15 College Football Underclassmen Who Must Declare For The 2015 NFL Draft

15 College Football Underclassmen Who Must Declare For The 2015 NFL Draft

FSU QB Jameis Winston
Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

Every year, a growing number of underclassmen forego any remaining eligibility in favor of a chance at the NFL. Quite often, these are players coming off spectacular statistical seasons who are destined for the NFL regardless. While sacrificing education is rarely a good decision, it can be a profitable one. Here are 15 players who should forego their senior years and enter the 2015 NFL Draft in order to maximize their career earning potential.

15. UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy

UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy
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15. UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy

UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy
Richard Mackson - USA Today Sports

At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, DT Ellis McCarthy has the size and strength to be a legitimate force in the NFL. Coming off of his best season at UCLA, McCarthy looks primed for a breakout campaign in 2014 for the Bruins. As a sophomore, he posted 31 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in eight starts. With the NFL's need for DTs who can anchor the line at an all-time high, McCarthy could very well end up a first-round draft pick in 2015.

14. Miami RB Duke Johnson

Miami RB Duke Johnson
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14. Miami RB Duke Johnson

Miami RB Duke Johnson
John David Mercer - USA Today Sports

While Hurricanes RB Duke Johnson is still recovering from the ankle injury which caused him to miss four games last season, he is still expected to be a major contributor for Miami's rebuilding offense in 2014. With back-to-back 900-plus yard rushing seasons, as well as a ridiculous 20 all-purpose touchdowns over the past two years, there is no question Johnson has the skillset to contribute immediately in the NFL.

13. Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon

Alabama RB TJ Yeldon
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13. Alabama RB TJ Yeldon

Alabama RB TJ Yeldon
John David Mercer - USA Today Sports

Alabama star RB T.J. Yeldon is about to have a monster year. With QB A.J. McCarron leaving for the NFL, the Crimson Tide will lean heavily on their running attack. While head coach Nick Saban is known for deploying a committee approach to the backfield, every additional carry Yeldon takes will ultimately cut into the longevity of his NFL career -- another unfortunate side-effect of playing the sport's most physically-demanding position.

12. LSU OG Vadal Alexander

LSU OG Vadal Alexander
Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

12. LSU OG Vadal Alexander

LSU OG Vadal Alexander
Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

Already entering his third year as a starter, LSU offensive guard Vadal Alexander has been one of the most consistent and productive players in the entire SEC. With experience at tackle and guard, Alexander's versatility will serve him well in his transition to the NFL. The 6-foot-6, 342-pound junior has also shown durability, entering 2014 with a streak of 22 consecutive starts.

11. Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong

ASU WR Jaelen Strong
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11. Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong

ASU WR Jaelen Strong
Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports

WR Jaelen Strong burst onto the national scene this past season for the Sun Devils, posting an impressive 75 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. With seven 100-plus yard receiving games and a ridiculous 29 explosive plays on the season, Strong showed his penchant for playmaking. It's clear the 6-foot-4, 215-pound playmaker is built for the NFL. Plus, with senior QB Taylor Kelly graduating in 2015, Strong will likely declare.

10. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
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10. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports

Gordon is a 6-foot-1, 207-pound homerun-hitter for the Badgers' backfield in Wisconsin. After redshirting in 2011 as a freshman, Gordon turned heads in 2012, rushing only 62 times for an astounding 621 yards and three TDs. The following year, he proved it was no fluke as he carried the ball 206 times for 1609 yards and 12 TDs. A preseason First Team All-American (Phil Steele) who averages 8.1 yards/attempt is sure to find an NFL home quickly.

9. Washington OLB Shaq Thompson

Washington OLB Shaq Thompson
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9. Washington OLB Shaq Thompson

Washington OLB Shaq Thompson
James Snook - USA Today Sports

To put things bluntly, Shaq Thompson and his entire 2011-12 UW recruiting class were wronged by former Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian, who decided to unceremoniously bolt from Husky Nation to their Pac-12 rivals, the USC Trojans. The way he did it likely agitated players in the locker room. That is clearly no reflection on new UW head coach Chris Peterson, who is a phenomenal coach. Rather, it's just natural for the connection to be severed.

8. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

8. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Understandably, this one is a bit of a long shot. Most Stanford athletes stay through graduation. After all, who wouldn't want a free degree from Stanford? Yet, Hogan could be selected as high as the top 10 in the 2015 NFL Draft, depending on which other underclassmen declare and the type of season Hogan has. As it stands, the 6-foot-4, 228-pound deceivingly athletic pocket-passer may just remind fans of his predecessor, Andrew Luck.

7. Florida State CB P.J. Williams

Florida State CB PJ Williams
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7. Florida State CB P.J. Williams

Florida State CB PJ Williams
Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA Today Sports

Nothing boosts your draft stock like playing well on the world's biggest stage. When P.J. Williams earned Defensive MVP honors in the BCS National Championship Game, he vaulted himself into the limelight, earning the hype that had rightfully followed him to FSU. His career-high seven tackles and game-changing interception showcased his ball skills, as well as his outstanding size -- both traits which are all the rage in the NFL.

6. Alabama WR Amari Cooper

Alabama WR Amari Cooper
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6. Alabama WR Amari Cooper

Alabama WR Amari Cooper
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Amari Cooper is clearly the most talented wide receiver left at Alabama. While his playmaking ability is evident, he is about to undergo a great deal of change on offense. Former QB A.J. McCarron is gone, along with several other key contributors for the Crimson Tide. As a result, Cooper's numbers may take a hit this year. Fortunately, his combine numbers will surely prove his worthiness of being a first-rounder, giving him incentive to leave.

5. Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo

Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo
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5. Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo

Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

In 2012, Isaac Seumalo became the first freshman to start at center for Oregon State since 1978. He was given the job from day one and never looked back, earning all-conference honors both years as a starter. At 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, Seumalo has the strength and athleticism to successfully convert to any offensive system. The Beavers' team captain will also be losing his starting QB Sean Mannion in 2015, which should make his decision easier.

4. USC DE Leonard Williams

USC DE Leonard Williams
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

4. USC DE Leonard Williams

USC DE Leonard Williams
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Their are some players who are just special on the field. That is the best way to explain USC DE Leonard Williams. Last season as a sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Williams was second on the team in tackles with 76. Perhaps more impressively, however, he added 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and a forced fumble on his way to third-team AP All-American honors. Williams very well may be the best defensive lineman in the nation in 2014.

3. Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
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3. Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Melina Vastola - USA Today Sports

In just two seasons at the University of Georgia, Todd Gurley has proven to be the best running back in the country. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound behemoth has made a name for himself, steamrolling the very best the SEC has had to offer. However, with his Marshawn Lynch-like running style, Gurley would be best served limiting his number of carries prior to turning pro. After all, the tread on his tires will eventually be scrutinized come draft time.

2. Oregon Marcus Mariota

Oregon Marcus Mariota
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2. Oregon Marcus Mariota

Oregon Marcus Mariota
Scott Olmos - USA Today Sports

Barring a dramatic downhill slide this season, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will be a top-five draft pick in the NFL Draft. The only question is, which NFL Draft? The standout QB prospect has prototypical size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and a big arm. Mariota also has the mobility that has become so fashionable in the NFL lately. With Chip Kelly's Oregon-style offense taking the league by storm, Mariota will be in high demand.

1. Florida State Jameis Winston

Florida State Jameis Winston
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

1. Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Florida State Jameis Winston
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Clearly, Heisman Trophy Winner and National Champion QB Jameis Winston has immense talent as an athlete. Unfortunately, he seems to be unable to stay away from negative headlines. While Winston and his family maintain the QB's desire to achieve his degree, another strong season this year could put Winston in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. Given the intense NCAA scrutiny Winston's been under, NFL money could be hard to turn down.

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