If three years have passed since a college football player’s high school class graduated, he is officially eligible to declare for the NFL Draft. Typically, that rule provides redshirt Sophomores and true Juniors the opportunity to leave school early and test their luck with NFL teams.
Players who are interested in declaring for the NFL prior to the culmination of their Senior seasons must express their intent to enter the NFL Draft prior to January 15 of each calendar year. Thereafter, those players who have soft-declared have a 3-day window (until January 18) to decide whether they will remain eligible to be selected in the forthcoming NFL Draft or remove their names from the pool. Importantly, if an underclassman hires as agent, that player will forfeit his remaining eligibility to play college football whether or not the player withdraws his name from the NFL Draft pool.
Today being January 17, there is a large group of underclassmen who have soft-declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, and who have roughly 24 hours to change their minds. There are currently 61 underclassmen who believe that they are prepared to make the jump to the NFL. While players such as Justin Blackmon, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck are sure to be very high picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, there are many players listed who may not be selected at all. They have taken risks (hopefully calculated risks with the advice of knowledgeable and caring advisors) to forfeit their remaining eligibility in favor of the perceived riches waiting for them in the NFL. Further, they have hopefully utilized the NFL’s College Advisory Committee, and submitted their information to get their current draft grades.