Today is the deadline for players to announce their intentions for the upcoming NFL draft. The record number of early entries is unofficially around 71 with at least 32 from the SEC. It is the earliest entries ever and should be a trend that continues in the future. You have to figure maybe 20 at best have a shot at first round money while the rest will fight foe less guarantees in the later rounds. I think with the new salary wage scale for rookies players are now treating the NFL draft like the NBA draft. Get into the league as soon as you can, get your clock ticking and play for the 2 ND contract. The only difference in my opinion is you’re less likely to get hurt in the NBA than the NFL which rookie contracts are usually four to five years.
I think there are other reasons for kids leaving early such as coaching changes, personal financial concerns or even just disciplinary reasons. The NFL has proven it will give guys second chances if they have the talent to perform. I think there are a variety of guys leaving the SEC for these reasons. There are four new coaches coming into the league this season. There are plenty of sure fire first round picks that also don't need to jeopardize their future with injury. Finally there is always a guy like the Tyrann Mathieu who just needs to go play football, after the structure of college was just too much for him. It's a historical year and one that I am sure we will see again.
Much has been made of the losses at LSU, Florida and Georgia by early entries. These three contenders took heavy losses on the defensive side of the football. But the one thing all these programs have in common is they play a lot of guys. The key ingredient to find for the defensive coordinators is not so much players as it is leadership. Jarvis Jones, Matt Elam and Sam Montgomery led their team by example. These guys brought it every snap in every game. Vocal leaders like Sharrif Floyd at Florida, Alec Ogletree at Georgia and Eric Reid for LSU will need to be replaced. I do think these programs have the talent and the coaching to put back together their defense. Don’t forget all three schools return their quarterback which as I said a week ago, can be a great advantage in college football.
Here are five guys I'm looking forward to seeing again in 2013.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Matthews was the SEC’s 2nd leading receiver and clearly the go to guy in the Commodore attack. Teams had a bull’s eye on him and still could not contain him. He finished the season with a touchdown in five straight games and against the "Big 3" in the East (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) he had 24 receptions for 397 yards and 2 touchdowns.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
He jumped into and out of the Heisman race quickly but should be one of the front runners going into 2013. So many have called him a "game manager" but he is much more than that. He has shown on a national stage two years in a row that he has an NFL skill set and is an accurate passer. In two national championship games he is 43/62 69% for 498 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions.
Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray is often criticized for "not winning the big game", however he has beaten Florida two straight seasons and won 22 games the last two seasons. In nine conference games this past year he threw 20 touchdowns and nearly beat Alabama in the SEC championship games. He is the key to the Dogs success regardless of what happens with the defense. Murray led the nation with 10.1 yards per attempt and had 36 touchdowns which were fifth best in the country.
CJ Mosley, Alabama
He is an underrated and maybe under appreciated player nationally. His heads up play versus Georgia in the SEC Championship game saved Bama’s season. He has a knack for returning interceptions for touchdowns, but he is also a very physical player. He had 107 tackles to lead Alabama and finished with eight in the BCS title game versus Notre Dame.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
I know he couldn't have gone pro this season, but heck I can’t wait to watch him play in 2013. Teams will have to have a separate plan to deal with him game in and game out. That in its own right will be worth watching. Clowney cannot be blocked by just one man and if you slide protection thinking you can he will knife into the backfield (like he did on the Michigan hit) and make a big time play. I think the Gamecocks are going to be real good and he has a shot at the Heisman. Only one game last season did Clowney not effect the game with a negative play and that was East Carolina.