On Sunday, ESPN’s in-house leverage against a Mel Kiper contractual dispute (also known as Todd McShay) wagged a finger at those responsible for underclassmen who left school early for the draft — but who weren’t drafted.
I noted the hypocrisy of McShay’s sanctimony, pointing out that he and other draft experts include underclassmen in projections and analyses occurring long before the underclassmen must decide whether to leave school early. The publication of mock drafts nearly a year early plants a seed in the mind of the player who now regards himself as a first-round pick. It also provides plenty of ammunition to agents, family members, and friends who are in position to influence the player to quit playing football for free.
Last year, three of the players listed in McShay’s top 32 prospects immediately after the 2013 draft ultimately left school early, but weren’t drafted.
While the opinions expressed by folks like McShay nearly a year before the next draft aren’t the sole reason for players to leave school early when perhaps they shouldn’t, it’s undoubtedly a potential factor in the dynamic that begins to unfold the instant an underclassmen sees that one of the ESPN draft experts has pegged him as a potential first-round pick. The only way to make it not a factor is to stop doing it.
But McShay has done it again, issuing a mock draft less than a week after the most recent draft. McShay’s mock draft apparently includes underclassmen, given the presence of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in the photo accompanying the link to the ESPN Insider content (sorry, ESPN, but we’re not paying for the privilege of reading McShay’s mock draft, or anything else you’re not posting for free). The addition of a disclaimer by McShay that it’s “way too early” is, as a practical matter, the act of declaring “I hope this toothpaste stays in the tube” while removing the cap and squeezing hard.
Even if the kids on the list are able to ignore the presence of their names among McShay’s projections, others they know will notice. And they’ll inevitably say something. And it will be impossible for those kids to not embark on the 2014 season thinking that their status as potential first-round picks means that they’d definitely be selected in a seven-round draft. At a time when more and more people are resisting the idea of playing college football for free, who could blame them for leaving early?
If McShay is truly concerned about underclassmen leaving school early and not being drafted, he can easily address the situation. He can refuse to include underclassmen in any mock drafts before the they are certified to enter the draft early.
Yes, some in the audience want to see the underclassmen included in the projections. But if McShay is going to climb onto a soapbox after multiple underclassmen give up one or more years of eligibility and aren’t drafted, he needs to admit that he has a role in that process — and he needs to insist to his editors and producers that any and all projections that potentially could influence underclassmen should end.