Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota recently decided to keep playing football for free. Or, more accurately, for money that someone else gets paid.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley currently is wrestling with the same decision. According to Tony Pauline (via Rotoworld), Hundley wants to enter the draft. Persons close to Hundley are advising him to stay in school. Obviously, UCLA is doing all that it can to keep him — in large part because plenty of people at UCLA are among those who get paid a lot of money by the money Hundley helps earn. (But doesn’t personally receive.)
As Pauline puts it, the question is whether Hundley is content to be a second-round pick in 2014 or a potential top-10 pick in 2015.
And here’s where we tell Hundley what no one with a vested interest in Hundley staying in school will tell him: Under the current rookie wage scale, that doesn’t matter as much as it used to.
While being a top-10 pick could carry with it some off-field opportunities that don’t exist for second-round picks, the potential path to a truly life-altering contract becomes much shorter for a second-round pick in 2014 versus a first-round pick in 2015.
With top-10 picks no longer making gigantic money, it’s arguably better to start the clock on a second contract. For Hundley, entering the draft in 2014 means that he’d be eligible for free agency in 2018. If he waits until 2015 and rises to round one (there’s no guarantee he will), Hundley won’t be eligible for free agency until 2019 or, if the team exercises its first-round option on a fifth year, 2020.
It’s not as if Hundley would be sitting on the bench if he’s a second-round pick, unless a team with a clear-cut franchise quarterback decides to invest a selection that high on a backup. In today’s NFL, where quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds get put on the field quickly because the people who drafted them and who coach them may not be there to use them later, Hundley probably will play right away, like 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith did.
Besides, if Hundley wants to enter the draft, he should. Even if it’s ultimately the wrong decision, it’ll be his decision and not someone else’s decision.
Of all the potential lessons to be learned via this process, the worst one would be to not let other people make your decisions.