Come back, baby, come back.

After another NFL draft that saw plenty of kids who left school early go undrafted, there have been plenty of questions about why there isn’t a path for them to return to college.  I mean, no harm, no foul, right?  Plus, if you hammer constantly that you’re all about helping student-athletes succeed academically…

Okay, let’s not get carried away here.  And I digress.

Anyway, Andy Staples explains why that’s more difficult than it seems at first glance.

This year, 49 of 144 early entries to the NFL draft went unselected. I’d love to see a change that would allow those players to make more informed decisions and have an avenue to return to college. But it would require either a separate rule change independent of the draft rule and/or the willingness of college football coaches to manage their recruiting so that they leave roster spots open for players potentially returning to school.

On that last point,

For reasons both altruistic and selfish, college coaches don’t want their players to leave early and not get drafted. Most coaches want the best for their players, and most coaches would prefer to get a veteran starter back rather than break in a new player at that position.

But coaches also need to know what their scholarship count will be come August, and if they have players hanging out there in March—after both football signing days—unsure about whether they’ll return, then they could get caught in a crunch. The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players on an FBS team, and programs must be at or below the limit when practice begins. So a coach would have to leave scholarships open while signing his recruiting class with the idea that a spot or two could be filled by a player who removes his name from the draft.

I’m not unsympathetic to the numbers crunch there, although, as Staples notes, there are ways to minimize that risk by providing a brief period for kids to get better real-world feedback on their draft chances while not leaving coaches out on a limb for very long with potential roster management dilemmas.

Of course, if they really want to avoid the problem, there’s always coming up with more player compensation so that some of the kids don’t feel the need to leave early in the first place.  I know, I know…


Filed under College Football, The NFL Is Your Friend.

30 responses to “Come back, baby, come back.

  1. Many of these guys are jumping to get a head start on that 2nd contract. The NFL has no reason to change anything at this point. The level of compensation isn’t going to keep most of these guys in school.

    The answer is in the NCAA’s court. Allow guys to investigate their real draft status, and a player can come back by the February signing date.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Biggen

    I’d guess they would have to move the draft up and perhaps do away with an early signing period. Have the draft and signing day in February. It would be a big deal to iron out those plans.


  3. W Cobb Dawg

    Should we create the undrafted players portal?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mayor

    Were there any Dawgs who left early but didn’t get drafted?


  5. ASEF

    I think kids are getting solid feedback. I also think some of them aren’t listening to it.

    Holyfield was toast when he ran his 40. Another year of football or S&C isn’t changing that number. If they can come back and finish their degree under non counter scholarship, then that’s probably about as fair a result as you could hope for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The other Doug

      I’d like more info on their projections. If they were told they were late round to undrafted then I don’t feel sorry for them, but if they were told 3rd-5th round….


      • ASEF

        Nauta and Holyfield were both invited to the combine (good!) and put up red flag numbers (bad!). Whatever information they had from professional sources was based on incomplete information. And in football, schemes determine physical fits, so it’s not like even a faster Holyfield or Nauta would fit into every team’s plans. And finally, Sioux Falls had a kid drafted before Auburn did. The competitive field is vast.

        This is why coaches routinely tell a kid to come back unless it’s a sure thing. A pre-combine 3-5 round assessment is highly conditional.


        • Brandon M

          There are what 96 3-5 round slots? I wouldn’t be surprised if 300 kids were told they were 3-5 round material


          • AlphaDawg

            I’m not sure what can be done for underclassmen. Mitch Hyatt was a 5 star recruit who walked onto campus as a freshman at Clemson and took the starting left tackle job and played the position well for 4 years (2x All ACC, and a unanimous All American in 2018) and he went undrafted. He wasn’t an undergrad but it goes to show the fickle nature of turning pro.


          • ASEF

            110 this year. The NFL adds compensation picks at the end of each round after the 2nd as part of some free agency formula. But you’re right, the kids being given grades probably exceeds the supply, and I doubt those grades at all factor in kids from non glamour positions at small schools. Nauta was the 13th TE off the board and the 5th taken from the SEC. Is that really shocking? I was surprised when he declared, and his combine numbers were surprising too, I honestly though at that point he would have to go the UDFA agent route. And he might have been better off if he hadn’t been taken by the Lions. Their first round pick at TE is already on the squad. Nauta’s going to have to beat out 3 guys who were drafted higher and who have NFL experience and who are on cheap contracts for a spot. Good luck with that.


            • Not arguing with you, but why take another tight end in the 7th round when you filled the need in the 1st round and have 2 others under contract? Of course, it’s the Lions, so that explains part of it.


  6. GruvenDawg

    It’s pretty complicated once agents and personal trainers get involved ($$) without a modified rule. Also how many kids stop attending classes once they declare as Andy pointed out

    Another option is move the February signing day to after the draft? All the early enrollees sign in December now anyways. The advisory committee should hold a pre-draft combine for Juniors in February or Senior week as Andy suggested and test their measurable stats in a separate setting. At a minimum they know how they tested and they can work on their numbers over their senior year. Holyfield and Nauta both could have worked on their 40 times by being more fluid out of their starts for a year rather than only a few months. A lot of the players were shocked by their 40 times. They thought they were faster. I have a feeling their trainers were disingenuous to them about their times. Help them home that skill for a year under the watchful eye of the S&C staff.


  7. Bright Idea

    I’m guessing that a lot of these kids suspect they won’t be drafted but are tired of going to school, playing ball and being broke all at the same time so they take the first excuse to leave college. It’s a decision with no looking back, not the first they’ll have to make in their lives. Let the individual continue to live with the consequences without creating some kind of clumsy fix for what is a small group.


  8. moe pritchett

    Even if they sign as UDFA, damn son, $480 grand is a good bit of coin. These kids discuss this with their coaches and parents, so they should know their options and probabilities. Whether they heed good advice or bad advice is on them at the end of the day.


    • Texas Dawg

      That’s ONLY if they may the active roster. If they are on the practice squad it is $7600 a weeks (what 16-17 weeks?). Not chump change, but certainly not what a active roster UDFA rookie makes and not even close to what a drafted player will make.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. TN Dawg

    Why would the players want to return to the plantation where they are used and abused and receive nothing of value in exchange for their labor?

    I suspect some may feel that showcasing their talents on the college level for another year may improve their odds of being drafted in the future and making them millions of dollars, or should that fall through, the college degree they earn might provide them a living for the rest of their lives outside of football.

    It would be hard to put a value on such a marketing showcase and career assistance network.


  10. Tim Rankine

    Eddy Grant and The Equals…Sing it!


  11. UGA'13

    Middle ground option: if you leave early you forfeit your scholarship. This effectively happens anyways, but it seems like codifying it would allow coaches to roster manage, while still providing a path back for players who make the wrong choice, provided they fire their agents and relinquish any financial benefits they may have accrued in the interim. It’s not a perfect solution (they should be able to keep the money, IMO) but it seems obviously better for all parties. Am I missing something here?


  12. chopdawg

    “Of course, if they really want to avoid the problem, there’s always coming up with more player compensation…”

    Senator, how much more compensation?