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Clark Column: Three-and-done is new norm for FSU, other college powers

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Auden Tate is one of 21 FSU underclassmen who have declared for NFL Draft since 2013.
Associated Press

When Ryan Izzo declared for the NFL Draft, it sort of made sense. He’s a talented player, and he has the measurable of an NFL tight end. Plus, he didn’t know how he would be featured in Florida State’s new offense.

When Auden Tate declared, I thought he might have cost himself a chance to have a huge senior year and improve his draft stock a bit, but I also understood the decision. He’s put enough on tape to get drafted, and by leaving early, he gets one year closer to that second contract -- which is when the real money starts getting thrown around in the league.

When Jalen Wilkerson declared for the draft, my first thought was: Of course he did. When you rack up 22 tackles in two years, you’ve really got nothing left to prove at this level. Go get paid!

But what Wilkerson really proved -- along with guys like Izzo and Josh Sweat and Tarvarus McFadden -- is that we’ve got to recalibrate how we judge these decisions. (Well, maybe not in Wilkerson’s case. That one will always be baffling because he has very little shot of getting drafted, and there’s no guarantee he gets a spot on someone’s practice squad or even a free-agent invite to a camp. Just bizarre.)

But when it comes to the other Florida State early entries -- not named Derwin James -- we’re seeing a trend continue to evolve: It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be a first-round pick or not, just get picked, start your career and then go from there.

It’s becoming more and more like college baseball in that regard -- where you expect a really good player to just be on campus for three years. No matter if a junior gets drafted in the 2nd round or 17th round, he’s almost always going to leave. To go chase that dream.

Turns out, three-and-done is becoming the norm in college football as well.

It wasn’t too long ago that the only way you were supposed to leave early for the NFL is if you were a guaranteed first-round pick. Case in point: During the whole 14-year dynasty run, Florida State had 14 players declare for the NFL Draft. That’s it. Fourteen. Nine of them were first-round picks.

In the last five years alone, Florida State has had 20 underclassmen declare for the draft. James will be just the fourth first-round pick of that group.

That’s not exactly a great percentage.

As I started doing research for this column, I had a theory I wanted to pursue: That Florida State has had an inordinate number of early entries NOT become first-round picks. That FSU, for some reason, was having more middling draft prospects declare than other big-time football programs.

Turns out, I was (mostly) wrong.

It’s just the way the sport is now.

For my research, I chose six other programs that I thought were somewhat similar to Florida State -- Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Miami and Ohio State. I then looked up how many early entries each school has had since the end of the 2013 season, including the ones who have declared in recent days.

LSU has had more early entries than anyone over the last five years with 21.

Clemson will likely be at 21, too, when its two terrific defensive linemen declare. What are those dudes waiting on anyway?

Florida State is currently at 20.

So is Florida.

Alabama, which had five players declare on Thursday, is currently at 18.

Ohio State is at 15.

Miami, which I included because it’s a rival -- but doesn’t really belong on this list because it hasn’t won anything since I had hair -- has had 11.

But here’s where all of this relates to Florida State and the baseball-like track that the sport now seems to be on: These seven schools combined for 95 early entries in the last four NFL Drafts.

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