September 25, 2015 - Greg Gabriel
To stay in school or not?
After three weeks of the college football season, we are beginning to see the different Draft analysts come out with their top players for next April’s draft. As usual, those boards are loaded with the names of underclassmen. Personally, I find these boards a joke as the names literally change from week to week. Why does this happen? Because many of these so-called "scouts" aren’t scouts, they are information collectors who run with a hot name when they get it. When I was a college scouting director, I wanted to see a large number of underclassmen in the draft because that meant the talent pool was larger and each team had a better chance of getting quality players each year. Since I left the league, I have a totally different attitude towards this. The number of underclassmen has risen so dramatically in the last four to five years. I was a scouting director from 2001 through the 2010 draft. During most of that period, the number of underclassmen entering a given draft was usually about 30 to 40. In my final couple of years, the number rose to over 40 but never hit 50. For the most part, most of the underclassmen entering the draft were good players and a high percentage got drafted high. That is no longer the case. In the 2014 draft, there were over 100 underclassmen, when you include the four or five players who graduated early from school but left before their eligibility was up. Last year, the number dipped to just under 90, but that is still far too many players leaving school early. When you look at the numbers, just about 40% of this underclassmen who enter the draft don’t get drafted! That percentage is way too high. When you add in the number of players who get drafted much lower than they anticipated, the percentage goes even higher. What is the cause of this problem? College players are not properly educated about the draft process. Many have no idea what scouts do. NFL scouts don’t, by league rule, tell an underclassmen where he may get drafted. That leaves the players to look for other sources. Who are they? They are the television and internet draft “analysts” and the agent community. The problem with that is most of people in those categories don’t really know where a kid can get drafted. These people don’t have access to real game tape, they don’t see live practices, and they don’t talk to people in the different programs about the players. They have no idea as to the player’s personal character, football character, medical history, and verified measurables. These are all very important components that clubs use in determining a player's final draft value. Sure, the NFL has the Underclassmen Advisory Committee, but that committee also doesn’t have many criteria that I just mentioned above. They don’t have it because scouts aren’t allowed to ask for that information before a player already declares and is accepted into the draft. I was on that committee for a number of years and I know how the system works. The clubs receive a list of names to evaluate late in the college season, and they are rushed to get a grade back to the committee. While a “decision maker” is supposed to be doing the evaluation, it is often one of the scouts or office assistants who end up doing much of the work. This happens because the timing isn’t right for the clubs to do it any other way. College players and their families often turn to others to find out their value and these others are the agents and television analysts. The problem is, these people don’t know! One year a quarterback from a top school turned his name into the committee for evaluation. The player was told that he would not get drafted and would be a college free agent. This upset the player and his family, and they protested the grade to the committee. He was upset because a certain draft analyst publicly said he would be a “Top 5” pick. The player was told that draft analysts are real evaluators and don’t really know. This player decided to enter the draft anyway, and he was not drafted. He wasn’t even signed to a free agent contract until about a week after the draft ended. While he was on a roster for OTA’s, he never made to training camp. Needless to say, he made a poor decision to leave school early. For the 40% of underclassmen who entered the draft the last two years, they made poor decisions also. They would have been much more prepared to enter the NFL if they had waited until their eligibility was up. Recently, there has been a lot written about California quarterback Jared Goff. Analysts are already saying “top five pick”, “best quarterback in the draft”. I haven’t done enough work on Goff to say for sure what kind of prospect he is, but I do know that he is only a true junior, and he should stay in school another year. The majority of underclassmen quarterbacks who enter the draft fail. Goff needs to stay in school another year, regardless of what people tell him. The agent community will tell players “you need to come out early because you will get an early start on your second contract that is where you will make the big money”. What they don’t tell the player or his family is that the player has to MAKE it to the second contract and be a top player in order to hit the “home run” on that contract. Since the new CBA came out, we don’t really have the stats on what percentage of players got a huge second contract versus an average contract versus a veteran minimum deal versus no deal at all. When we do have those stats, I’m sure that we will find out that the percentage who do hit a “home run” is very small. My advice: “Stay in school”. You will be much better off and better prepared for the NFL by doing so. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe