2016 NFL Draft: 30 underclassmen left undrafted, but trend is positive

Over the course of three days last week, 253 players were selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, likely the most exciting day in each of their careers up to this point. But what the television cameras don’t show is the aftermath following the 253rd pick as hundreds of undrafted prospects scramble to sign deals as free agents.

Included in that mix are a few dozen underclassmen who left school early to pursue a professional career. For some of those underclassmen, it was a longshot to be drafted. But for several others, it was an unexpected shock that likely creates doubt about whether or not the right decision was made to leave school with eligibility remaining.

Of the record 107 underclassmen who declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft, 30 were left undrafted, including notable players like Mississippi State wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson , Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell and Indiana defensive tackle Darius Latham .

The 30 undrafted underclassmen is six more than last season, but the trend has been positive over the past three seasons.

In 2014, 39.2 percent of underclassmen who declared early went undrafted. That number decreased to 28.6 percent in the 2015 NFL Draft and 28 percent this year. Those numbers are higher than ideal, but are trending in the right direction.

The NFL has tweaked aspects of the declaration process over the years to help college players make informed decisions. Players who are three years removed from high school are able to petition the NFL Draft Advisory Board for a preliminary grade before making a decision. Underclassmen receive one of three grades: first round, second round or go back to school.

Regardless of those grades and other NFL feedback, underclassmen will go undrafted every year, which is just the reality of the situation. Many receive poor advice from family, friends or other outside influences. And for some, returning to school isn’t an option due to academic or off-field issues. The NFL has implemented protocol to assist underclassmen to make the best possible decision, but for some players, the allure of a professional career in the NFL is worth the gamble to leave school early.

And going undrafted doesn’t mean the dream is over, as the NFL is littered with dozens of players who were not drafted, such as Jason Peters , Cameron Wake and Tony Romo. Each organization signs an average of 14 undrafted free agents with players receiving a signing bonus in the $7,500 range. 

Of the 30 underclassmen who went undrafted in this year’s class, some probably have regrets while others don’t. But hopefully future underclassmen take notice to help make the best decision for them.

Below is a list of the 30 undrafted underclassmen in the 2016 draft class:

Bralon Addison , WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander , LB, Oklahoma
Travis Blanks , LB, Clemson
Peyton Barber , RB, Auburn
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Beniquez Brown , LB, Mississippi State
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Terrell Davis, LB, British Columbia
Eric Enderson, PT, Delaware
David Grinnage, TE, N.C. State
Cayleb Jones , WR, Arizona
Denver Kirkland , OG, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DT, Indiana
Roger Lewis , WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa , LB, Rutgers
Jalin Marshall , WR, Ohio State
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Joe Powell, DB, Globe
Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State
Alex Redmond , OG, UCLA
Aldrick Rosas, PK, Southern Oregon
Tyrell Smith, OT, Massachusetts
Ron Thompson , DE, Syracuse
Corey Tindal , CB, Marshall
Quinn van Gylswyk, PK, British Columbia
Cleveland Wallace, CB, San Jose State
De'Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Avery Young , OT, Auburn

De'Runnya Wilson was one of 30 early entrants to go undrafted. (USATSI)
De'Runnya Wilson was one of 30 early entrants to go undrafted. (USATSI)

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