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.