At Inside the League, we’re always interested in looking at the draft in ways others don’t. With half the college season wrapping up after this weekend, this week, we thought we’d look at the true juniors, redshirt juniors and redshirt sophomores that might be thinking of passing up their respective seasons.

We hear a lot about the poor decisions so many players make in leaving early, and how the number of early entries is inclining steadily. The NFL puts a lot of resources into educating players on their pro chances, yet still, the perception is that countless players are throwing away their college careers to chase wild dreams, often egged on by unscrupulous agents.

Based on our look at the numbers, that perception doesn’t match reality. Do players who leave early blow their chances of getting to the league? For the most part, no. Consider.

  • About one in seven players who leave early (15.5 percent) won’t make a 53-man roster or practice squad at all. Looking at those numbers as half-full, rather than half-empty, just over 84 percent will make an NFL team, at least for a little while.
  • Numbers aren’t available on what percentage, on average, doesn’t even make it to an NFL camp, but I’d estimate it’s about half of that. Again, turning the numbers to half-full, I’d estimate that more than 90 percent of those leaving early at least make it into a camp.
  • Would another year in college have made any difference? It’s impossible to tell. What percentage of those players left school with eligibility remaining, but already had a degree? Those are also numbers we don’t have.
  • More on education and degree completion: it’s worth noting that most often, offensive linemen make it furthest in their coursework because they redshirt their first seasons. However, of the 87 players in the last five years who left early but never made it to the regular season, just six were offensive linemen.
  • More on the players that never made it to the regular season: 26 of 87 (about 30 percent) were from FCS-or-smaller schools, which statistically only make up about nine percent of the league anyway. If you’re leaving early for the NFL and you didn’t play FBS, it’s like having to notch a hole in one for the chance to make a half-court shot. The odds aren’t good.

At the end of the day, if you’re a player who feels he’s had a good season, is ready for the league, and has explored all his options and submitted his name for review with the NFL, I don’t think it’s a completely outrageous idea. After all, the NFL can be a very fickle organization, and your chances this time next year are not automatically as good as they are this year, especially when you figure in the chance of injury.

At the same time, before you make any decisions, we recommend you look at the hard numbers, which you can do here (with an ITL account, that is; sorry).

One question we’ve avoided entirely in this space is, what are the statistical chances a player who leaves early gets drafted? We take a long look at that in this week’s Friday Wrap, analyzing our statistical breakdown, which is presented here (sorry, it’s an ITL link again).

Make sure to check out our full look at early entries, where they wind up, and why in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.