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Winners and losers from the 2021 NFL Draft early entry deadline

The NFL Draft early entry deadline passed Monday (Jan. 18), a process that started earlier than ever given the steady stream of opt-outs and was unusual in that players were granted an additional year of eligibility. The NFL Draft community will debate these prospects ad nauseam in the next few months — even without an NFL Combine — and we’ll chime in when our expertise calls for it. But these choices also greatly impact college football. Consider the 2020 national champions; DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood all returning for a senior season was bigger than any win on the recruiting trail for Alabama.

At most schools, those guys are automatic three-and-outs. But at the Alabamas, Clemsons and Ohio States of the world — programs with strong cultures and a proven ability to not only develop players but help them reach that final level of evolution, and an even better draft grade — they’re toss-ups.

We saw that this cycle with Ohio State returning Chris Olave and Clemson getting back cornerback Derion Kendrick, who have each been mocked in the first round.

Those two are considered big winners of the NFL Draft early entry deadline, but they’re not alone. And there are a handful of losers, too.

Note: This article supplements the Jan. 20 episode of the College Football Daily podcast.

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