Bad timing

Every year, there’s a significant group of prospects who make the wrong decision when deciding whether to come out early for the NFL Draft. Here’s a look at eight junior and senior prospects who hurt their draft stock most with the wrong decision:

Seniors who should have entered the 2009 draft

FS Taylor Mays, San Francisco 49ers

The hype machine was never higher for Mays than at the end of the 2008 season. After knocking out Penn State WR Jordan Norwood and his own teammate on a hit during the Rose Bowl, all roads seemed headed for a potential high first-round pick in the 2009 draft. But after deciding to come back for his senior year, Mays’ lack of instincts, stiff lower half and overall open-field tackling ability fell into question. Even a brilliant combine performance couldn’t save this one-time potential high first-round pick. Mays fell deep into the second round, a far cry from the once heralded top-20 selection he was expected to be in ‘09.

CB Trevard Lindley, Philadelphia Eagles

Following a brilliant 2008 reason, which resulted in Lindley being named first team All-SEC, second team All-American and leading the SEC in pass break-ups (11), his stock was never going to get any higher. He was considered one of the nation’s top cover men and seemed, at worst, a lock for the first three rounds in the ‘09 draft. However, after missing parts of his senior season with injuries and being exposed routinely at the 2010 Senior Bowl, Lindley was lucky to even hear his name called in round four last Saturday.

Others worth noting:

TE Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

A potential top-10 selection in ‘09 who fell to the 21st pick in 2010 after missing his senior season with a knee injury.

DE George Selvie, St. Louis Rams

A big-time sack artist in 2007 who saw his production, along with his draft stock, fall off each of the past two seasons.

Juniors who should have stayed in school

QB Jevan Snead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The skill set is definitely there for Snead to develop into a capable NFL quarterback. But after entering the year primed to be one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, he struggled all season with his accuracy, decision making and ultimately his confidence, causing him to drop in the eyes of scouts everywhere. Nevertheless, after a season like he had, no one thought he would still enter the draft as a junior entry. But he did and ended up going undrafted, signing as a free agent with the Buccaneers. I’m sure Snead had a good reason for leaving Ole Miss early, but I’m willing to bet if that he returned, there’s no way he would go undrafted in 2011.

WR Carlton Mitchell, Cleveland Browns

I really like Mitchell as a prospect and think he has all the talent needed to mature into a bona fide starting wideout in the NFL. But he needs time. He’s a raw route runner who isn’t the most natural pass catcher at this stage and is still learning the nuances of the position. Never mind the fact the Browns got a steal with Mitchell in the sixth round. He could have used one more year at the college level to develop his game. Even with the potential of a great wide receiver class in 2011, there’s no way he falls to the sixth round next season.

Others worth noting:

Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers

A talented back but questions about his system, speed and a failed drug test caused him to freefall into the sixth round.

Donovan Warren, New York Jets

A lack of straight-line speed and a stiff transition when asked to turn and run are the main reasons this former big-time recruit went undrafted.

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