NORMAN — Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson and receiver Kenny Stills each insist they're focused solely on the Sooners' upcoming showdown with Texas A&M.
Regardless, the two juniors are on the clock; like draft-eligible underclassmen nationwide, Jefferson and Stills have until Jan. 15 — eleven days after the Cotton Bowl — to decide if they'll enter April's NFL Draft or return for their senior seasons.
The two acknowledged they've filed for NFL Draft Advisory Board evaluations, which show players where they're likely to be drafted.
The looming decisions require a slew of important considerations; chief among them are their projected round, its financial rewards and an honest assessment of how both might improve with another college season.
“It's a big money drop from first-to-second (round) and second-to-third, so I've done my investigation on that part,” Jefferson said. “I don't think if anyone's a first-round pick, they'd pass that up.”
ESPN.com currently ranks Jefferson as the fifth-best 2013 safety prospect, and he could even sneak into the first round, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.
That's where potential earnings become important. For example, David Wilson and Brian Quick were taken by the Giants and Rams with last year's 32nd and 33rd picks, respectively.
Wilson, as a first-round selection, signed a rookie contract ensuring about $1.5 million more than Quick's guaranteed total. That gap becomes far wider between mid-first and mid-second round picks, etc.
Still, one prevailing notion — that another college season could result in a costly injury — has scared countless draft-eligible underclassmen into bolting early.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, though, implores his NFL-curious underclassmen to consider the money they could lose by failing to “maximize your window.”
“What everyone doesn't get is if you give that up, it doesn't ever come back,” said Stoops, who relentlessly educates players on how necessities like taxes, agency fees, a car and a house can quickly swallow impressive-looking contracts.
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