Many college football players leave before they use up their college eligibility and they do so for various reasons. They may have been redshirted and graduated from college already or they may be a likely top draft choice and don’t want to risk a serious injury before getting paid in the NFL.
But whatever the reason, it’s a bit alarming to see a report that out of the 103 players who left college early, 28 of them (27%) went undrafted.
College Football players are free to leave for the NFL after their third year and anyone is more than free to make that choice but what is in these people’s minds that it’s a good idea to leave college early when there’s just a hint that they won’t be drafted.
I can see why top college players would want to leave early for the NFL Draft. If I knew I was a first round prospect, I wouldn’t want to risk tearing an ACL or getting concussions doing something for free if I could get paid millions to do it. And top players do that every year. Some have a great NFL career, some struggle and flame out after a few years but they all got paid and if they can do it, budget that pay day throughout the rest of their life.
But if I’m a 7th round hopeful or there’s a chance to go undrafted, what’s the incentive of leaving college early? Even if I already have my degree, if I had any hopes of having an NFL career, an extra season doesn’t hurt if I’m likely going undrafted. Yeah, an NFL rookie makes $465,000 but given an NFL career lasts an average of 3-5 years, it’s not something to retire on and I would need to find something else for the next 50 years.
Is someone giving these people bad advice? Player agents can range from the noble who want what’s best of out their client to absolute scum who doesn’t. Is it an agent lying to their client that they’re better than they actually are just to cash in on whatever they can and then drop them? Or could it be something else. Do they have a living situation where their family literally has no money and while a year of unpaid football would be better long term, they need the money now? Is it just that they don’t like/aren’t performing well academically and just want out?
There are many reasons but in terms of football development, only the top players in the country should be considering leaving early for the NFL. Despite the risk of injury, at least get your degree before going into the NFL Draft. It’s not impossible to have a great NFL career after going undrafted but that’s even rarer than being a pro football player. The odds aren’t really in their favor, no matter how optimistic that person is.