Penn State coach James Franklin says his program does its best to provide the information his players need while trying to make the decision on whether to leave college with football eligibility remaining to enter the NFL draft.

But he also has a "general rule":

"You should never come out early unless you're going to be a first-round draft choice," he said.

The Nittany Lions had three players come out early, and two of them - offensive tackle Donovan Smith and tight end Jesse James - were taken, Smith in the second round by Tampa Bay, James in the fifth round by Pittsburgh.

However, defensive end Deion Barnes, the former Northeast High star, did not hear his name among the 256 players chosen over three days. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Barnes eventually signed as a free agent with the New York Jets.

Speaking by phone from the Penn State coaches' caravan bus heading Wednesday toward a stop in Washington, Franklin said his program hired an outside company that provides information about the draft and how to select an agent, among other things. But he understands a lot more goes into the choice.

"It's easy from an outside perspective to say what we think is right for people," he said. "But in the end, they have to do what's right for them and their families."

Barnes, the Big Ten freshman of the year in 2012, made honorable mention in the conference last season when he finished second on the team with six sacks and 121/2 tackles for loss.

Franklin, who was pleased that Barnes earned his degree before leaving, thinks the Philadelphia player has a good chance of gaining an NFL roster spot.

"He's got a lot of the tools that I think those guys are looking for," he said. "He's a complete defensive end, and I think with D-ends . . . that's not always the case. They're either great against defending the pass or great against defending the run, but not both. He's got the ability to do both."

The coaches caravan will make stops in Philadelphia and Langhorne, Franklin's hometown, on May 19. This will be the second caravan for the coach, who said he has "a much better feel for what to expect" this year.

He's also looking forward to returning to his home area.

"Whenever you get a chance to go home, there's something really cool about that," he said. "In Philadelphia, I'll try to coordinate some things with my family and friends. I think that's one of the real advantages of what we have as a staff. There are so many connections, so many people that we have relationships with as a staff throughout the state, which is valuable."