A record 73 underclassmen, including six first-team All-Americans, were approved for the NFL draft on Saturday.
That number was eight more than last year.
The six All-Americans were safety Matt Elam of Florida, tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford, tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, defensive end Bjoern Werner of Florida State, linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia and cornerback Dee Milliner of national champion Alabama.
Only Elam is not projected as a high first-round pick, but all six easily could go in the opening round on April 25.
Several scouts and NFL personnel directors believe Joeckel, Werner, Jones and Milliner could go in the top 10.
NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt, the former general manager of the Cowboys, has Joeckel and Werner as his top two prospects.
Also approved was former LSU cornerback-kick returner Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 All-American. Mathieu, a one-time Heisman Trophy finalist, was dismissed from the team in August after reportedly failing a drug test.
Louisiana State lost a whopping 11 players, including Mathieu. Next were Florida State, Tennessee and Florida, each with four. Michigan State, Stanford, Georgia and Oklahoma each lost three players.
Alabama saw Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy enter the draft.
In all, 38 schools lost players early.
Also leaving school and projected to go high in the draft: LSU DEs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore, Georgia LB Alec Ogletree, California WR Keenan Allen, Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins, and LSU linebacker Kevin Minter.
Only one quarterback, Tyler Bray of Tennessee, applied early for the NFL.
First non-seniors will compete in Senior Bowl
The NFL has cleared two non-seniors to compete in the Senior Bowl for the first time, opening the door to a wider pool of draft prospects for future games.
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said Saturday that fourth-year junior offensive linemen D.J. Fluker of Alabama and Justin Pugh of Syracuse received that clearance. Both have graduated.
“This is a breakthrough moment for the Senior Bowl game because the league allowed us to bring in these two players who graduated in December and were on campus for four years and their coach supported their candidacy for the Senior Bowl,” said Savage, a former Cleveland Browns general manager. “The reason we wanted to do this was because in the past there have been a number of fourth-year juniors who had graduated who were not allowed to play in the Senior Bowl.”
New Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley turned to a former colleague for his first hire – maybe his most important one. Bradley hired Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to the same position Saturday, charging him with remodeling one of the league’s worst offenses. … The Oakland Raiders chose a coordinator to get their offense back to a power-running scheme. The Raiders hired former Jacksonville quarterbacks coach Greg Olson as their new offensive coordinator, a person familiar with the decision confirmed Saturday on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced the move. … The Buffalo Bills have hired Pat Morris to be their offensive line coach. … The San Francisco 49ers have promoted WR Chad Hall from the practice squad to the active roster for today’s NFC Championship game.