Good, bad early-entry decisions

Players smart to jump, smart to come back and in question for leaving early

Updated: January 21, 2014, 5:02 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

Ka'Deem CareyCrystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsKa'Deem Carey made a good decision to leave Arizona and enter the 2014 NFL draft.

Generally speaking, I'm for players entering the NFL draft when they have a pretty good sense they'll be drafted. People tend to overlook some pretty significant things when they simply say a kid should "stick around and get his degree." For instance:

• Since so many players are on campus all summer and can take classes, many players don't just graduate, they graduate early. Teddy Bridgewater entered the draft "early" -- but he already had a degree.
• This is a dangerous sport, and I hate seeing a kid get hurt well after his draft value is established. Put yourself in the shoes of the player.
• Leaving for the NFL doesn't have to be the end of your education. If someone promised you $1 million as a college junior if you left school, would you say no and justify it by saying you could never go back? Of course not. Again, put yourself in the shoes of the player.

I think underclassmen see it this way more and more, which is why a record number of them entered the 2014 NFL draft. Will some go undrafted? Of course. But about 20 percent of NFL players are undrafted. A shorter draft means better player allocation based on team needs.

With that said, I wanted to look at some good and questionable draft decisions this year. For those I question, let me be clear that it's more about draft value and the chance to rise for 2015 -- it's not just a knock on the decision. Everybody has to evaluate their own situation.


Good timing

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Plays a key position with a frame and skill set every team covets right now. It's hard for me to see him falling outside the top 18 (the Jets pick at that spot), and he's riding a good wave of performance and positional momentum.

Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Not only is Carey not shy about running through contact, he gets to do it a lot. He had 349 carries this past season, and 303 in 2012. That's plenty of punishment for an NFL running back over a two-year span, much less a guy not getting paid for it. Time to cash some checks for your efforts. I think he can go in Round 2 or 3.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M:

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst