2009 Early NFL Entries - The Complete List
USC QB Mark Sanchez
USC QB Mark Sanchez
Posted Jan 20, 2009

... but Sam Bradford is staying. It's that time of year when the top juniors and third year sophomores take off early for the NFL, or put off the big league for a year by sticking around to improve their stock. Who are the big names taking off early? Should they have stayed or are they ready to bolt? Here's the complete list of early entries.

2009 NFL Draft Early Entries

The Early Entries And Where They're Projected To Go

By Pete Fiutak 

The 2008 Early Entries and what happened to them
The 2007 Early Entries and what happened to them

It's that time of year again when several superstar college players weigh whether or not they're ready to make the big leap into the land of the mercenaries. The top players take off early to save drafts from the mediocre seniors who chose to stick around, and this year is no exception.

The rule of thumb for pro prospects is this: If your game relies purely on speed, come out. Every football player needs speed to some degree, but a receiver, running back and defensive back only has so many years of blazing speed in them. Any slippage in that top gear, and you're out of the league. Running backs can only take so many shots and should come out as soon as humanly possible. Everyone else should stay in school unless they're a sure-fire first or second round pick. With that in mind, here are the early entries with where they're projected to go.

To Return Or Not ...
Top players who passed up millions to return for one more year.

Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
The Heisman winner avoided the leaving early talk, and then he dropped the big one and decided to come back for his junior season.

Colt McCoy, QB Texas
He said he was staying for his senior year and he wasn't kidding. Texas players almost always stay for their senior seasons, and now he'll challenge Tim Tebow for the Heisman.

Brandon Spikes, LB Florida
It's a top-heavy year for linebackers, so Spikes, with top ten talent, might fall back in the pecking order behind prospects like Aaron Curry, Rey Maulaluga, Brian Cushing and James Laurinaitis. He'll return to try to make history with the Gators.

Taylor Mays, S USC
Considered another Ronnie Lott, but bigger, Mays is an elite safety who'll be certain to go in the top ten and possibly the top five ... next year. According to reports, he's coming back for his senior year.

Jermaine Gresham, TE Okla.
He would've been the first tight end taken, or the second behind Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew, but he's coming back along with Bradford and OT Trent Williams.

Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma
Staying. One of the nation's best tackles, and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in some circles, will be the best defensive player in college football next year.

Russell Okung, OT Okla. State
Overshadowed by the stars at OU, Okung might be the best pro blocker from the Big 12. In a good year for OTs, he'd be a first rounder, but he's back

Asher Allen, CB Georgia
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move?
While he's not huge, he'll wow everyone in workouts with his speed and quickness. This isn't a strong year overall for corners making it a good move to duck out early. He could be one of the top three corners taken.

Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers
Projected: Late 2nd round to early 3rd
Good or bad move? With a 6-4, 205-pound frame, he has the size and physical ability to go along with excellent deep speed. He was unstoppable over the second half of the year with six 100-yard games in his last eight games to finish with 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 grabs. He was also used more as a runner over the final few games. He has nothing left to prove on the collegiate level.

Eben Britton, OT Arizona

Projected: First round
Good or bad move? Obviously good move. Arguably the best tackle in the Pac 10, he was ready to come out last year. While he won't be the first offensive tackle taken in a good draft for the position, he'll be seen as an incredible value pick late in the first round or early in the second.

Donald Brown, RB Connecticut

Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? There's only so much pounding a back can take. The nation's leading rusher said he was on the fence about whether or not to come back, but a 261-yard day against Buffalo in the International Bowl, and a 2,083-yard season with 18 touchdowns, all but made the decision for him. Not huge, he'll have to be a part of a rotation.

Everette Brown, DE Florida State

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? After a strong sophomore season set the stage, Brown came up with a huge junior campaign with 13.5 sacks, an ACC-leading 21.5 tackles for loss, and 36 tackles overall. While he's not huge and he might not be the prototype end, he's a speed rusher whose motor is always running.

James Casey, TE Rice

Projected: 3rd round
Good or bad move? It might seem like a curious move for the third year sophomore, but he's already 24 and he has the talent to stick on a roster. Second in the nation in receptions, catching 111 passes for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns, his hands and his route-running ability aren't a question. The former minor league pitcher ran the ball a bit and started out as a defensive end before settling in to his role on offense.

eremy Childs, WR Boise State
Projected: 3rd round
Good or bad move? While he would've been on the short list of All-Americans, he's ready for the next level as both a return man and a receiver. On the plus side for Boise State, it's getting the talents good enough to leave early (like Ryan Clady and Orlando Scandrick last year)

Glen Coffee, RB Alabama

Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? He should've stuck around. A decent-sized back with good quickness and nice production this year with 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns, he could've benefitted draft-wise from staying one more year. He benefitted greatly from running behind an elite offensive line, and he might have to prove himself on special teams early on.

Austin Collie, WR BYU

Projected: Second day
Good or bad move? Among the nation's leading receivers, he was big even when the team was struggling, catching 21 passes for 223 yards in the two losses to Utah and Arizona. He went over the 100-yard mark in 11 straight games and finished with 106 catches for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns, so the production is there. However, despite having decent functional speed, he'll have to run well to be a first day pick. The 24-year-old spent a few years on a Church mission.

Emmanuel Cook, S South Carolina
Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? A terrific tackler, he was an important piece of the puzzle for one of the nation's best pass defense. While he can hit, he has had problems staying healthy throughout his career and he's questionable in coverage. Not necessarily a ball-hawker, he's a big hitter who should find a job as a third or fourth safety in a rotation.

Jared Cook, TE South Carolina
Projected: 2nd to 3rd round
Good or bad move? Don't be shocked if he becomes one of the high risers over the next few months. He has all the tools with good size, nice hands and a receiver's route running ability, but he was underutilized by Steve Spurrier. The biggest problem was erratic quarterback play, but Cook will pique someone's interest on day one.

Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech

Projected: Top 10 overall
Good or bad move? The two-time Biletnikoff winner came to Texas Tech as the most talented receiver ever to play in the Mike Leach era, and he showed why with 231 catches, 3,127 yards, and 41 touchdowns in just 26 games. Great on the move, he's the epitome of a yard-after-catch receiver who can make things happen when he gets the ball in a place where he can do something with it. If he's not the first receiver taken, he'll be No. 2.

Andrew Davie, TE Arkansas

Projected: Late second day
Good or bad move? The receiving stats aren't there as the second-fiddle behind D.J. Williams, Davie is more of a blocker who was decent around the goal line. If he gets drafted, it'll be as a situational player in two-tight end sets.

Nate Davis, QB Ball State
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? You've got to strike while the iron is hot. With head coach Brady Hoke off to San Diego State, and the great 2008 season having finished on two crushing bad notes, Davis can't wait around to see if his stock will rise. Likely the third quarterback taken, or fourth if Mark Sanchez comes out, he'll be a late first rounder or an early second round selection. 

Vontae Davis, CB Illinois

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? Davis could be the call of the draft. He followed up a great sophomore season with a mediocre junior campaign. He wasn't bad, but he played like he was hanging around waiting to go to the next level; he went through the motions at times. However, the brother of San Francisco 49er tight end, Vernon Davis, is a good tackler with 4.4 wheels. On measurables alone he might be a top ten draft pick.

Maurice Evans, DE Penn State
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? After 2007, Evans appeared to be destined for the top ten. He has the size, the quickness, and the talent to be a superstar pass rusher at the next level. Off-the-field issues and the emergence Aaron Maybin relegated Evans to a bit of a secondary role, but the NFL types know all about what Evans can potentially do.

Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State

Projected: 3rd round
Good or bad move? Freeman started as a true freshman and has learned on the job over the last three seasons. With good size, nice mobility, and a better college career than was recognized, considering the quarterback stars in the Big 12 over the last few years, he'll be seen as a decent developmental project with a world of upside. He had to leave with Bill Snyder, who's more of a fan of running quarterbacks, taking over.

Ricky-Jean Francois, DT LSU
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? While he's not the space-eating, heart-and-soul type of anchor that Glenn Dorsey was, Francois is a nice, quick tackle who has the skills to blossom into a tremendous NFL starter if he wants it. Considering his talent, and the players around him, he didn't have the huge year expected.

Shonn Greene, RB Iowa

Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? It's his time. The only runner in America to go over 100 yards in every game, Greene came out of nowhere to win the Doak Walker. Breakaways speed and quickness aren't issues, and he can run with a little bit of power, but he's going to be 24 by the start of the NFL season and is considered a bit of a one-year wonder.

Brian Hartline, WR Ohio State
Projected: 3rd round
Good or bad move? Why stick around? He's not going to get the ball with Terrelle Pryor throwing it. The passing game all but stopped once No. 2 took over, and while Hartline made some big plays, he wasn't used nearly enough. He'll be a nice second receiver in the NFL.

Percy Harvin, WR Flroida
Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move?
Apparently, Harvin didn't get the memo that the Florida stars were sticking around. He'll likely go in the top 20 picks, and will go higher if someone doesn't care about his durability issues.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Maryland

Projected: Late 1st round, early 2nd round
Good or bad move? He might have been the first receiver taken in last year's draft. With elite wheels and a prototype deep threat frame, he looks the part. He'll wow everyone at the Combine and will likely be a late first round pick.

P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin

Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? The big man is wearing down. Tremendously productive as the best big back in Madison since Ron Dayne, Hill has a nice array of moves and quickness to go along with his power. Patient, often times too patient, Hill is great at setting up his blockers. However, he can't stay healthy and had to leave early to avoid another year of punishment.

Greg Isdaner, OG West Virginia

Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? A big, physical blocker, he's the type of anonymous guard who gets taken late in the first day or early on the second, but finishes up with a 10-yard career as a cog in someone's system. He's big with quick feet and he can pound away.

Paul Kruger, DE Utah

Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? After getting the word that he'd be a relatively high pick, the star third-year sophomore, who spent a few years on a Church mission, has the speed to blow past most tackles, and the frame to get bigger to handle the more physical ones.

Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri

Projected: Top 15 overall
Good or bad move? A poor man's Percy Harvin, every offensive coordinator in the NFL wants Maclin as a fun weapon to have at the ready. Despite being hurt with an ankle injury, he still caught 102 passes for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns. He'll also be used as a kick and punt returner at the next level.

Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Auburn

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? One of the most versatile linemen in the draft, he can be a big end in a 4-3 or a nice sized tackle in the 3-4. While he's not a blot-out-the-sun tackle, he's tremendously quick and could grow into a strong interior pass rusher.

LeSean McCoy, RB Pitt
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move?
He's ready. He's been ready since he arrived on campus, anointed as the next Tony Dorsett or Curtis Martin. He'll be considered a featured back from day one.

Gerald McRath, LB Southern Miss

Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? The ultra-productive Golden Eagle has his degree and has been around the program for five years. He has the speed and the production, but he's build like a big safety and will need the right system to be a star.

Aaron Maybin, DE Penn State
Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move?
The third year sophomore is a top-shelf pass rusher with top ten overall ability. However, he's not all that big and needs to fit a system. Depending on which team likes him, he could go as high as ten and, with a bad workout, as low as the early second round.

Captain Munnerlyn, CB South Carolina

Projected: 5th round
Good or bad move? The only knock is his size, and that's not going to change enough to stay for a senior year. He's a willing hitter with 4.3 speed who'll make someone's defensive coordinator happy.

D.J. Moore, CB Vanderbilt

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? A star kick returner, and a top receiver when he had his chance, Moore is more than ready to go to the NFL. He's a good hitter who makes big plays and picks all over the field. While he's not huge, he plays big for his size with safety-like hitting ability and top 20 overall pick athleticism.

Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? There's a chance Moreno goes in the top ten if someone falls in love with him. A special back with great quickness through the hole and a burst to change gears in a heartbeat, he's a great all-around runner who can work inside or out. If he was eligible, he would've been gone to the NFL after last year; he was ready.

Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina

Projected: Late 1st round, early 2nd round
Good or bad move? Coming off a stellar Meineke Car Care Bowl performance in the loss to West Virginia, with 68 catches for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns, he showed the hands, the breakaway speed, and the dominance to be a No. 1 receiver at the next level. Ultra-productive, with 181 career catches for, 2,840 yards and 21 touchdowns despite not having a quarterback with a pulse to throw to him, Nicks could blow up if paired with the right passer.

Kevin Ogletree, WR Virginia

Projected: 5th round
Good or bad move? Ogletree came off a devastating knee injury to make 58 catches for 723 yards and five touchdowns as a steady target for the Cavaliers. While his decision to leave early was met with surprise, and reportedly, good riddance from the coaching staff, he has enough talent to make a roster. However, it might be a surprise if he goes anywhere near the first four rounds.

Jerraud Powers, CB Auburn

Projected: 4th round
Good or bad move? Size is an issue, but if he shows off excellent speed and quickness to the scouts, he could sneak into the first day. A willing hitter who isn't afraid to come up with a big play like a safety, Powers was growing into a strong SEC cover-corner when he chose to take off early. With another year, and with the defensive-minded coaching staff coming in, Powers could've become a top 60 draft pick had he stuck around.

Mark Sanchez, QB USC
Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? What wouldn't have been a great move on Tuesday was the right move on Wednesday. Sanchez was likely going to be a second round pick when it appeared Sam Bradford was going to leave early, and now he could be a top five overall pick with Bradford coming back for his junior year. He has the tools, but someone will have to be sold that he can be better than he was at USC, where he was good, but hardly special.

Andre Smith, OT Alabama

Projected: Top five overall
Good or bad move? The agent issue that cost him the Sugar Bowl aside, Smith is the best left tackle in the draft and could go No. 2 overall. The nation's top recruit three years ago, he started as a freshman and last year he was able to match his experience with his skills.

Sean Smith, CB Utah
Projected: 2nd round
Good or bad move? To no one's surprise, the playmaking Ute corner is making the leap, and he's ready. The measureable are nearly perfect. He's 6-3, around 220 pounds with 4.5 speed and huge hitting ability. He projects to be a safety in the NFL, but someone might see him as a big corner prospect to match up against the bigger, stronger targets. The former wide receiver will wow them at the Combine.

Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia

Projected: Top five overall
Good or bad move? In today's day and age of spread quarterbacks, the true NFL-caliber bomber is a rare commodity. Stafford could go No. 1 overall to Detroit, but at very worst he'll end up being taken in the top five. The scouts have been drooling over Stafford's arm for the last three years, and this season he showed more mobility when it came to keeping passing plays alive, and he showed better decision making ability.

Donald Washington, CB Ohio State
Projected: Second day
Good or bad move? A curious move. He had a decent year, even with the early season issues that kept him off the field, but he's hardly an elite prospect in the eyes of the NFL types. With a good workout he could go in the late third round, but it wouldn't be surprising if he fell to the fifth.

Chris Wells, RB Ohio State

Projected: 1st round
Good or bad move? The only knock is his health. In the two big games of this year, he missed the USC debacle with a foot injures and he was knocked out of the Fiesta Bowl by Texas. With his blend of power, size and breakaway speed, he could be the first back taken, and he could end up being taken in the first five picks. If he's part of a rotation, he'll be devastating.

Brandon Williams, DE Texas Tech
Projected: 3rd round
Good or bad move?
While he has hardly a top recruit, Williams blossomed into one of the Big 12's premier pass rushers. Close to graduating, the time is right for him to try to test the waters. If he goes lights out in the workouts, he could be a top 50 pick, but he'll more likely be an early second day guy. A bit rangy at 6-4 and 255 pounds, he has room to bulk up a bit.