2011 NFL Draft: Early Entry List Released, Draft Class Set

The 2011 NFL Draft is approaching. The Seattle Seahawks clearly need a quarterback, but who may be around when the Seahawks pick late in the first round? We examine the options, and will continue to, ahead of the draft.

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2011 NFL Draft: Taiwan Jones Not On Early Entry List, Still Expected To Be In The Draft

When the NFL released its list of early entrants in the 2011 NFL Draft, one local name was noticeably absent. After publicly declaring for the draft last week, Taiwan Jones, running back from Eastern Washington, was not among the 56 players listed as receiving a special exemption, given to those who forgo college eligibility to enter the draft early. After all the buzz about his declaration, did he have a change of heart?

The answer, according to SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft, is simple. Wednesday’s list only covers FBS players and doesn’t include players from a lower NCAA subdivision — specifically the FCS.

NFL spokesperson Terence Malangone informed MTD that the release today only included Football Bowl Subdivision players. The NFL will release a separate memo with non-FBS players.

Jones is still in the draft and will forgo the rest of his eligibility at Eastern, with the news being made official sometime in the near-future when the NFL sends out the memo. Since declaring, Jones has created plenty of buzz and seen his draft stock rise quickly, with some projecting him as a mid-round pick.

For more on Jones and the rest of the local products heading to the NFL, stay tuned to our 2011 NFL Draft prospects StoryStream.

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2011 NFL Draft Early Entry List: 56 Players Declare For The Draft Early

The NFL released the full list of players to receive special exemption into the 2011 NFL Draft on Wednesday. In layman’s terms, these are the players choosing to forgo college eligibility while meeting the requirements for entry into the NFL Draft. Players must have exhausted three years of eligibility at the college level while also declaring for the draft, signing a statement renouncing the remainder of their college eligibility.

Here’s a few players of local interest.

Akeem Ayers, linebacker from UCLA
Lawrence Guy, defensive tackle from Arizona State
Thomas Keiser, linebacker from Stanford
Javes Lewis, linebacker from Oregon
Rahim Moore, defensive back from UCLA
Jacquizz Rodgers, running back from Oregon State
Tyron Smith, tackle from USC
Shane Vereen, running back from Cal

Taiwan Jones also declared, though he was not on the early entry list. Washington and Washington State made it through unscathed, with only Chris Polk taking a serious look at the draft.

In total, 56 players declared early, besting 2009’s mark by three. Over the last decade, the number of early entrants has jumped, almost tripling in size. For the full list, check out SB Nation’s StoryStream.

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2011 NFL Draft Prospects: Jake Locker, Mason Foster Headline Washington Draft Entries

What the state of Washington lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality when it comes to the 2011 NFL Draft. Three players that spent their college days in the state — Jake Locker, Mason Foster and Taiwan Jones — are all projected to be taken in the first half of the draft, with Locker likely landing in the first half of the first round. Each of these athletes has had an outstanding career at their respective universities, and should reap the benefits at the next level when the time comes.

Here’s a look at the three players whose names you’ll hear in April.

Jake Locker: While he may not have done himself any favors returning for his senior season at Washington, Locker got exactly what he wanted. Not only did he accomplish the goal he’d set out for — making a bowl game — Locker did one better and left on a high-note, winning the Holiday Bowl. With Stanford’s Andrew Luck choosing to return to school for another year, Locker’s stock continues to rise, with some mock drafts project he’ll be off the board in the top-10.

SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft currently lists Locker at the 47th best prospect in the draft, but with the emphasis on quarterbacks always present in the first round, that ranking means little right now. Of the top-15 teams, plenty are in need of a quarterback and it’s hard to see Locker falling out of the first round. With athleticism that’s off the charts, he’s an intriguing prospect, though hard to nail down because of questions about his ability to make all the reads and throws necessary at the next level.

Mason Foster: The quiet assassin for the Huskies, Foster has put together a superb career at Washington. In 2010, he finished with an eye-popping 162 tackles, 14 of which resulted in a loss, and 6.5 sacks. He didn’t just lead the Pac-10 in tackles last season, he lapped the field, pushing his lead to 51 tackles. It’s easy to see why his draft stock continues to rise.

Mocking the Draft has Foster just behind Locker in the prospect rankings at No. 58. He could find himself landing anywhere from the second to third round in April, and shouldn’t slide any farther than that. Whoever picks him is getting a solid play-maker with a nose for the football.

Taiwan Jones: A bit of a surprise as an early-entrant, Jones opened some eyes in 2010 after garnering FCS All-American honors at Eastern Washington. Jones rushed for 1,742 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Eagles before breaking his foot in the FCS playoffs and sitting out the final two games of Eastern’s championship season. His athleticism, size and speed are tantalizing, leading many experts to dub him a sleeper in the 2011 draft.

Jones is ranked 165th in the top-200 at Mocking the Draft, but his stock has risen since he declared last week. Draft experts at CBS projected him as a third or fourth rounder in the draft, though he could move even higher if his foot heals, allowing him to impress in the pre-draft workouts. If it doesn’t, scouts can just play this on repeat and marvel at his strength.

It’s been a great year for football in the state of Washington. Between Eastern’s FCS title and Washington’s Holiday Bowl win, teams in the state have given fans something to cheer for the first time in a while. In April, these three could cap an outstanding year of football in New York when they hear their names called at the NFL Draft.

We’ll keep an eye on these three talented NFL Draft prospects leading up to the draft itself on April 28 in New York. Stay tuned to our StoryStream for the latest on 2011 NFL Draft prospects from the state of Washington.

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2011 NFL Draft: Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones Declares

Eastern Washington All-American running back Taiwan Jones declared for the NFL Draft on Friday, opting to skip his senior season in favor of the NFL. Jones rushed for 1,742 yards in 2010, but missed the final two games of the playoffs with a broken foot. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Jones has the size and speed to be a factor at the next level, and chose to make the jump now, rather than risk injury in his senior season.

The news was reported by ESPN's Joe Schad, who called Jones a sleeper in the draft.

Calling a draft sleeper. Eastern Washington junior RB Taiwan Jones (1,742 yards/7.9 per) will enter the NFL draftless than a minute ago via web

Jones was second in the FBS in rushing yards and all purpose yards for game. In 2010, he found the end zone 14 times on the ground, with another three touchdowns coming in the receiving game. His efforts were a big reason why Eastern was able to make a run in the playoffs, though he wasn't able to play in Eastern's semifinal and final wins.

The NFL Draft takes place at the end of April. Jones will look to make an impression at the NFL combine, and through individual workouts, ahead of the draft in an effort to make the decision worthwhile. With plenty of upside and accolades at the FCS level, Jones could be one of those running backs that comes out of nowhere and contributes right away at the NFL level.

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Michael Floyd Opts To Stay At Notre Dame Instead Of Declaring For 2011 NFL Draft:

Michael Floyd, projected to be a top-15 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has opted to stay at Notre Dame for his senior year. With the Jan. 15 deadline to declare for the draft looming, players are making their intentions known, and Floyd was no exception. In the latest 2011 NFL mock draft, Floyd was projected to head to the NFL West, taken by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 14 pick in the draft.

Notre Dame sent out a press release on Wednesday morning to announce Floyd would be back.

This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life," Floyd said. "On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level and that is something I look forward to doing at some point

Floyd finished the 2010 season with 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Irish. With a top-heavy draft class in 2011, headlined by Georgia’s A.J. Green, this may be a case where it was in his best interest to return to school for one more year. His return is great news for Notre Dame, who returns much of its core in 2011 as they look to get back on track.

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2011 NFL Draft: Jacquizz Rodgers Declares In Surprising Move

For weeks, we've all been told Jacquizz Rodgers would not be declaring for the 2011 NFL Draft, instead returning to Oregon State for another year with the Beavers. On Monday, however, all that went out the window as Rodgers became a surprise early-entry in the draft. It's a bit surprising, considering Rodgers hasn't been listed in the first three rounds of many 2011 NFL mock drafts thus far, but he, apparently, thinks his stock will climb high enough to lift him into the early rounds come April.

Paul Buker, from Oregon Live, has been all over it, tweeting about Quizz's declaration today.

Quizz is declaring for NFL draft .. details comingless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Though we've seen this game before, and the rumor was shot down, it's legitimate this time. Oregon State is holding a press conference at two o'clock p.m. today, with Rodgers speaking to the media about his decision.

Rodgers leaving immediately makes the Beavers worse next year, taking away their biggest offensive threat. His brother, James Rodgers, dealt with a variety of injuries in 2010 and will, reportedly, be back in 2011 to finish his career in Corvallis. It was thought the two Rodgers brothers would stick together, returning to Oregon forthe next year.

For more on the NFL Draft, stick with our StoryStream for the latest news and draft declarations. To find the latest mock drafts, check out our 2011 NFL Mock Draft StoryStream.

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Ryan Mallett Declares For 2011 NFL Draft

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, projected by at least one 2011 NFL mock draft to be the Seattle Seahawks pick, will forgo his senior season and enter the 2011 NFL Draft. Mallett took the winding road to Arkansas, beginning his college career at Michigan before transferring to Arkansas after his freshman year. Projected as a possible first rounder, Mallett declared ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline for early entries in the 2011 NFL Draft.

ESPN's Bruce Feldman reported the news on Twitter Thursday evening.

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has announced that he is entering the NFL draft.less than a minute ago via web

Mallett finished his redshirt junior year at Arkansas completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,869 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He started every game during his two-year tenure with the Razorbacks, finishing as the leading passer in Arkansas history after a 277 yard performance in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.

Mallet's decision to enter the 2011 NFL Draft comes on a busy day for quarterback prospects. Earlier on Thursday, Stanford announced quarterback Andrew Luck would not be entering the draft, instead opting to stay in Palo Alto for one more year. Without Luck, the chances of Mallett going early in the first round increased, making the decision easy.

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2011 NFL Draft: Teams In The Quarterback Sweepstakes

With the Seattle Seahawks ensured of a pick no higher than No. 21 in the 2011 NFL Draft, it’s time to start figuring out which teams have a need, like the Seahawks, at the quarterback position. While drafting the best available player is certainly a strategy that’s put to work in the NFL Draft, teams with a pressing need at the quarterback position are on the hunt, ready to pull the trigger should a player with the promise of a future franchise quarterback be available when they choose. For instance, the Carolina Panthers, owners of the No. 1 overall pick, have a young quarterback in Jimmy Clausen, yet have assured the public they will take Andrew Luck, should he declare for the draft.

SB Nation’s Field Gulls had a great look at the draft and who has a pressing need for a quarterback ahead of the Seahawks game against the St. Louis Rams next week. What John Morgan, Field Gulls founder, saw was the potential for a few names to be available when the Seahawks picked. He found the chances of grabbing a franchise quarterback in the late first round isn’t very promising.

Teams that need, or will take, a quarterback:
Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick, apparently isn’t the answer here.
Arizona Cardinals: John Skelton? Max Hall? Go ahead and pencil a quarterback in here.
San Francisco 49ers: Morgan believes the 49ers need a quarterback, but also feels they will find one in free agency. With the dual-Smiths manning the offense, that’s probably a good idea.

The Panthers were not included in the list, made before the Panthers went public with their intentions. In the top 10, that’s three quarterbacks gone, leaving the Seahawks to pick through the scrap-heap. Of those that may be available, we have Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Pat Devlin and, depending on workouts, Blaine Gabbert.

Overall, it doesn’t look promising for the Seahawks in the draft. Either head coach Pete Carroll goes with Whitehurst and hopes to develop a late first round or mid-round pick, or Seattle tries to wheel-and-deal. Unfortunately, this was the downside of winning on Sunday. The Seahawks are in the playoffs, but fell well out of the top 10 with the win.

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2011 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck Will Reportedly Go No. 1 If He Declares

The Carolina Panthers hold all the power in the 2011 NFL Draft with the No. 1 overall pick. With that pick, Carolina has the freedom to do whatever they want leading up to the draft, including making their intentions well-known. According to ESPN, they’ve done just that, with two high-ranking officials within the Carolina front office declaring the Panthers will take Stanford quarterback No. 1 overall if he declares for the draft.

According to the report, Carolina isn’t dangling a rumor as trade bait, but instead is dead-set on drafting Luck. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Luck is viewed as the top prospect in the country by most draft analysts and the Panthers don’t disagree with that assessment. The team officials said they wouldn’t even consider trading down in the draft if Luck is available.

This fits with everything we’ve heard as draft speculation heats up. Luck did nothing to dissuade the notion that he is the best overall prospect in the draft with his performance at the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night as he dismantled the Virginia Tech secondary en route to a 40-12 win in Miami.

The only question that remains is whether or not luck will choose to leave Stanford early and head to the NFL. Should he choose to declare, the quarterback class instantly gets better and increases the chances that a quarterback of the future will fall to the Seattle Seahawks with the 21st, or lower, pick in the draft.

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2011 NFL Draft: Blaine Gabbert Rises In The Rankings

On Monday, Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert elected to forgo his senior year and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Gabbert's decision to enter the draft early does a few things that could shakeup the quarterback selections when April rolls around. First, and most importantly for the Seattle Seahawks, Gabbert's addition to the draft class bolsters a quarterback class that's looked less than stellar thus far. Second, Gabbert's rise in the draft rankings throws off the order quarterbacks may be drafted, again helping the Seahawks.

Gabbert declaring for the draft doesn't come as a huge surprise. The Missouri quarterback has seen the buzz about his play steadily increase throughout the 2010 season, hitting a boiling point before the Insight Bowl. A look at some of the expert rankings, especially the rankings done by ESPN's Todd McShay, does reveal a bit of surprising news. Gabbert, according to McShay, is the second-best quarterback, behind Stanford's Andrew Luck, in the 2011 NFL Draft.

When the 2011 NFL Draft does finally kick off, it's more than possible that Gabbert ends up going in the top-10 as the second quarterback off the board. Had the Seahawks lost to the Rams on Sunday, they may have had a shot at the Missouri quarterback. Now that the Hawks are in the playoffs, and guaranteed to pick No. 21 or lower, the chance for a player like Gabbert may be gone, but there may still be a quarterback of the future on the board in the late first round, depending on who else declares.

Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and, perhaps, Cam Newton could all be around in the late first round, giving the Seahawks a chance to steal away a quarterback with their low-end draft pick. For more on the quarterbacks available, visit our 2011 NFL Mock Draft StoryStream as we evaluate the Seahawks options ahead of the 2011 NFL Draft.

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