Every year after the college football season has ended, a tough decision lies ahead for those players who are three years out of high school, and therefore eligible for the NFL Draft.
Should I stay or should I go?
Ah, the age old question from The Clash. Do they take the money and run or do they go back for one more season to try and raise their draft stock even further?
This decision is not one to be taken lightly. I have always taken this position: If you are a prominent player that has a chance of being a first or second round selection in the NFL Draft, then you should go ahead and make yourself eligible.
I don’t see the benefit of an extra season anymore; the risk of staying in school far outweighs any potential rewards in my mind. Up until now, draft position was important in terms of the contract size. However, if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement contains language for a rookie wage scale, then staying in school to raise your draft stock has even less meaning than ever before.
Is it noble to want to stay for your senior season and help the team win a conference title or maybe even a national championship? Absolutely. Isn’t it a good thing to want to finish your degree and finish with a quality education? Without a doubt.
Then why is this a foolish decision? Because all it takes is one injury, or a few hard concussion causing hits, and your NFL future may be in severe jeopardy. Unless you come from a family where money is not an issue, returning for your senior season could be the most costly mistake of your life.
Here are just a few of the top players who should be at the NFL Scouting Combine as we speak:
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford—Projected No.1 Overall Selection
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama—Projected First Round Selection
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida—Projected First Round Selection
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska—Projected First-Second Round Selection
The decision by Andrew Luck is the most curious of all. Luck was slated to be the number one overall pick this April. This is a either a tremendous show of loyalty to the folks at Stanford, or a sign that Luck didn't feel he was ready for the NFL. While all four of these players are taking the gamble of their lives, Luck's decision could hurt the most. (See Jake Locker.)
They are all one serious injury away from doing what would be the equivalent of intentionally throwing away a winning lottery ticket.
I am sure they all have their reasons for staying for their senior seasons. Maybe they don’t want to play in the NFL, maybe it's not their lifelong dream to line-up on Sunday afternoons. Maybe they come from families that are financially stable enough to overcome a career ending injury while still in college. Maybe they just don’t feel they are ready, either mentally or physically to make the leap to the league.
All of these are valid reasons to stay in school. I just hope that everything works out for these young men in the long run, and that they are able to fulfill their dreams when they are ready to do so.
These players must live with their decision if it turns out to be the wrong one.
Let’s hope it does not come to that.