One of the arguments presented in favor of a rookie wage scale was that it would remove the incentive for underclassmen to leave school early and buy a ticket to the draft-day lottery. One of the arguments presented against a rookie wage scale was that it would encourage more kids to come out early so that they could begin to establish years of service and performance in anticipation of a big-money second contract.
So far, the latter argument seems to be the better argument.
The NFL has announced that a 73 players, including possible first overall pick Luke Joeckel, have been granted “special eligibility” for the draft. These players have satisfied the rule preventing entry into the draft until at least three years after the player’s high-school class has graduated.
The league office advises that this is a record number of early entries.
The number has increased in 2013 from 65 in 2012. In 2011, 56 players left school early for the draft.
In 2010, the year in which plenty of players were believed to be attempting to beat the arrival of the rookie wage scale, only 53 entered the draft early. The year before that, it was 46.
So in four years the number is up 58 percent. Since the arrival of the rookie wage scale, the numbers are up by 37 percent.
Thus, it’s fair to wonder whether at least some of the players are choosing to leave not to get huge money now but to work toward getting huge money after logging three or four NFL seasons.