Playing professional sports is ridiculously hard. Equal to that challenge is getting a chance to play. So finding the easiest path to the league, show, etc is the best route. This is true in the NFL, where the top prospects should hope for a fantastic season going into their eligibility and then go Pro. I am not saying a player can short cut and make it, but players can get in their own way. Sure, the long road works out for a few, but for prospects, the looks and chances are far and few. A bad combine can plummet a players stock. One dumb quote or social media interaction can literally cost millions. Or rumors of substance issues or domestic problems can end a career before it start. Players have to scrub social media accounts in an effort to appear nice and tidy. Finally, players should not let the allure of “coming back for one more year” blind their view. For NFL prospects, the less film, the better.
Players are assets in the most watched TV program in the US. Team owners, GMs, front offices, purchase these assets based on information and just like other markets, information, and even the lack of it, determines prices. More information is not always better and for players, more information is bad. The average lifespan of a NFL player is a few years; its very, very narrow window, with a whole lot of luck involved. If a player can sniff going early in draft, there is no reason not to go. Another year in college is not worth it. Especially for top talents, where they are going to go in the first three rounds. Outside of that, players may want to consider staying if they really think an additional year can make the difference.
With the less film to break down, the likelihood of confirming patterns is harder, significant gaps could be missed or even can be justified. “He has so much upside.” One significant assumption I make here is that the goal for College players is to play in the NFL, that is their number 1 goal. That may not be true for many players who enter the draft. I can understand a player coming back to get his degree. My argument is for the player who only wants to go pro. He shouldn’t think he can repeat in the same fashion again. Forget the Heisman, the national championship… go pro.
The ones who left
- Mark Sanchez – Yes, now famous for the butt fumble, but Mark played on a loaded USC team and did really well his Junior year. Mark knew his stock would never be higher and was drafted 5th overall to the Jets in the 2009 draft.
- Blake Bortles – is an amazing NFL QB and I cannot wait to hear what Jalen Ramsey has to say about him when he is no longer part of Jacksonville. But Blake was the first QB drafted in 2014 and 3rd overall. He could have easily gone back to school for his Senior year. To be fair he has had his moments, but I would be willing to be that if Jacksonville had a chance at a re-draft, they would.
- Johnny Manziel – Drafted as the second QB and 22nd overall in the same 2014 draft. In three seasons Manziel was in and out of the league, but took with him $7M in career earnings. Scouts completely ignored off field issues that surrounded him as he player. Manziel won the Heisman as a Freshman and came back as a Sophmore with an even better statistical year. Yes, the choice is obvious for a guy like Manziel, but other players, who were in similar spots, sometimes choose to stay.
- Sam Darnold – Another USC QB and another draftee of the Jets. Darnold has scouts foaming at the mouth his Sophomore year and despite USC not living up to the hype, Darnold went 3rd overall. Could he have stayed and fought for USC, compete for the Heisman or National Championship? Sure. And maybe it happens, but more than likely, it doesn’t… And if he stayed, maybe he still gets drafted high, but why take the risk?
The ones who stayed
- Matt Barkely – He finished 6th in the Heisman voting in 2011 and stayed for his Senior year and entered the 2013 draft and ended up in the fourth round. I guess he saw that it worked of for Matt Leinhart and thought it would work out for him?While the 2012 draft had a ton of QBs competition, consider this: Brandon Weeden was taken in the first round at 22 and Brock Osweiler in the second round at 55. Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins all were drafted later. The demand was so high for a QB in th 2012 draft, that four QBs went in the first round. Andrew Luck at 1, Robert Griffin at 2, Ryan Tanehill at 8, and Weeden at 22. I guarantee Barkely finds a home a lot sooner in the 2012 draft than the 2013 draft, where the first QB picked up at the 16th pick in the first round. Just one QB drafted in the first round.
- Bryce Love – What. Are. You. Doing. I guess after he finished 2nd in Heisman voting in 2017 after running for 2k yards and 19 TDs, he thought he could top that. This season has plagued Bryce with injuries and lack of production when on the field. Three running backs were taken in the first round of the 2018 draft. I cannot see how Love isn’t jumping in one of those spots.
The college scene is ever changing and players becoming savvier with their career. Prime example is players skipping bowl games. Folks are tracking these decisions and crying foul, but its the smart move. Take for instance Will Grier… what benefit does playing a pointless bowl game do for him? Does a 6 TD 400 yard performance do anything for him? Absolutely not. A more likely impact is injury or an offensive implosion that could hurt his draft stock.