Chung to skip final year of eligibility, enter draft

University of Oregon safety Patrick Chung, a strong two-way defender who ranked among the team's top tacklers each of the past three years, will bypass his final season of eligibility to enter the 2008 NFL draft, he told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday was the deadline for underclass prospects to petition for inclusion in the draft, and Chung has filed all of the pertinent paperwork with the NFL office. The league is expected to release a list of underclass prospects, with the group likely to be a large one, later this week.

"I did a lot of soul-searching," Chung said. "Actually, I did a lot of everything searching. But I'm ready to make the move and I think it's definitely the right decision for me."

A freshman All-American in 2005 and a two-time All-Pac 10 selection, Chung figures to rank among the top three or four safety prospects in a draft that does not appear particularly deep at the position.

Scouts are precluded by NFL guidelines from discussing underclass prospects, at least for attribution, until the league approves their applications and announces those who are officially draft-eligible. But three talent evaluators who were reached by ESPN.com on Wednesday and queried about Chung all said that, if he runs well at the combine or in "pro day" workouts, he probably should be chosen in the first three rounds.

Safeties are typically devalued a bit in the draft, although the position has taken on a higher profile in recent seasons, and Chung's versatility will certainly help him. As a "rover" defensive back in the Oregon scheme, he was asked to line up at linebacker, safety and cornerback. He projects best to strong safety at the NFL level.

"I think that's the best fit for me," said Chung, who said the NFL player he most attempts to emulate is Indianapolis Colts strong safety Bob Sanders, the league's defensive player of the year for 2007. "I like to play close to the line, but I feel like I can back off and cover people, too. I just like to be near the action."

Chung has good size (5-feet-10 ¾, 210 pounds) and is said to run in the 4.49- to 4.52-second range in the 40-yard dash.

In his three college seasons, he totaled 292 tackles, 16 tackles for losses, eight interceptions, 11 passes defensed, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. Chung had a team-high 117 tackles in 2007 and also posted two interceptions and seven pass deflections.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.