There could be fewer underclassmen entering the 2015 draft than last year’s record throng of 102 who exited college football early.
A sharp drop in players seeking evaluations for early entry hints at an eventual drop in players choosing to enter early. NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent points out on Twitter that requests for early evaluation have dropped from 214 last year to 147 this year, a reduction of 42 percent.
If the eventual class of early entries drops by 42 percent, 59 players will choose to enter the draft with eligibility remaining.
Generally speaking, the NFL wants players to remain in college as long as possible, since that ensures a high degree of cooperation from college coaches who prefer to maximize the largely free services they receive. For players who know with a high degree of confidence that they are ready for the NFL, it’s in the players’ best interests to leave. An education can be obtained later; cartilage and tendons and other connective tissue, muscles, and bones have a finite shelf life. Playing for the wholesale cost of an education (plus snacks!) risks the ability of the player to eventually play for as much money as he can earn.
And so the reduction in players seeking evaluations is bad news for those players who ultimately would be deemed to be definitely ready to enter the NFL. Then again, the early evaluation process is inexact. A far better system would allow players to make themselves eligible for the draft and then return to school, if they choose to try to enhance their draft stock via more play-for-no-pay.
It wouldn’t be a perfect system, but it would be far more fair than the crapshoot system currently in place, giving players the best possible information before deciding whether to convert their skills into cash. After all, isn’t that why anyone goes to college in the first place?