Les Miles says some freshmen are good enough to go to the NFL


LSU coach Les Miles doesn’t like the idea that his star sophomore running back, Leonard Fournette, should sit out to keep himself healthy until he’s eligible for the NFL draft. But Miles admits some players are good enough to turn pro after their freshman years.

Fournette would be the first running back drafted if he were eligible for the 2016 draft, and he would have been drafted if he’d been eligible for this year’s draft as well. Asked about Fournette this week, Miles acknowledged that there are some players good enough that they could get drafted if they turned pro after their freshman seasons, as basketball players routinely do.

“I think that there’s probably guys that could enter the draft just like basketball, one and out,” Miles said. “I think there’s a style of athlete that can do that. But I think they’re rare because in football, with maturity and strength, it really adds to their worth in what is the next level and the next league.”

But why shouldn’t those rare talents be allowed to maximize their earning potential as soon as they feel ready? The problem is that the NFL and NCAA both have rules designed to prevent young players from turning pro. The NFL requires all players to wait until they’re three years out of high school to enter the NFL. And the NCAA won’t allow players to return to college football once they’ve declared themselves eligible for the NFL draft.

A fairer system would be the NFL simply allowing players to declare for the draft whenever they feel ready, and the NCAA allowing players to return to college football if they declare for the draft but are not selected. A player like Fournette, who would have been a high pick after his freshman year, shouldn’t be forced to play for free through his junior year. And the dozens of players who declare early for the draft but end up going undrafted shouldn’t be barred from finishing their college eligibility.

But the NFL and the NCAA are both making plenty of money under the current system, which is why they’re unlikely to change. Even if it’s not the fairest system for the players.

41 responses to “Les Miles says some freshmen are good enough to go to the NFL

  1. Yes, they might have the talent, but are their 19 yo bodies ready to take the hits? Some, yes; most, no. There should be a process for appeal to go pro early, but it should be a very high standard.

  2. Letting football players turn pro too early will hurt college and pro TV ratings, which will end up hurting the player’s ability to maximize their earnings. Also, players who aren’t as well educated, generally aren’t as well spoken, and won’t rake in the millions of dollars in endorsements. Their are exceptions to every rule, but most will be hurt. Millions will tune out college football if the stars are all gone. Plus, fans get familiar with the players while they’re in college, and they become household names before they ever get to the pros. Perhaps most important is that an educated will be able to hold onto their money much longer if they’re college educated. I could see an exception being made for running backs (like Fournette).

  3. It’s not going to change until some kid forgoes a life in professional football and challenges the NFL draft. The drafts in all sports would be abolished if someone took them to court. It would take a while because they all have good and very expensive legal teams. The courts would surely find that anyone who is not already under contract to a NFL team is a free agent.

  4. Most star athletes coming out of High School already think they are destined for the Pro’s, never mind the reality that they will be nobodies in College. How many of those knuckleheads are even ready emotionally or physically for the Pro’s? Not only does a business have a right to say how old you have to be to work there, but it does those kids good to get SOME kind of education, force them to grow up a few years and mostly realize they will most likely never make it in the NFL.

  5. Before we jump off the deep end on this, think for a moment.
    First, there are about 1700 players in the NFL, and half are barely good enough to make it based on talent. (benchwarmers). How many high school players are good enough to make the NFL rosters? Maybe 2 or 3 per year, at most, and they would be made into mincemeat on the field due to lack of skills development.
    Secondly, How many 18 year olds are mature enough to handle it? Give them a bucketload of money and see what happens. There are more than football skills to consider. IE, financial and lifestyle maturity.

    As a direct question to Florio…You have an 18 year old football player, would you feel comfortable handing him a million dollars, no strings attached, and turning him loose with no controls? I think you would be very nervous about that action.

  6. Yeah letting even less mature guys than are already getting into the NFL is a brilliant idea.

    That would be a disaster.

  7. Baseball players don’t go straight into the pros. Even the best prospects park in the minor leagues for a year or two before they make it to the majors.

    If the NFL had a minor league, I could see letting players come in earlier, but without that, no.

  8. The NFL is a grown man sport… It’s 100 times harder than the jump from high school to college. Most high school to college athletes redshirt for a reason because they aren’t ready. I can promise you they don’t redshirt in the NFL.

  9. Maybe, but I’m not sure I want my 18 year old son getting hit by 30+ year old grown men.

    Besides you’ll never get your college years back. Especially as an athlete.

  10. Even Adrian Peterson would admit he was twice the back at 26 than he was at 19.. Football at the NFL level is a mans game.. it isnt one notch above college .. its 2 or 3.

  11. If the NFL and CFL were to come to a transfer agreement, players could skip college, play professionally in a good league, and make money for three years before jumping to the NFL.

  12. Yeah because we hear this whenever there is a stud in the SEC. Yeah, he could play proball right now. Just like Alabama would have beaten the Browns or the Lions a few years ago.

    How is Clowney doing now? He was ready his freshman year too! Stay is school you fool!

  13. Valid arguments can be made for both sides. I think there’s always exceptions to every rule Fournette may be one of them, Herschel Walker another I know there have been more.

    NHL players go straight from high school to the pros and do great, Sidney Crosby, Conner McDavid, etc…They’re maturity levels in dealing with the media are no different than an NFL players would be, I know the physical play of the NFL is much more demanding than the NHL, but the NHL is very physical.

    Many pro sports have athletes jump from high school to the pros in the NBA it was very common and in fact players staying until they’re senior year in college had a higher failure rate in the NBA than a highschooler did, and that’s a fact.

    I think in very rare cases and with the proper people involved players should be able to make the jump to the NFL.

  14. Create an independent panel to evaluate 5-10 exception cases each year, with a significant emphasis on preparedness and threat to future earnings (i.e.- Fournette, Clonwey, Winston, etc). Players who are 1st round talents as fresh/soph and do not stand to benefit from anymore time in college. But don’t open it up to the masses so they can get drafted in the 7th and flame out immediately.

  15. Will teams try to scoop talent before they’re ready in later rounds just so a division rival doesn’t get them?

    Will a helpful ex-player from say ESPN be brought in to assist them in their matriculation with thoughtful insight on dealing with being young and well off?

    Free college educations are frequently wasted if the apparent success rate of ex-players , outside the fortunate few at say, ESPN or NBC, is any indication.

    Didn’t the Bruins sign Orr when he was like 14?

  16. Aside from all the obvious physical reasons for the player to remain in college as their physicality matures…what a bunch of A-holes forcing these poor kids to get educated….

  17. Very few players are physically and emotionally ready for the NFL directly out of high school. Even the ones that are ready still benefit from going to college and playing college football.

    On the other hand, I see why the few high schoolers that are ready would want to go straight to the NFL to literally cash in on their talents. How many stud players have gotten seriously injured in college and never made the NFL? Even one is too many.

    Here is the solution, it’s very similar to the NHL. Let the NFL draft anyone who is 18 years or older. The players can cash in as soon as they are good enough to attract the attention of the NFL. The ones who are ready can play in the NFL immediately. The ones who aren’t ready for the NFL can go play college football, arena football, CFL, or whatever other leagues pop up until they are ready for the NFL. (The NBA should also adopt this solution.)

  18. sooooo my argument is this….im old enough to die for the country and feed my family but not old enough to decide if I want to forgo my college education (that many don’t get anyway) to play a game?

    its all about money for colleges at the end of the day

  19. Eazeback, the NFL is a private company and has discretion in deciding who they allow employment to. It is not your right, it is a privilege. I, too, am old enough to die for my country and feed my family but I’m not old enough to decide if I want to forego my current job to become CEO of Goldman Sachs?! What gives?!

  20. “Free?” Lol, that’s hilarious.

    Their exposure, housing, training and everything else will make him a millionaire.

    Without the NCAA, they don’t get that.

  21. whose the worst team in the nfl right now?

    the lions? they would blow ohio state out of the water.

  22. There probably wouldn’t be too many SEC players go early…..they couldn’t afford the cut in pay.

  23. Let’s talk after he’s played against Alabama, which is just a college team, never mind a NFL team looking to take your head off. Guaranteed they lose to Bama, and he does nothing special

  24. Having the NFL relax its rule is one thing. But asking the NCAA to allow people to dip their toe in the NFL waters and come back if it doesn’t work? That’s just not how that scene works. There isn’t anything “unfair” about being an idiot who doesn’t listen to hist draft grade.

  25. The major difference here is that NFL players lifespans are so much shorter than the other major leagues so getting a head start on your earning potential makes sense from a financial standpoint.
    The real question comes down to maturity both physically and mentally and while Fournette is the exception to this rule, most athletes are already underdeveloped mentally to be able to handle the responsibilities that come with being a pro athlete.

  26. If the NFL and the NCAA won’t allow these kids to declare early for the draft, the two entities should, at the very least, purchase an insurance policy, paying the player in the event of injury.

  27. How many people has NBC Sports hired right out if high school or after 1 year of college despite being probably good enough to be a writer, play by play person or color commentator? I’m guessing zero.

  28. This guy had Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckum Jr., Jarvis Landry, Eric Reid, Patrick Peterson, Alfred Blue, Zach Mettenberger, La’el Collins, etc. on the same team and DID NOTHING except go to the WTF Bowl every year!!!!

  29. Ideal solution is to let them go to NFL after 2 yrs. While I totally support the legal right for people to earn a living as soon as they can, i dont think an 18 yr olds body could withstand the pounding of an NFL season. Most seniors coming out cant handle the pounding of the NFL vs college.

    Fournette has taken a huge leap from last year and last year was only going from high school to college. He is very well spoken and sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders. To make them wait 3 yrs is ridiculous and indicates an NCAA-NFL cartel.

  30. What makes the nfl system different from the nba system is the nfl free rides of the ncaa. NFL depends on the NCAA to develop the players that play in the pros before they get there, so they have to give back a bit.

    The NBA gets the one and done players because they don’t depend on the NCAA for development. The NBA doesn’t freeload because the have their own D-League.

    What the NFL should do is follow that model and set up NFL-D have a handful of teams and play in the spring. You would think with the lack of QB’s that this would been done a long time ago.

    Stop freeloading and you can change your rules to give guys the option to come out when they are ready.

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