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01-19-2018, 12:42 AM
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel headline a record number of underclassmen entering the NFL draft heading into Wednesday nights deadline. At least 90 players who had college eligibility remaining are expected to enter the draft, shattering last years record number of 73. "Its a humongous number, so the first reaction is it makes you step back a little bit," said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. "What Im hearing is that the agents always have to make the sales pitch to get these to come out. This year, what Ive been told is the sales pitch is that all your money right now is coming from the second contract, so you need to come out early so you can get to that second contract a year earlier ... and apparently its been pretty effective." ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released a mock draft Wednesday in which 23 of the 32 first-round picks were early entries. Kiper had Manziel going first overall and included Clowney, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins as top-five picks. Jeremiahs list of the top 50 draft prospects includes early entries in the top three spots: Clowney at No. 1, Watkins at No. 2 and Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson at No. 3. "Its going to be a huge number of underclassmen that go high and have long careers," Jeremiah said. "And there are going to be some other guys who dont get drafted and will be in a tough spot and would have been better served to go back to school. It works both ways." ------ Heres a position-by-position breakdown of some of the early entries at each position. QUARTERBACK: Manziel, Bortles and Louisvilles Teddy Bridgewater are all projected first-round picks. Although the 6-foot-1 Manziel lacks the size of Bortles and Bridgewater, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner played tougher competition in the Southeastern Conference. Jeremiah ranks Manziel as his No. 7 overall prospect, with Bridgewater 10th and Bortles 22nd. Kipers mock draft has Bridgewater getting taken eighth. Wyomings Brett Smith isnt regarded as highly as the other three quarterbacks, but he could get chosen later in the draft. RUNNING BACK: Auburns Tre Mason boosted his stock by rushing for 663 yards against Alabama, Missouri and Florida State over his final three games. Jeremiah rates Mason 47th overall and second among running backs, behind Ohio State senior Micah Hyde. Other notable running backs to enter the draft include Arizonas KaDeem Carey, Washingtons Bishop Sankey, Oregons DeAnthony Thomas, LSUs Jeremy Hill, UCFs Storm Johnson and Florida State teammates Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. WIDE RECEIVER: The impact of underclassmen on the draft is perhaps most evident at wide receiver. Kipers mock draft has seven early entry receivers going in the first round: Watkins, Texas A&Ms Mike Evans (13), Southern Californias Marqise Lee (18), Florida States Kelvin Benjamin (22), Oregon States Brandin Cooks (28), LSUs Odell Beckham Jr. (30) and Penn States Allen Robinson (32). Jeremiah has nine listed among his top 50 overall prospects. And that doesnt factor in the available tight ends. Kiper has North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron going 16th overall and Texas Techs Jace Amaro 29th. OFFENSIVE LINE: Robinson has parlayed a breakthrough season at Auburn into a likely top-10 selection in the draft. Alabamas Cyrus Kouandjio and Tennessees Antonio "Tiny" Richardson could join him in the first round. DEFENSIVE LINE: The headliner here is Clowney, who may have the most upside of any prospect regardless of position. Florida State tackle Timmy Jernigan also is a potential top-10 pick. Notre Dame teammates Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt as well as Missouris Kony Ealy could both get taken in the first round. Florida tackle Dominique Easley was playing at an All-America level this fall before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. LINEBACKER: Ohio States Ryan Shazier is rated as the No. 31 overall prospect by Jeremiah. Other linebackers turning pro early include Floridas Ronald Powell, Californias Khairi Fortt, Alabamas Adrian Hubbard and Connecticuts Yawin Smallwood. DEFENSIVE BACK: Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville safety Calvin Pryor are both listed as first-round picks in Kipers mock draft and top-15 prospects in Jeremiahs rankings. 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Langer, the 2008 winner, had a 13-under 129 total at Newport Beach Country Club. The 56-year-old German won the season-opening event in Hawaii in January for his 19th victory on the 50-and-over tour. Kenny Perry and Chien Soon Lu were tied for second. Perry made a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th for a 65, and Lu shot 66. "I have to get off to a hot start and make birdies," Perry said. "I know hes going to be there at the end. I have to play my best when I go up against him. He doesnt make a mistake." Fred Couples, Scott Dunlap, Esteban Toledo and Jeff Hart were 10 under. Langer opened with a birdie, then made his first bogey of the tournament on his next hole. He added two more birdies on the front nine but also had another bogey. "I had a couple of hiccups on the front nine," Langer said. "I felt I was playing ok. I told my caddy, Lets try and play a good back nine and I did." On tthe back nine, Langer birdied Nos.dddddddddddd 13, 14, 15 and 17. One No. 15, he hit son Jason in the gallery on his approach shot. Langer then hit a flop shot over a bunker to 10 feet and made the birdie putt. "I was told it hit him," Langer said. "But it was more like it bounced a few times and rolled up to him. He was OK." Perry also had a strange incident. On No. 9, he tried to cut the corner on the dogleg right and caught a palm tree about 37 yards from the tee box. Fortunately, the ball fell to the side of the tree. Perry hit a 4-iron layup, followed by a 9-iron to 4 feet and made the putt for par. "That holes got me," Perry said. "If I had to play a lot of holes like it, I wouldnt play much." Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson made a 30-foot eagle putt on the final hole for 63, tied for the best round of the day. It was the first time on the Champions Tour the 64-year-old Watson has bettered his age on the tour. He was tied for 12th at 8 under. "When you are 64, it doesnt happen that much anymore," Watson said. 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