College football-playing undergraduates officially declared their eligibility yesterday for the April 21-22 NFL draft, a crop many in the league feel is average. The biggest name is Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who said late last month he would leave for the pros. The biggest question mark is Southern California quarterback Todd Marinovich, who informed Coach Larry Smith of his decision to turn pro yesterday.

Many in the NFL feel Ismail could be the draft's No. 1 pick.

The New England Patriots have the first selection and are likely to trade it. Already, according to Patriots team sources, there have been discussions with Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit.

Last year was the first year undergraduates were allowed to declare. The deadline was moved up two weeks from last year's date to Feb. 1 this year at the request of colleges, thereby allowing the players to attend the scouting combine workouts in Indianapolis.

Last season, five of the first seven picks were undergraduates and eight were chosen in the first round. However, just 18 of the 38 who declared for the draft were selected in the 12 rounds.

They included the No. 1 pick, Illinois quarterback Jeff George chosen by Indianapolis, and Florida running back Emmitt Smith (Dallas) and USC safety Mark Carrier (Chicago), who became the offensive and defensive rookies of the year.

The NFL won't release the official list until Monday, but besides Ismail and Marinovich, some of the others include Auburn guard Ed King; Virginia wide receiver Herman Moore, who set an NCAA record with touchdown catches in nine straight games; Syracuse wide receiver Rob Carpenter; Tennessee running back Chuck Webb; Pittsburgh running back Curvin Richards; and Clemson kicker-punter Chris Gardocki.

NFL insiders are puzzled by Marinovich, who in the span of one month was suspended from the team and arrested on a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession. Marinovich, 21, was suspended by Smith for missing classes and nine days later was arrested. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Orange County (Calif.) Harbor Judicial District Municipal Court.

"I don't expect it to be easy," said Marinovich, the first sophomore to enter the draft. "I've worked hard my whole life and I expect to work even harder. I'll play for anyone who believes in my future and my ability."

Groomed by his father, former NFL linebacker Marv Marinovich, to become a quarterback, Marinovich, in the opinion of many in the NFL, is seen as a third- or fourth-round pick at best.

He is considered a risk for two reasons: First, he has little experience. After an outstanding freshman season he struggled as a sophomore. Even without the problems, he is considered a marginal talent.

"He should have given it a lot more thought," said New York Giants General Manager George Young. "We have scrutinized him a lot but I can't tell you that we're excited."

The second reason, according to the general manager of an NFC Central team: "People get nervous when you start hearing the {cocaine} word. At quarterback you really must have some stability. He kind of scares a lot of us."

The NFL said that while Marinovich's arrest doesn't affect his draft status, he must submit to random drug testing. How long he must continue the testing is not certain.

Other undergraduates, such as Houston quarterback David Klingler and Georgia Tech safety Ken Swilling, learned from last year's junior crop and decided to stay put, according to draft analyst Joel Buchsbaum.

"This junior class is smarter," Buchsbaum said. "I'm sure Klingler saw {former Houston and current Lions quarterback} Andre Ware sitting on the bench and decided to stay. Some of this year's juniors learned from last year's juniors' mistakes."