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January 10, 2008

Frank Coyle, draftinsiders.com

Special to Rivals.com College Football

Declared | Likely to Go | Leaning Toward Leaving | On The Fence | Not Ready | Staying In School

Underclassmen have made a huge impact on the NFL Draft over the past two decades, and this spring younger players will once again have a strong presence in the Draft - especially in the early rounds.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the 2008 Draft. The players will then have three additional days to change their minds. Anywhere from 30 to 50 prospects each season forego their remaining college eligibility to enter the draft.

To help the players make informed decisions, the NFL has provided an experienced advisory committee that evaluates underclassmen and gives players an idea where they might be selected. The estimation is based on evaluation by NFL scouts, but it is only their subjective opinion.

Below, Rivals.com NFL Draft partner Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com gives his evaluations of several dozen underclassmen who may be considering entering the Draft.

(* - Denotes redshirt sophomore. Players must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft.)

Already declared

OG Branden Albert, Virginia

This developing guard had an outstanding 2007 season, but he needs further developemnt to be ready to handle NFL power rushers. Albert must also work on his drive-blocking skills.

WR Adrian Arrington, Michigan

This smooth junior receiver developed nicely over the 2007 season and has interesting skills. After many changes in the Michigan offensive philosophy, he decided to enter the NFL. He is a good prospect with definite upside as a pro if he improves his overall game.

WR James Banks, Carson-Newman

This prospect began his college career at Tennessee but was dismissed from the team for repeated offenses after two seasons. He has fine talent with size, speed and leaping ability. He could be one of the top boom or bust prospects in this draft class.

WR Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt

This fast junior wideout set several SEC records and has the ability to be a legitimate deep threat as a pro. He will challenge for the top spot at the position with a strong postseason - especially with good time in the 40-yard dash.

TE Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M

A very athletic tight end, Bennett has been underutilized in the Aggies' struggling passing game. He has enormous upside, and is one of the premier prospects at this position.

WR Davone Bess, Hawaii

Bess is a smaller receiver who has flourished in the Hawaii passing game. He should be able to step in and produce in any pro air attack - especially as a slot receiver.

DE Calais Campbell, Miami

This tall, athletic defender developed nicely over the 2007 season. Campbell has the package necessary to rank with the blue-chip prospects.

RB Jamaal Charles, Texas

This tough tailback has been productive this fall especially late. However, he may be surprised to find out that he likely won't be a first-round pick if he declares in January. He is a talented runner with a NFL starting grade.

OT Ryan Clady, Boise State

This agile left tackle has been a dominant performer over recent seasons. He is physically ready to move on to the NFL.

OT Anthony Collins, Kansas

A nimble tackle, Collins was a key component in Kansas' surprising season. He has fine pro potential. Collins would have benefited from another season to refine his skills, but has opted to joing the pro ranks now.

RB James Davis, Clemson

This fast junior displays natural running skills, and he has the breakaway speed to hit the home run. He is a playmaker who will command an early selection in April.

DE Johnny Dingle, West Virginia

This big and mobile end has been a force in the Big East over the past three seasons. He could be one of the gems of from the underclassmen group.

OT Franklin Dunbar, Middle Tennesse State

A young, developing left tackle, Dunbar had an outstanding 2007 season in which he did not allow a sack. However, he needs further development to be ready to handle NFL speed rushers. He will need some time as a backup to refine his skills.

TE Jermichael Finley, Texas *

Third-year sophomore displays fine receiving skills with the speed to get deep in the middle seam. He needs development as a blocker and was a surprise addition to the underclassmen list.

CB Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech

Flowers is a fast cover man who came on strong late in the 2007 season. He ranks with the top prospects at this demanding position. He runs as well as any player in the nation at this point.

CB Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii

This young receiver developed nicely in the potent Hawaii passing game. Coach June Jones leaving the program was probably a bigger factor than his readiness for the next level.

DT Letroy Guion, Florida State

Guion is an athletic junior tackle who started eight games this season. He flashed some playmaking ability that will warrant interest from NFL clubs. Guion would have benefited from another season of development.

WR James Hardy, Indiana

This big, athletic wideout is one of the key reasons Indiana made it to a bowl game. Hardy has developed nicely over this season. He will be one of the first receivers selected in April, and could go in the late first/early second round area.

DE Derrick Harvey, Florida

This fast edge rusher has shown big-play ability for the Gators. He has the burst of speed necessary to come off the edge despite issues related to his size and development.

LB Geno Hayes, Florida State

Fast junior linebacker could be the next Seminole underclassmen to surprise early in his NFL career.

LB Erin Henderson, Maryland

This fast linebacker has drawn raves from NFL scouts over the past two seasons. He is talented enough to compete for an NFL starting job early in his career.

CB Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin

Athletic junior corner had an inconsistent 2007 season. He would have benefited from further development, but could still be a top-50 selection in April.

TE Cornelius Ingram, Florida

Hybrid wideout/tight end has become a valuable weapon in the Gators passing game. He needs his pro position to be defined, and further strength work is necessary. He could be a big factor in a passing game from the H-back position.

WR Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma

This big-play wideout has fine skills and has been a productive player for the Sooners. Though he would benefit from another season of development in college, he is a blue-chip prospect with a first round grade.

LB Jerod Mayo, Tennessee

This fast junior linebacker declared after an outstanding 2007 season in which he led the SEC in tackles. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and good instincts. His presence improves an average group at this position

RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois

This large tailback had a monster season in the Big Ten, which led to his decision to turn pro. He is a complete feature back and carries a first-round grade at this point of the evaluation process.

DE Phillip Merling, Clemson

This big, mobile end has been a force in the ACC over the past three seasons. He will be one of the gems from the underclassmen group and should impress in workouts.

DT Alphonso Moran, Kansas State

This short tackle failed to play during the 2007 season after being a part-time starter the previous two seasons. He is a strong run defender who needs to prove he is healthy in the postseason.

SS DaJuan Morgan, North Carolina State

This instinctive junior safety had a breakout 2007 season and decided to join the NFL underclassmen group. He continued a strong defensive back tradition at N.C. State.

LB Lamar Myles, Louisville

This mobile middle linebacker has started less than two seasons for the suspect UL defense. He is a fierce hitter who can cause turnovers, but he has only average instincts and is limited in pass coverage.

FS Kenny Phillips, Miami

This talented safety has the athleticism necessary to become a premier selection in April.

QB Bobby Reid, Oklahoma State

This athletic junior quarterback was at the center of coach Mike Gundy's "I'm a man" temper tantrum. He is a fine athlete who needs the right setting to develop at this position. However, he could fill a "Slash" role early in his pro career.

RB Ray Rice, Rutgers

Compact, strong tailback has been a workhorse for the Rutgers club the past three seasons to rank among the nation's leaders. He had little left to prove at Rutgers, and moves on to the pros after another huge performance in bowl victory.

CB Orlando Scandrick, Boise State

This quick junior corner combines fine size and speed with the instincts and toughness the position demands. He hopes to impress in workouts to move into the second tier of cornerback prospects.

DT Pat Sims, Auburn

This wide-bodied tackle can stack the middle and has shown the explosiveness necessary to make plays in the backfield. He was only a one year starter for the Tigers, which leaves questions about his level of development

RB Kevin Smith, Central Florida

Rare 2,000-yard rusher has natural running skills and a high level of development - which made him reverse his earlier decision to stay in school. He received a top-50 grade from the advisory committee, and he could land in the first round with a strong postseason.

WR Taj Smith, Syracuse

Fast wideout/returner can be a difference-maker every time he touches the ball. He had a good '07 season, which led him to declare for the draft instead of returning to school.

CB Aqib Talib, Kansas

This agile corner is a gambling cover man with big play ability in coverage and in the return game. He will be one of the premier junior corners headed for the NFL.

WR Devin Thomas, Michigan St

Fast-rising receiver displayed both deep speed and run-after-the-catch ability this season. He made the decision to turn pro after a breakout performance in the Big Ten.

WR Mario Urrutia, Louisville

A big receiver, Urrutia struggled through an erratic season. He must impress in the offseason to be more than a second-day selection.

Likely to turn pro

DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State

Explosive outside defender came on strong over the '07 season to rank with the nation's top ends. He had impressive games vs top talent and could be an elite prospect in April if he declares.

WR DeSean Jackson, California

Fast junior wideout/returner can be a difference maker every time he touches the ball. He had a very average '07 season but he will still probably opt to join the NFL this week.

CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

The Buckeyes produce blue chip corners and Jenkins is the next in line. He is expected to rank near the top of the class of corners with a first round grade.

LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

Explosive defender had a strong '07 season that should rank him with the elite prospects. He has the physical talent to play in either scheme and any position.

RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas

Super blue chip feature back will be the best player in the NFL Draft '08 if he declares. He is expected to turn pro and has a chance to be an immediate impact in the NFL.

RB Steve Slaton, West Virginia

Fast scatback is well developed as both a runner and receiver and capable of being a big play impact performer early in the NFL.

RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon

Powerfully built back has breakaway speed to combine a rare package for the position. He will have to prove durable in the NFL, but he is strongly considering joining the pro ranks.

Leaning toward turning pro

LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio State

This fast defender has been a fixture on the Buckeyes defense and will be tempted to join the pro ranks.

RB Jorvorskie Lane, Texas A&M

This powerful junior tailback makes the tough inside yardage and appears ready to start his pro career.

DE Tyson Jackson, LSU

Physical defensive end has been a key performer on the Tigers tough front line and has experience in both defensive schemes.

CB Reggie Smith, Oklahoma

Blue chip athlete has rare triangle numbers for the corner and the size and instincts to play the free safety position.

On the fence

LB Darry Beckwith, LSU

Mobile linebacker has been a key defender on the Tigers front seven and is well developed for the NFL game.

OT Alex Boone, Ohio State

Big tough mobile left tackle is the best Buckeye linemen since Orlando Pace and is battled tested for the NFL battles.

WR Jarett Dillard, Rice

Quick junior wideout has excelled in the obscurity of the Rice program and may be ready to test the NFL.

DE Pannel Egboh, Stanford

Awesome athletic package has the components to become a rare defender, but he probably needs a vital final season to fully realize his potential.

RB Felix Jones, Arkansas

Fast all purpose performer coupled with Darren McFadden to form the most explosive backfield in recent memory. He has the talent to be a difference maker in the NFL in a few roles.

CB Justin King, Penn State

Quick junior cover man had a fairly good '07 season, but Penn St. rarely losses underclassmen to the NFL.

SS Reshard Langford, Vanderbilt

Tough junior safety has been a physical defender vs the run and shown the agility to play in coverage.

LB Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma

Explosive junior tackler has a chance to be a premier pro prospect with critical development.

WR Mario Manningham, Michigan

Smooth junior receiver has well developed skills for the position, but Michigan rarely loses underclassmen. He is a blue chip prospect with a big upside as a pro, though he would benefit from another year to develop.

WR Kenny McKinley, South Carolina

Big play receiver has the package to develop into a top flight prospect, but he is still rough around the edges and would benefit greatly from another season in the SEC.

CB Mike Mickens, Cincinnati

Quick junior ballhawk has flashed big play ability in coverage with a high level of ability in man situations.

OT Michael Oher, Mississippi

Big mobile left tackle has excelled vs NFL caliber talent but may return for a final SEC season.

TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State

Huge athletic tight end is an awesome package for the position but needs further development that another college season would provide in playing experience.

RB Javon Ringer, Michigan State

Quick junior scatback has been a productive runner in the Big Ten sharing time in the Spartan backfield. His best football is ahead of him and he is capable of being a real sleeper at this position.

WR Isaiah Williams, Maryland

Athletic junior has had an erratic short career in the Terps inconsistent passing game but could be a surprise addition to the underclassman group.

WR Jaison Williams, Oregon

Huge agile junior receiver flashes big play ability and fine skills, though his production fell over the late 2007 season.

Not ready for pro ranks yet

RB Toney Baker, North Carolina State

Strong between the tackle runner went down with an early season injury and must reprove himself before being ready for NFL battles.

RB Andre Brown, North Carolina State

Slashing junior tailback struggled through an injury riddled '07 season that should warrant a return to the college game.

WR Greg Carr, Florida State

Huge junior wideout has interesting potential, but he is still raw in many key areas of play and should remain in school.

FS Courtney Greene, Rutgers

Talented athlete struggled over the late '07 season and needs play recognition and coverage development.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland *

Smooth athletic third year sophomore flashes impact ability at times that has drawn attention from scouts, but he needs much more development before competing at the next level.

TE Darius Hill, Ball State

Fast junior tight end shows the ability to get into the deep seam and make the big play. He has a chance to be a blue chip prospect with improvement as an inline blocker.

RB P.J. Hill, Wisconsin *

Powerful third year sophomore needs critical development in a few areas to move on to the pro ranks.

OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma

Imposing junior tackle has an awesome athletic package that could rank him among the elite pro prospects but only after further critical experience and development.

OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia

Young developing left tackle had an outstanding '07 season with no sacks but he needs further development to be ready to handle NFL speed rushers.

TE Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi

Mobile junior tight end has been a playmaker as a receiver since early in his career but needs development in the vital area of blocking.

RB Branden Ore, Virginia Tech

Quick junior tailback struggled through the '07 season before a fine bowl performance. He lacks the power and consistency to be ready for the pro game.

OG Jeremy Perry, Oregon State

Rugged junior guard missed most of the '07 season with a leg injury and needs to return to the field and prove he can perform at a high level of play again over a full season.

WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State

Big play weapon has had a breakout season for the Buckeyes, but he is still raw in many areas and would benefit from another year of development at the college level.

OG Duke Robinson, Oklahoma

Powerful mobile hog guard has been a dominant inline blocker for the Sooners, but needs critical development in pass protection.

DE George Selvie, South Florida *

Fast edge pass rusher has been a force this season as one of the premier sack artists in the nation. He has growth potential to fill out further and improve in run support.

OT Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia

Physical junior tackle has been instrumental in the WV explosive attack. He is a powerful drive blocker, but needs further work on his pass protection skills.

RB Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern

Quick junior scatback flashes playmaking ability, but he needs further development in many areas for the NFL game.

WR Derrick Williams, Penn State

Athlete with interesting talent and triangle numbers, but he needs overall development in most areas.

Potential top-100 players stating they will stay in school

TE Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

CB Joe Burnett, Central Florida

LB Brian Cushing, USC

TE Chase Coffman, Missouri

QB Chase Daniel, Missouri

OT Ramon Foster, Tennessee

QB Chase Holbrook, New Mexico State

RB Ian Johnson, Boise State

DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech

WR Aaron Kelly, Clemson

LB Sean Lee, Penn State

OC Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas

OC Alex Mack, California

LB Rey Maualuga, USC

OG Anthony Parker, Tennessee

Frank Coyle is a nationally known NFL scout who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com. Draft Insiders' Digest is dedicated to year-round coverage of NFL and NCAA Football. Coyle covers the NFL Draft and free agency extensively with a veteran scouting staff that provides insightful and unique information on players and team potential in the coming seasons. Draft Insiders' Digest is an extensive publication that produces more than 20 issues throughout the year, beginning with an Online Pro Prospects Preview and Fantasy Football Rankings in August and a 200-page Draft Yearbook in March.

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