Pollard to leave after junior year

Purdue University strong safety Bernard Pollard, one of the top junior secondary players in the country, will forgo his final season of college eligibility to enter the 2006 NFL draft, ESPN.com has confirmed.

Pollard is the second Purdue underclass defender in two days to opt for the pro game. Defensive end Ray Edwards said Sunday he will bypass his senior year for the draft.

While scouts are precluded from addressing a prospect's potential until they officially file paperwork with the NFL and are cleared for the draft, the consensus is that Pollard will be an early-round selection. Some scouts surveyed on Monday evening by ESPN.com assessed that Pollard could be a first-round choice but also cautioned that the evaluation process is still in its early stages.

A big, physical hitter with solid range, Pollard (6-feet-2, 226 pounds) recorded 92 tackles in 11 games for the Boilermakers this season. He also had three interceptions, three passes defensed, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick.

In three seasons, the Fort Wayne, Ind., star had 254 tackles, including nine tackles for losses, four interceptions, nine passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two recoveries. Projected more as an "in the box" safety, Pollard nonetheless has improved his coverage skills every season.

Scouts also like the fact that Pollard, while physically mature, is still young by NFL standards and won't turn 21 until next month.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.