Predictably, a record 85 underclassmen will be among the 335 players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis February 19-24, The Sports Xchange learned Wednesday.
Although players have been notified, the official list has not yet been announced formally, and there are often a few late changes right up until the week of the event.
Leading name on the list is Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, the latest NFL prospect from the Matthews clan that includes his Hall of Fame father, Bruce. Jake is the top rated prospect this year by NFLDraftScout.com.
Headlining -- literally in terms of headlines -- the 85 underclassmen is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who played one more season in 2013 after a dazzling 2012 season in which he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
However, despite his dynamic college career, there is a debate on where and how he will fit into the NFL game, evidenced by the fact that NFLDraftScout.com has him rated as the No. 3 quarterback behind two other underclassmen -- Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (1st QB, 3rd overall) and University of Central Florida's Blake Bortles (2nd QB, 5th overall). Manziel is listed seventh overall by NFLDraftScout.com
Although the 85 invited underclassmen is a record, so was the 98 underclassmen who were accepted into the draft, meaning 13 of them were not invited to the combine, or not yet anyway.
Perhaps most notable among them is Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. NFLDraftScout.com currently rates him as the No. 11 quarterback and projects him as a fifth-round pick, he has gained increasing attention as a poor-man's Manziel, especially due to his dramatic, gun-slinging playing style. It is possible he may be added to the list.
Looking at the list by schools, Alabama has the most invitees with 12, followed by LSU at 11, then Norte Dame and Florida State at nine each, and Stanford with eight.
Here is a look at the list, by position (*denotes underclassman):
*Bortles, Blake, Central Florida
Boyd, Tajh, Clemson
Bridgewater, Theodore (Teddy), Louisville
Carr, Derek, Fresno State
Fales, David, San Jose State
Garoppolo, James (Jimmy), Eastern Illinois
Lynch, Jordan, Northern Illinois
*Manziel, Johnnyxas A & M
Mathews, Jeffrey (Jeff), Cornell
Mc Carron, Raymond (A.J.), Alabama
Mettenberger, Zachary (Zach), Louisiana State
Morris, Stephen, Miami
Murray, Aaron, Georgia
Renner, Bryn, North Carolina
Savage, Thomas (Tom), Pittsburgh