Changes coming to NFL Draft underclassmen rule

In an effort to regulate the number of underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft, the league is in the process of initiating new protocols to improve the information provided to college prospects so they can make informed decisions.

According to an report, NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent sent a memo to college coaches this week outlining new rules for the way underclassmen (at least three years removed from high school) can get request information. Among the guidelines are two fundamental changes: who can request a grade and the grades that are provided by the College Advisory Committee (CAC).

To this point, any draft-eligible underclassman could request an NFL grade from the board - with close to 250 underclassmen asking for feedback for the 2014 NFL Draft. Now, each school is limited to no more than five players who can submit for draft grades. However, some schools can ask for more than five in special situations.

The other major change is the draft grade underclassmen receive from the advisory board. In the past, there were five categories: first round, at least second round, at least third round, fourth-sevenths rounds or undrafted. Now, there will be only three: first round, second round or stay in school.

"We want the kid to make an informed decision," Vincent said, per "Use our resources, make an informed decision. Each institution has those resources for every prospect and every head coach. The numbers and the facts speak for themselves."

There is a variety of reasons why players decide to declare early for the NFL, and most of them are financially driven. But the NFL believes more players will think twice about leaving school early with the new guidelines, and it will give college coaches more discussion points when attempting to convince players to stay in school.

The first news of these changes came at SEC Media Days this week when Alabama head coach Nick Saban alluded to the revised process. No conference has suffered more early declarations in recent years than the SEC, especially the top programs including Alabama and LSU. But with the growing number of underclassmen making the jump early, so is the number of players going undrafted and not making an NFL roster while leaving college eligibility on the table.

The number of underclassmen declaring early for the NFL Draft hovered at approximately 50 per year over the past decade, but the number has grown each of the past six years, including a record 98 for the 2014 NFL Draft. In 2012, 82 percent of underclassmen who declared early were drafted, followed by 70 percent in 2013 and only 62 percent for the 2014 class.

Underclassmen declarations by year:
2014 - 98
2013 - 73
2012 - 65
2011 - 56
2010 - 53
2009 - 46
2008 - 53
2007 - 40
2006 - 52
2005 - 51

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