Wednesday, January 16, 2013 Updated: January 20, 11:40 AM ET
Not everyone loses at draft deadline
By Mark Schlabach ESPN.com
A whopping 73 college juniors and third-year sophomores entered the NFL draft before Tuesday's deadline, the most to ever declare their intentions of turning pro early.
Some of those players undoubtedly made the right decisions, while we'll have to wait to see whether others made the correct choices in the end.
Some schools -- Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee -- were hit hard by early defections.
Who were the winners when the ink was dry?
AJ McCarron returns to try and lead Alabama to a third straight BCS National Championship.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It could have been much worse for two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama, which lost offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, tailback Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner a year early to the draft. But starting quarterback AJ McCarron and star linebacker C.J. Mosley both decided to return to school for their senior seasons, giving the Crimson Tide a nice nucleus of leadership to make a run at three consecutive BCS national titles. LSU lost 10 underclassmen to the NFL draft, which won't hurt Alabama's chances of winning the SEC West in 2013.
California receiver Keenan Allen
Allen, a junior from Greensboro, N.C., didn't get a lot of attention as the Bears limped to a 3-9 finish in coach Jeff Tedford's final season. USC receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods overshadowed Allen throughout the season. But Allen, who caught 61 passes for 737 yards with six touchdowns in 2012, might end up being the first receiver selected in the NFL draft. Recruited to play safety by Alabama, Keenan has good size and runs crisp routes. Along with Woods, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, West Virginia's Tavon Austin, Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins and Baylor's Terrance Williams figure to be Allen's main competition at the NFL combine.
Losing DeAndre Hopkins, who caught a team-high 82 passes for 1,405 yards with 18 touchdowns, is a big hit. But Clemson's future would have looked a lot worse if quarterback Tajh Boyd had left after his junior season, too. The Tigers still have game-changing receiver Sammy Watkins, but losing the QB in offensive coordinator Chad Morris' spread offense would have been a potentially devastating blow. With Boyd coming back, the Tigers will be the preseason favorites to win the ACC.
Fresno State Bulldogs
It might have been hard to knock Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr if he'd left early for the NFL draft. Carr was named the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 4,104 yards with 37 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Given the subpar group of quarterbacks available in this spring's draft, Carr might have had a chance to move up the draft boards. But Carr played the second half of the 2012 season with a sports hernia, and he has already undergone surgery to correct it. The Bulldogs went 9-4 in coach Tim DeRuyter's first season and might be poised to crack the Top 25 this coming season.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray
There's no doubt the Bulldogs will sorely miss star linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, who are projected to be potential first-round picks in the draft. Nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers also departed early, leaving UGA some big holes to fill on the defensive line. But Georgia's rebuilding efforts would have been much more difficult if Murray had decided to leave, as well. Murray can break nearly every SEC passing record if he stays healthy this coming season. With Murray and tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall coming back, UGA should have one of the country's most explosive offenses in 2013.
It's been a couple of difficult seasons for Miami coach Al Golden, as the Hurricanes have battled through multiple suspensions and an ongoing NCAA investigation. But Miami finally received some good news when a trio of juniors -- offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, defensive tackle Brandon Linder and guard Curtis Porter -- decided to return to school. As a result, the Hurricanes might be in position to make a run at an ACC championship in 2013.
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert could be a big receiving weapon at the next level.
NFL pro-style offenses
Spread offenses might be the rage in college football, but traditional pro-style offenses are still alive and kicking. There will be a tremendous crop of pass-catching tight ends available this year. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, Florida's Jordan Reed and Stanford's Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo have decided to skip their senior seasons. There's also a very deep stable of running backs available, led by Lacy, North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Clemson's Andre Ellington, Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor.
A few NFL quarterbacks will have an easier time sleeping after a fantastic group of junior offensive linemen entered the draft. Alabama guard Chance Warmack and Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel might be the first linemen selected off the board this spring, and Fluker, Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper also are considered potential first-round choices.
The Ducks were the only team to finish in the top 10 of the final polls and not lose any underclassmen to the NFL draft. Oregon will bring back a boatload of talent in 2013, if not head coach Chip Kelly, who will reportedly be the Philadelphia Eagles' next head coach.
Virginia Tech Hokies
It was largely a forgettable season at Virginia Tech, as the Hokies narrowly avoided having a losing season before beating Rutgers 13-10 in overtime in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The good news: quarterback Logan Thomas, cornerback Antone Exum and defensive end James Gayle each decided to stick around. Thomas was considered a potential first-round pick before his junior season, but he struggled to complete only 51.3 percent of his passes for 2,976 yards with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. There wasn't much experienced help around him this past season, but the Hokies will be more seasoned in 2013. Coach Frank Beamer also hired former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to revamp his offense.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith
Smith's final season at West Virginia didn't go quite as planned, as the Mountaineers limped to a 7-6 finish, losing six of their final eight games. Smith passed for 4,205 yards with 42 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he might end up being the first quarterback selected from a pretty thin crop of prospects. The quarterback class would have been a lot more crowded if Boyd, Carr, Murray and Thomas elected to enter the draft.