LSU Tigers defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (90). Credit: Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is also to blame for undrafted underclassmen

In the wake of the 2014 NFL Draft a controversy has arisen as to who is to blame for 36 of the 98 underclassmen who went undrafted.  ESPN’s Todd McShay is saying that agents are to blame for selling “second contract” to the underclassmen.  While Mike Florio of is throwing the blame back at McShay and so-called Draft Experts.

But in my opinion the biggest culprit is the NFL itself.  The NFL chooses not to have a minor league.  Instead, it uses the NCAA as it’s unofficial minor league so that it doesn’t have to foot the bill to train these prospects themselves.  The NFL would prefer most of these underclassmen not enter the draft, as they lack experience and enter the league needing more time to develop.

However, the underclassmen know that the longer they remain in college playing at a high level without compensation, the more wear and tear their bodies will endure before they can pursue the big pay-day of that second contract.  And can you blame them?  I asked the same question about the one and done basketball players.  Why should they stay in college playing for no pay?

The NFL sees no problem with this, because they don’t have to pay a dime in these players development.  And yet while the NFL earns billions, and the NCAA earns millions, the central focus of this entire thing the players, earn nothing.  The elite prospects aren’t in it for a college degree, and a third of the players recruited to play college ball don’t graduate whether they go pro or not.

So without an alternative the players are forced to abide by a system that doesn’t have their best interest at heart.  So to me it’s no wonder they take a gamble for the money.  Yes it’s a risk to come out early.  But these players are willing to take a gamble on themselves.  And that decision is the only control that college players have in this scenario.

The NFL shouldn’t force these prospects to play in college for three years with not pay.  They should give them an alternative to college by having a minor or developmental league.  And those underclassmen who aren’t ready for the NFL but who don’t want to play for no compensation in college can earn a living working at the career of their choice.

The NFL might actually get more players entering the league better prepared to contribute to their teams earlier in their careers.  Major League Baseball has been doing this forever, and it works.  Baseball prospects coming out of high school have a choice to either turn pro or play in college for three years.  The top football prospects should have that choice too.

And don’t tell me that Jadeveon Clowney and others couldn’t play minor league football right out of high school.  Clowney had 8.5 sacks as a true freshman in the SEC.  So its time the NFL starts taking a more proactive role in developing its future players.  And stop sitting back reaping the benefits of a system that takes advantage of it’s most important asset.  It’s players.


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