The Greenville News --- Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley thought he had earned a higher grade that semester. Yet his only appeal was to repeat the course this fall.
After compiling 23 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season, Beasley requested a projection from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, a panel of scouting experts who evaluate college football players on their pro prospects.
"It wasn't a bad process," he said. "It was just filling out a little paperwork and just seeing what your grade was."
The wait was easy. The difficult part came after the grade arrived and Beasley had to decipher the board's assessment.
He determined that his grade — as high as the second round — did not forecast clearly how high he would actually land. He returned for his senior season aimed to improve that grade.
Not all have shared Beasley's reasoning.
Beasley was one of the 214 underclassmen who requested grades from the advisory board after the 2013 season. Ninety-eight declared for the draft, the most ever. Only 62 were drafted. Many of the remaining 36 undrafted underclassmen have yet to sign with an NFL team as a free agent.
"That's a shame," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Those guys could be back playing right now and improving their opportunity."
Swinney contended that countless underclassmen reached misguided decisions because they misinterpreted the vague grading system.
Previously, the advisory board organized the grades into five categories: as high as the first round, as high as the second round, as high as the third round, no potential to go in the first three rounds and no potential to be drafted.
Basing a life decision off such an ambiguous range was like trying to plan an afternoon around the cable guy's repair window.
This season, the NFL will simplify that scale into the three categories — first round, second round and neither. The lowest grade essentially will serve as the board's recommendation that the player should remain in school.
Additionally, under this new policy, only five players from each school can apply for a draft grade. If talent at an individual school warrants more than five, the NFL will grant additional requests.
Previously, the NFL did not limit the number of requests. Swinney estimated that eight Clemson underclassmen requested grades in 2013. LSU, Southern Cal, Oregon and Alabama each lost at least five underclassmen to the draft.
The streamlined system should improve the league's forecasting accuracy.
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, from 2012 to 2014, the board correctly projected 73.7 percent of its first-round grades and 85.4 percent of second-round grades. However, that rate dropped to 52.9 percent on third-round grades. Nearly 53 percent of players who received a third-round grade or lower were not even drafted.
"I had a couple of guys come out this year, and that's what they got: 'As high as third round,' " Swinney said, referring to Martavis Bryant and Bashaud Breeland, who both dropped to the fourth round.
According to Breer, last year, 35 players received the grade "as high as the third round." Twenty-one entered the draft. Nine dropped below the third round. Three were not drafted.
"If the guy's a first-rounder, he ought to go. That's always been my advice to them," Swinney said. "If you're second round, I think you've got a decision to make, but beyond that, it doesn't make any sense to me for a guy to leave."
This new grading system also should encourage coaching staffs to assist underclassmen through the process more actively.
"We want the kid to make an informed decision," NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent told NFL.com. "Use our resources, make an informed decision. Each institution has those resources for every prospect and every head coach. The numbers and the facts speak for themselves."
Swinney said his staff organizes symposiums and agent education days for prospective pro players and their families. These are coordinated by assistant athletic director for football player relations Jeff Davis, the legendary Clemson linebacker who played seven seasons in the NFL.
"We go to the nth degree to try to educate these guys," Swinney said, "just to understand that at the end of the day, whatever decision they make is fine. I just want to make sure they feel good about the decision. It's certainly something that could probably be improved at a lot of other schools."
Beasley said the grade is not a major factor for all prospects, but he asserted if these new policies were in place last season, the NFL would not have reached that draft declarations record.
"It definitely would've detoured a lot of guys' decisions," he said. "It depends on who you are and your family situation."
"That's a personal decision for everyone," Swinney said. "Some guys are just tired of school, and they just want to go. That's fine. You weigh all the pros and cons. My job is to make sure guys are informed, because you can't come back."
The 2014 numbers from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, a panel of pro scouting experts who evaluate college football players as to their pro prospects:
Requested evaluation: 214
Declared for the draft: 98