Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage just doesn't see how the NFL is going to be able to accommodate the record number of underclassmen who declared for the May draft.
Ninety-eight underclassmen were officially granted eligibility for the draft this weekend, topping last year's record by 25 players.
Although the influx of talented juniors includes some of the top prospects like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan along with fourth-year juniors who have already graduated like Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the math is sure not to work for many players who are opting out of their final years of eligibility.
Savage raised concerns about whether the players who declared are receiving good advice.
“I think it’s an issue and something for the good of the game both at the college level and the NFL level that’s going to have to be addressed, one way or the other,” Savage said. “When you see almost 100 underclassmen come into the draft, and there are 250-some odd slots, there’s going to be a lot of kids that have been sold a bill of goods come the first week of May. Personally I think it’s bad for college football and I think it’s bad for the NFL, because players are coming into the league after three years of college and they’re not ready.”
Last year, 21 of the 73 underclassmen who attempted to go to the NFL went undrafted with many later signing low-cost free agent contracts.
Nonetheless, the amount of players declaring early continues to swell as players want to get to the NFL sooner to be eligible for a more lucrative second contract. The new rookie wage scale limits initial pay under the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, unlike the past when rookie contracts for high draft picks was extremely lucrative.
“With career span of a little over three years (average) but not quite four, it tells you that most of the players do not get to that second contract," Savage said. "And that’s what they’re kind of being encouraged (to do). It’s, ‘Hey you’ve got to get plugged into the system and get to that second contract.’
“And what happens then, the players that are in the league for three-plus years, (NFL teams) say we can go find someone cheaper that’s coming out as a rookie that will cover kicks, etc."