doing that part is a major part of college and your life. I’ve seen maybe a handful of them that came out earned their degrees but that was one of the main reasons why I came out as a junior.”

Lots of depth

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 62 4th Qtr
New Orleans 85
Minnesota 56 3rd Qtr 0:51
Oklahoma City 65
Orlando 73 3rd Qtr 0:35
Memphis 89
Boston 41 2nd Qtr 5:50
Utah 26
Denver 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 2nd Half 0:03
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 68 2nd Half 4:33
NC A&T 61
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 50 2nd Half 4:00
Campbell 66
MD-Eastern Shore 48 2nd Half 16:00
Florida A&M 34
Stephen F Austin 73 2nd Half 6:25
Lamar 55
Central Arkansas 58 2nd Half 6:02
New Orleans 82
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 59 2nd Half 3:19
SE Louisiana 53
Sam Houston St 75 2nd Half 5:21
Abilene Christian 57
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 35 2nd Half
Alabama A&M 42
Southern U 36 1st Half 0:28
Alabama State 26
Prairie View 30 1st Half 1:00
Ark-Pine Bluff 47
Texas 23 1st Half 0:58
Iowa State 34
Texas Southern 28 2nd Half 20:00
Miss Valley St 32
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 26 2nd Half
Auburn 22
(15) Nebraska 28 2nd Half
(20) Iowa 21
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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