NFL draft rules a raw deal for Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence

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If you’re watching tonight’s college football national championship game with an eye on seeing some future NFL stars, the first player you should look for is one who won’t be in the NFL until 2019.

Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence will be the most talented player on a field full of future NFL players when his team takes on Alabama tonight. But Lawrence is a true freshman, and NFL rules mandate that players must be out of high school for three years before they can turn pro, which means Lawrence will be toiling at the amateur level for two more seasons.

Lawrence will risk injury without earning the riches that a player of his talents should be allowed to earn. And there’s simply no reason that a 19-year-old adult shouldn’t have the right to earn a living at his chosen profession.

The NFL likes to claim that its draft rules protect young players who aren’t physically ready for the NFL. That’s preposterous. Lawrence is a 6-foot-5, 340-pound freakish athlete. He doesn’t need to be protected from anybody.

How freakish an athlete is Lawrence? Clemson says he runs the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. At the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, the biggest defensive lineman to break 5.0 seconds in the 40 was Javon Hargrave, now a rookie starting at nose tackle for the Steelers. Hargrave weighed in at 309 pounds — about 30 pounds lighter than Lawrence.

Lawrence knows people say he’s a future first overall pick in the draft, although he’s modest about it. When told by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports that an Alabama assistant coach had already proclaimed Lawrence the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Lawrence shrugged it off.

“It doesn’t matter now. I’m just a freshman,” Lawrence said. “I have a lot of technique I need to work on. . . . Little things. My pad level lower, hand placement, reading blocks quicker.”

But, of course, those are things Lawrence could be learning from NFL coaches while making millions of dollars a year, instead of learning from college coaches while getting room, board and tuition. Lawrence should be allowed to decide for himself whether he’s better off staying in college or playing professionally, and NFL teams should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they think he’s ready.

Instead, the league office decides that he can’t be drafted this year, or next year. That’s a raw deal for a great player.

93 responses to “NFL draft rules a raw deal for Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence

  1. When the NBA started letting the very immature high school players in and given them millions it lost me.

    Would be a horrible idea to let the NFL turn in that direction. So Goodell probably will SMH

  2. Boo-hoo. The employer gets to set the rules about whom they want to employ. How many jobs require a college degree when there are certainly people who can do the job without a college degree? The NFL is better off if they aren’t drafting 19-year-olds, so if you don’t like it, go play in another professional football league that will take you.

  3. people are going to point to the fact that allowing players to declare for the draft at any age will cause players to declare and not get drafted, thus losing their eligibility. Where that’s the real issue with the NCAA and the draft. Even if you keep it at the current age/experience out of high school, let players declare, but keep eligibility if they go undrafted. Only allow seniors with no eligibility left be invited to camps to potentially be undrafted rookies in the NFL

  4. Interesting… Is there anything stopping this guy (or any other talented freshman) from going to the CFL? I would think he could tear it up there, get paid (albeit not millions), and still be a #1 draft pick in two years.

  5. Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence will be the most talented player on a field full of future NFL players when his team takes on Alabama tonight.

    Did you mean to say “One” of the best? I assume you have seen Bama’s front 7 play before but maybe not?

  6. “The NFL likes to claim that its draft rules protect young players who aren’t physically ready for the NFL. That’s preposterous.”
    ___________________

    What do you want them to claim instead? They sure aren’t going to admit they need to protect the interests of their free farm system.

  7. The only downside is that too many dumb kids that don’t (yet) have the talent to play in the NFL will leave college early just as many juniors already do. For every 1 college freshmen who could make it in the NFL there are way more who would try and fail.

    Seems like the perfect reason for an NFL developmental league but let’s be honest… We all know there is an under the table deal between two crooked organizations, the NFL and the NCAA, that will never allow this to happen.

  8. If players are allowed to enter the draft after one year in college it would be a disaster for the NCAA and for most of the players You can’t change the rules to fit one persons needs.

  9. There’s a big difference between being ready from a physical and talent standpoint than a maturity standpoint. While I think the rule sucks, it’s there for a reason. Just like there’s a rule/reason/law that you can’t drink until 21.

  10. This is a dumb and unfair rule and should Dexter or any other player for that matter decide to fight this in court – they will lose.

    A compromise would be to allow teams to draft these players but keep them on the practice squad for a year to allow them to learn from NFL coaches and grow in to their bodies mentally.

  11. Give me a break. This rule protects so many players from making really bad decisions. Most of them aren’t ready at 18/19 to be NFL players both emotionally and physically. Just look at the NBA…. for every Kobe and Lebron that made it big there are dozens that declared out of high school and never made it.

  12. Come on, you can replace “Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence” in that headline on an annual basis. Last year it was Leonard Fournette. The NFL enjoys the NCAA functioning as their minor league, and the NCAA enjoys making money. This is part of the CBA, so the Union has agreed to it. And a bunch of NFL players aren’t going to strike to let 3 years of NCAA players enter the league.

  13. “This is deeply unfair, I demand the right to enter the draft now and be the overall #1 pick by the Brow… you know, I’m cool with waiting another year or two.”

  14. The NFL can copy the CHL (Canadian hockey league) , and create an exceptional player status.

    This allows younger players to apply to enter the junior league early, the application review includes more than just talent. The players academic history as well as maturity are reviewed. Parents are interviewed and the process takes several months. There have only been about 5 players who have obtained this status. the players are off that charts – look it up

  15. In theory (yeah I know is mostly BS) the rule is to prevent these kids from throwing away their future if they try for the NFL and washout. By spending a few years in college they will gain a valuable education.

    You may think thats BS, but at least in theory it sounds good. Probably very few of these kids are there for a college education.

  16. “Bloggers” at PFT think college player should be pissed he can’t play in NFL after one season…actual player thinks he needs more work. What a world we live in.

  17. I am so damned sick of the “but what if he gets hurt?” crap. Hundreds of players play their entire college career without getting hurt. Jalen Smith is the exception, not the rule.

    Of course, college football players should get some kind of payment. So should men’s basketball players. (Before you start babbling about Title IX and whatnot, the rule should be that if your sport brings more revenue to the school than what costs to play it, then you get a payment. That eliminates all the other sports not listed here.)

    As for “protecting” the players, I buy it in the sense of that about 150 players make NFL rosters after their college career ends. If you go to what the NBA has, or what it used to have when you could jump straight from high school, you’ll have 1,000 players declaring for the draft. Then after 80% of them don’t get drafted, they can’t go back to college because they have no scholarship and most of these players could never afford college on their own. Allowing anyone to declare for the draft will just drastically increase the pool of potential fast food workers.

  18. When’s the last time I heard this? Clowney? Man, good thing Clowney has had a great NFL career so far.

  19. My job required a college degree, despite the fact that the skills I use in my job are ones I had before graduating…..don’t see anyone clamoring for my company to lower their requirements

  20. You can’t drink until you’re 21 because the US is gigantic, and cars are fundamental to the US way of life. In Switzerland, for example, kids can drink beer at 16, but they have an amazing public transit system.

    To continue the analogy, kids start playing professional soccer way before 21 or 22. Does anything bad happen? No. They play, and the sun still rises in the east every morning.

  21. As stated earlier he is getting a college education. The average NFL career is 3.3 years, at least he will have an education to fall back on after football life. Football is much different than most other sports as there aren’t farm systems to develop young talent. This guy is a freak of nature to have that combination of size, speed and strength. Most kids out of high school or only 1 year removed don’t have these genes. These guys in the NFL are monsters and most of these kids coming out of High School would get killed in the NFL.

  22. The reason the NFL is so great because men come into the league unlike the NBA. The NBA is water down with undeveloped talent. Let it go, man. The three year rule is what make the NFL what it is. God how do you people have jobs covering sports when you have absolutely no talent for the profession.

  23. hopefully the kid has a serious insurance policy out on himself giving him the most financial protection from injury he can get.

    It’s truly said that America deems 18 year olds adults, free to make their own decisions and consequences along with it, yet this 19 year old cannot decide he wants to work to make a living.

  24. Shouldn’t we be concentrating on his college education instead of worrying about how soon we can get him into the NFL?

    Yes, a young man has the right to choose his vocation, if it is something that can sustain him for life. This doesn’t mean becoming a 5 year super star millionaire that goes broke in 5 more and then depends on society to support him for the remainder of his life…..

  25. First make declaring for the draft not end college eligibility. The college player would see if he’s invited to the combine. If not wait until next year. The NFL would have it’s developmental league and people capable of playing in the NFL could start their paying jobs.

    The “maturity” argument is phony. 18 year olds have to register for the military draft. They can also sign up to go to war but don’t have the “maturity” to play a game (unless it’s boxing, hockey, basketball or baseball).

  26. Man, it’s just completely unfair that someone with talent cannot wait a couple of years to get millions and millions of dollars. You know, a deal that pretty much nobody else on earth gets.

  27. How is college the NFL’s “Free Farm system”? Is that not exactly what college is across the job spectrum?

    Weather it’s football, architect or an entrepreneur, college serves the same purpose. At least the athletes get free tuition along with 3 hots and a cot. They got it made.

  28. Are the rules the same for the NBA too? It’s much harder to make it in the NBA since teams only have 12 players on them instead of 53 plus the practice squad.

    Hopefully, this kid just follows the rules and not pull a Maurice Clarrett.

    The answer to my question is “No,” btw.

  29. anywho123 says:
    Jan 9, 2017 10:00 AM
    Ummm, he also getting an education, something he might need if his NFL career ever fizzles out.
    —————–
    He’s a football player at Clemson. What type of useful educatation do you think he is actually getting?

  30. Sounds like collective bargaining in action. Owners couldn’t unilaterally invoke this, and needed the players to do so.

    Being freakish athletically doesnt guarantee a player is emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being a professional athlete either.

    Let see what happens.

    There is a chance

    a. His talent may never pan out regardless of when drafted.

    b. He may improve his skills and mature while in college, becoming a better player.

    c. He may get hurt and limit his playing future

    Just remember, there are probably more busts than stars from each draft.

  31. tjacks7 says:
    Jan 9, 2017 10:00 AM
    The only downside is that too many dumb kids that don’t (yet) have the talent to play in the NFL will leave college early just as many juniors already do. For every 1 college freshmen who could make it in the NFL there are way more who would try and fail.

    Yes let’s make the “dumb kids” stay in college. Nothing is better for a “dumb kid” to do but to stay in college pretending to work towards a degree he’ll never get and never use.

  32. Hmm, a lot of assumptions here as if everything outlined will go as planned. It usually doesn’t. There are a lot of freakish athletes that fail in the NFL for various reasons. Everybody is a freak at their position in the NFL, if you’re technique is “freshperson like” you’ll get dominated. Even he realizes it.

  33. I don’t think the issue here is the NFL and their draft policy. Every employer has the right to set entry-level job requirements. The issue is the college players not getting paid. If this kid were to get paid by Clemson – even if it wouldn’t be the millions he’d make in the NFL – this wouldn’t be a story.

  34. This is why the players need a union. You know, instead of whatever the NFLPA claims to be.

  35. My employer requires a college degree for the position I hold. The NFL requires players to be 3 years out of high school before they can be hired. Hell, the NFL could change their policy and require players to have college degrees before they are drafted if they wanted. Why is this so hard to understand and why is it such a big deal?

  36. I’m a Clemson fanatic, and don’t believe in this theory.
    He is a true freshman.
    Along with his talents he needs to mature as a player and as a man.
    I don’t care if he’s on my team, Alabama’s or any other.

    What should happen is the NFL should set up a college curriculum
    that college players take such as personal finance, business etc so these 21/22 year old kids with a new found treasure trove of money can be better prepared than some of these players that are bankrupt after 2 or 3 years after their careers are over. NBA and other sports should do this as well. Because that’s what’s college is for, right? To educate and prepare you for the next level.

    Age does not require a demand on privilege.

    Dexter, play well tonight.
    Enjoy the college experience.
    Learn stuff and prepare yourself for the future.
    You will get your millions, best be smart about how to use them.

  37. He’s a football player at Clemson. What type of useful educatation do you think he is actually getting?
    ________________________________

    Such a terrible statement. He has the opportunity at an education. If he chooses to squander it and major in Underwater Basket Weaving then that’s on him, not Clemson. And btw Clemson is a pretty darn good school as are most of the southern state schools.

  38. Rules are rules – don’t like it – stuff it.

    There is a reason for this rule and it is an important reason – there is still a maturity and size difference between the monsters of the pros and the disparate collection of development in the college game.

    If you don’t like this rule, stuff it.

    This clown can simply do what is now in vogue – decide to sit out games so he won’t get hurt until he is of age to play in the pros.

    I so find it repugnant that when people here don’t like rules, they want them abolished without thinking about the consequences.

  39. If you look at the top 10 High school RB’s in the (HisghSchool) class of 2013 the only name you may recognize is #5 Ezekiel Elliot. I never heard of the other 9 guys in the top 10.

    The top 11 RB’s were all 4 star prospects. Just a small % of 4 and 5 star prospects actually make it into the NFL.

  40. What is the percentage of division 1 nfl players who enter and LEAVE college after 3 or 4 years functionally illiterate? It’s fraud any way you look at it.

  41. Suppose there was a rule that guys couldn’t play in the NFL past 35, for their own protection. Would that sort of age-restriction be ok, too?

  42. I like the way it is now. The league is a collection of a bunch of billionaires, and they know what they’re doing. The NFL is more popular than ever. I think the college campus experience helps these guys out in so many ways. Those of you who grew up in middle class or wealthy households might not understand. The owners understand it. The players who are really desperate to leave school can always play in Canada for a couple years. They don’t want the NFL to be full of young millionaires who aren’t even capable of putting a sentence together. They don’t want the negative publicity of having their players not knowing anything about life. The college experience is priceless, even if you won the lottery. There is a reason for the saying “a fool and his money will soon part ways”. The owners are no fools.

  43. He can sit out if he doesn’t like it. College basketball is no longer fun to watch due to the “one and done” rule. Everyone used to know players, Lattner, Duncan, Curry, etc….can anyone name a player on Kentucky or UNC? The NFL needs to keep the rule in place. He can either sit out, go to Canada for a couple of years, or get back on the field. Plus, an 18 yr old is not as mature as a 21-22 yr old. Enjoy college, the NFL will still be there. Who knows, if Goodell gets his way, you might even be the first draft pick of the London Jaguars!!!

  44. The evidence in almost every single league in the world says allowing 19 year Olds to be drafted is a bad idea. First, let’s take the nba. For every one LeBron there was 5 miles … kids who went to the league to early, couldn’t hack it and we’re out of the league and broke 5 years later without the ability to go to college. Same thing with MLB for every Bryce Harper there 100 billy beans. It’s nice to stand on a soap box once in awhile but you better come with something other than emotion.

  45. I love how many folks love to pretend all sports organizations are evil and calculating cabals. Here’s a refresher – the NFL has a rule stating three years from graduating high school.

    The NCAA, which doesn’t make one dime off of FCS level college football, has no rules on the subject whatsoever.

    If a player wants to graduate high school and spend three years getting ready for the combine, it’s certainly his right. The NFL will never touch somebody like this with a 10 foot pole, but its also the right of sports writers to pretend otherwise.

  46. In Teddy We Trust says:
    Jan 9, 2017 9:55 AM
    Boo-hoo. The employer gets to set the rules about whom they want to employ. How many jobs require a college degree when there are certainly people who can do the job without a college degree? The NFL is better off if they aren’t drafting 19-year-olds, so if you don’t like it, go play in another professional football league that will take you.

    Companies hire high IQ students all the time regardless of a degree or not because they have the ability to do the job. They will hire regardless of their age.

  47. Where does the NFLPA stand on this? I’m sure they’d rather have their veterans have jobs than have some 19 or 20 year old taking those spots.

  48. Life’s just no fair!!!
    Yeah, get use to that one!!!
    The rules are the rules…. If he doesn’t like it he could always just stay in college get his degree & find a job of his liking, or quit school & flip burgers at McDonalds…..

  49. It’d be interesting if you could become draft eligible at 18, but not allowed on an active roster until three seasons post high school.

    A lot of guys would bolt college after two seasons. Would teams spend high picks on guys that’d be redshirting their first year?

  50. My take this rule was to protect consistency. The fear was you could recruit say six great players who play one year, turn pro and set your team backto square one. when you have a bunch of seniors leaving you got several years out of them but gettig one year is too disruptive.
    Thus the rule was created to protect that not the players.

  51. My favorite system is the NCAA baseball system that allows kids to leave straight from high school if they choose, OR requires they stay in school for three years if they choose college.

    The kids are free to choose, and the colleges get some degree of security that the kid they’re investing a scholarship in will be there long enough to make it mean something to both him and the school.

    Of course, the two critical differences are the physical nature of football vs. football and the existence of a farm system in baseball where no such system exists for football.

  52. This article surely doesn’t help. He will be playing not to get hurt for the next 2 years. His production might dip all because you are filling his head with draft prognostications.

  53. There is a huge opportunity between the NFL and NCAA for a developmental league. I would still tie the league to education by partnering with community/online colleges because not everyone will make in to/in the NFL. I’d then tie the league to accelerated degree programs which offer 2 years of classes in 1 year by going to class for 4 hours once per week.

    Kids would graduate with degrees much quicker and would be able to develop without the limited time restrictions of the NCAA. You could literally build a league around their schedule.

    Accelerated degree programs and community colleges are relatively cheap and you could easily cover the costs with sponsorships and TV deals, meaning players still get a free education but are better prepared for the NFL and/or life.

  54. It seems to be the norm these days that no matter what the rule is, someone is going to complain. You can make a point for either side, which makes neither right or wrong. How come our 18 year old kids are allowed to risk their lives in a war but not old enough to buy alcohol? Happy Monday everyone!

  55. Yep, when I was 19 freshman in college that was exactly when I was at the most capable of handling millions of dollars, media spot light, and a high stress job.

  56. I got a raw deal this weekend due to age.

    I took my son skiing with a friend of his. They both turned 13 recently and the cost of their lift tickets went up $18/each.

    The humanity.

  57. setrg says:
    Jan 9, 2017 10:21 AM

    The “maturity” argument is phony. 18 year olds have to register for the military draft. They can also sign up to go to war but don’t have the “maturity” to play a game (unless it’s boxing, hockey, basketball or baseball).

    ____________________________

    Get real…obviously you have not served in the military…there are TONS of inmature 18-19 yr olds in the military…now imagine if the govt were giving them MILLIONS of dollars.

  58. 18 or 19 year old is to immature and physically not ready for NFL.

    But fine to enlist and kill or possibly be killed in the Army??

    Yup, makes sense.

  59. Age minimums (regardless of league) protect the teams from wasting picks and ensure that they get a free minor league/development system out of the NCAA (which makes millions of dollars).

    None of this has ever had anything to do with protecting athletes. Nobody cares that high school kids go straight into minor league baseball (where they will make no money) or when soccer, tennis, gymnastics, etc. athletes go pro as teenagers.

    The NFL does this to help the NFL. Nothing more or less.

  60. He should sue the monopoly for the right to ply his trade. It used to be four years then Barry Sanders came along and it was changed to three.
    As the only professional football league in the country, the NFL can’t discriminate based on age.

  61. Such a terrible statement. He has the opportunity at an education. If he chooses to squander it and major in Underwater Basket Weaving then that’s on him, not Clemson. And btw Clemson is a pretty darn good school as are most of the southern state schools.

    ——————————————————————-

    it’s not that athletes aren’t smart or aren’t capable of a high quality education, but to really excel as an athlete – to take it to that next level – takes a special kind of dedication to the sport that simply doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy left over to devote to academics. And that’s true even in the off-season. Sure, there’s a few around that can do both, but it’s pretty rare. And if an athlete is lucky enough to land a typical 3 or 4 year career in the NFL, he’s usually broke within 2 years of retirement anyway. So… fat lot of good forcing an education upon these young men is doing for them. And if they do make it to the big league for a year or two they can easily afford the education afterwards.

  62. buffalosunshine says:
    Jan 9, 2017 10:08 AM

    I just don’t understand how it has not been legally challenged and defeated. How is going into the NFL risking your health more than going into the Marines?
    —————————————————-
    It`s been challenged and upheld! Multiple times.
    There are age restrictions on many jobs.I want to be President of the United States but i`m not old enough
    so i`ll have to wait.

  63. College coaching is so bad and the type of offense these teams put on the field doesn’t prepare players for NFL style football. It’s best he stays!

  64. donl517 says:
    Jan 9, 2017 3:07 PM
    What are the rules in the CFL??? If he wants to make money now, move to Canada…
    ———————————————
    most of the players in the CFL can’t afford to quit their day-jobs

  65. It`s been challenged and upheld! Multiple times.
    ————————————————————-
    Actually it’s only been challenged once, by Maurice Clarett in 2004. And he actually won, but the NFL found a friendly judge to reverse the decision. By the time the case might be heard again the dude was eligible under the 3 year rule, so it was moot by this point. Shortly thereafter the NFL arm-twisted the players into accepting that in the CBA in an attempt to strengthen their case. Ultimately, though, if it were to come up again the NFL would only postpone and delay the case until it was no longer relevant to the litigant.

  66. How many 1st round sure things have signed rookie contracts only to be out of the league 2 or 3 years later? Hundreds I bet. At least those players have a college degree or very close to one.

    Allowing an 18 year old to enter the draft straight out of high school would not be in the best interests for many of them. College prepares these players not only in football but life issues that high school just isn’t able to.

  67. Rules are in place for a reason and while some players may be physically mature enough to play pro football at 19, most are not and opening the door for one opens it for them all. So he has to stay in school for 3 years and maybe get a degree. I can think of many things more unfair than that.

  68. People calling the three year rule collusion are silly. The NBA is horrible because a bunch of athletes can dunk and jump but suck at shooting and running plays and life off court. So a kid is big and fast, he should prove his skills in college games. And he should mentally mature. Most 20 year olds suck at managing life off court, wasting money and bad decisions with balancing fun with work. There’s a reason many star bball players go broke post NBA.

  69. Colleges and University’s shouldn’t be giving scholarships to students who really don’t want to be there. That scholarship should go to someone with real academic potential. There should be a minor league system, like baseball, and to a lesser extent basketball, for football. The NFL can still stipulate that they have to play in the minors for a certain amount of time. College football coaches may not like it, but they shouldn’t have the power that they currently have over college and university administrators.

  70. Poor guy! He is going to get $47,000+ of free schooling per year. Not to mention all the swag they get from Nike/Reebok/UA or whatever company has the agreement with the school.

    Stop with this garbage of them being victims. I didn’t get to start a quality paying job before I graduated college, I had to get my degree first. It is called paying your dues. If you don’t like it, don’t play football.

  71. We all know the real reason is because even though the youngsters may physically be ready, it’s almost a certainty they’re maturity level hasn’t gotten there yet. There are players who because of this should have waited even longer. (I’m not going to call Odell Beckham, Jr.’s name) but you get the idea. Players with a lack of maturity and a phenomenal amount of cash, and no knowledge of finances, will almost certainly get into trouble and be broke within 3 years of the end of their careers. The NBA proves that every day.

  72. The argument went from the kid being screwed to needing a degree or that he’s a minor. The reality is, not all players have their degree when they enter the nfl. Also, there is quite a few players with no intentions of getting their degree, just in college to go pro. There is nothing that says they can’t finish their degree later on. Explain to me why there are people in their mid/late 20’s and even early 30’s in the league that don’t act mature? Has nothing to do with age. In my opinion, the one and done rule is perfectly fine.

  73. mongo3401 says:
    Jan 9, 2017 10:01 AM
    If players are allowed to enter the draft after one year in college it would be a disaster for the NCAA and for most of the players You can’t change the rules to fit one persons needs.

    ————————————————————-

    Really – disaster? What about that one and done filthy rich basketball factory named NCAA???

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