We won't know exactly how many underclassmen have declared themselves eligible for the draft until the NFL releases that information tomorrow. However, there is reason to believe it will be a good year. When a new collective bargaining agreement is (finally) written, there's a strong likelihood it will contain an NBA-like salary cap for rookies. That means there might be one more year for rookies to cash in right away - this one.
That being said, which are the positions that most receive a boost by an influx of juniors and other underclassmen? I talked with NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang about it. Here's what he said.
Bryan Bulaga, Iowa. 6-6, 312. Rang: he had a great Orange Bowl. I have him as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the draft. He got stronger as the season went on.
Anthony Davis, Rutgers. 6-6, 325. Rang: Based on size, you'd think he was just a right tackle. But he moves well. He also flashes some nastiness.
Bruce Campbell, Maryland. 6-7, 310. Rang: A freakish athlete for his size. He's going to end up weighing 320 but he moves around like he's 275. But he's raw. He has only a limited number of snaps in college.
Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. 6-4, 272. Rang: In my opinion, he's the No. 1 defensive end in the draft. He had a monster junior year. He's got long arms and a very good burst off the edge. He's probably more of a 4-3 defensive end but is athletic enough to be considered as a 3-4 OLB.
Carlos Dunlap, Florida. 6-6, 290. Rang: he's got good quickness, but his best asset is that he's very strong. He could play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. A DUI charge this year decreases his value. He's someone who could go in the No. 7 to No. 15 range.
Jason Pierre-Paul, So Florida. 6-6, 265. Rang: A very raw talent, but he's got long arms. He's more of a classic 4-3 defensive end.
Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech. 6-2, 252. Rang: He's undersized. You see some of the agility and balance it takes to be a 3-4 OLB, but teams are going to be up and down on him.
Eric Berry, Tennessee. 5-11, 203. Rang: He's ESPN's No. 1-rated player, I would personally put him No. 3 behind Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
Earl Thomas, Texas. 5-10, 197. Rang: He's a red-shirt sophomore who's coming out. A legitimate first-round pick who makes plays all over the field.
• The best receivers in the class, such as Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, are underclassmen. However, it's very difficult to see the 49ers using another top pick on a wideout. Instead, here are two underclass wideouts with return-man ability.
Golden Tate, Notre Dame. 5-11, 195. Rang: he's a Steve Smith kind of guy. He's not as fast, but he will go up and attack the ball like Smith does. Tate had 15 receiving touchdowns, two rushing TDs and a punt return for a score this past season.
Damian Williams, USC. 6-1, 195. Rang: He reminds me of Green Bay's Greg Jennings. He's a very sharp route runner and he catches everything. He was the Trojans' primary punt-return guy this past season and he took two back for touchdowns. He was sixth nationally in punt returns with a 14.2 average.
-- Matt Barrows