All-time high 135 players leave NCAA eligibility behind to enter 2019 NFL draft

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More players than ever before are heading to the NFL while they’re still eligible to play college football.

The NFL announced today that a total of 135 players who could have retained NCAA eligibility have instead decided to enter the 2019 NFL draft. That includes 103 players who have been granted what the league calls “special eligibility,” mostly third-year juniors who have decided to turn pro, plus another 32 players who have already fulfilled their degree requirements and are allowed to enter the draft.

Last year 119 players entered the draft: 106 with special eligibility and 13 who had graduated.

In 2017 it was 103 players: 95 with special eligibility and eight who had graduated.

In 2016 it was 107 players: 96 with special eligibility and 11 who had graduated.

In 2015 it was 84 players: 74 with special eligibility and 10 who had graduated.

The sharp increase this year comes from players who have already graduated. Those players would be permitted to keep playing college football while working on advanced degrees, but it appears that increasing numbers of players are deciding that once they’ve had a bachelor’s degree paid for, it’s time to try to make money playing football or get to work on using that degree.

40 responses to “All-time high 135 players leave NCAA eligibility behind to enter 2019 NFL draft

  1. Let’s look at that decision. Play for free while others get rich off you … or play professionally and be paid yourself. Hmmm … let me think.

  2. Once you factor in the compensatory picks, a 7-round draft will have something like 255 or so picks in it. So the underclassmen are going to comprise more than 50% of all of the draft selections? Either this year’s senior class is terrible, or a lot of underclassmen have very misguided expectations over where they will get picked (if at all).

  3. How many were drafted? How many were on opening day rosters? How many were in the league three years later? Leaving college early isn’t always the answer.

  4. These numbers will just keep rising unless the NCAA starts allowing the players to be paid and to make points of the merchandising.

  5. As a taxpayer… if the NCAA ever starts paying these players they better charge them for their education.

  6. firstdownbrowns says:
    January 18, 2019 at 1:36 pm
    long odds for most kids to make it in the NFL. if all they know is football and by age 25 they are done. whats plan B ?

    _____________________________________________

    Save the money made and go back to finish degree?

    ___________________________________

    These kids really should get paid for playing in college. Not millions, but a decent wage so they don’t HAVE to take side stuff to get by financially. Playing college ball takes up a great deal of time and the universities profit.

  7. I hope these players have really studied the round grade that the NFL gives them. If a player is coming out earlier and their draft grade is round 5 and beyond, stay in school and work hard to get a higher round grade the next year. It’ really hard for NFL teams to cut anyone drafted in the first 4 rounds, maybe 5th round, but after that it’s easy for a team not to pick up a player.

  8. A lot of these men come from poverty, so you can’t blame them for going after money. Even if they go in the 7th round or go undrafted and catch on with a team, the base salary is $400k+. That’s $400k+ more than they were making in college and to some, that’s life changing money for their families. If the NFL doesn’t work out, they can go back and finish school or try to catch on with one of the new minor league teams.

  9. glac1 says:
    January 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
    As a taxpayer… if the NCAA ever starts paying these players they better charge them for their education.
    ———————————
    What does you or I being taxpayers have to do with it?

  10. Coming from where a lot of these men come from, it’s pretty easy to see why they’d jump at the chance to feed their families as soon as they can. With that being said, NFL brasses want younger guys anyways, more time to mold clay. There’s definitely pressure to leave as soon as possible.

  11. 135 players are not going to make NFL rosters next year. The sad thing is, some of these players barely saw the field in college and they think they can make it as the next level.

    They are fed this dream, told to take classes towards a degree in family studies, communications, or something that allows them to focus on football. They never graduate, they never play at the next level and the only thing they are guaranteed is they go back to their home town games and people talk about their high school days.

  12. Growing up best friend was the best grade school athlete in every sport in our town of 100,000 people. Middle school was the best athlete in the city in two sports. In high school he was one of the top recruits in the state. At college he was one of the best in the conference in one sport. Was drafted mid rounds by NFL. So one of the best in the country. As far as I know he never played a down of nfl football. Maybe an isolated special team play. Don’t think so. NFL has the best of the best. Not just spanning three years. But players from early 20’s to esrly30’s with new talent every year.

  13. Can’t blame these kids for going after such big money.

    But to correct those who claim they’ve been playing for “free” – tuition and living costs at many big schools are in the $40-50,000 range and going up. Scholarship players are getting HUGE compensation for playing, and avoiding the long-term debt that many of their peers are saddled with.

  14. A lot of bad advice in here. Look at the numbers. A lot of these guys wont even be drafted or make it with an NFL team. I know greed is king in America but an education is more valuable than anything money can buy.

  15. glac1 says:
    January 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
    As a taxpayer… if the NCAA ever starts paying these players they better charge them for their education.

    ——–

    If the thought of paying players upsets you as a tax payer, you’re gonna be FURIOUS when you find out the the highest paid state employees in many states are football and basketball coaches.

  16. There will certainly be some who won’t get to the NFL, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. Just looking at a recent first-round mock draft, I saw only 8 of the top 32 players were seniors. You take that average through 7 rounds, that’s a potential 168 underclassmen that could be drafted (even though only 135 declared). Then when you factor in undrafted free-agents, it’s probably a smart decision. Even three years on a practice squad will give you more than enough to go back to school and finish that last year for your degree, along with a decent savings account if you’re smart. It’s a no-brainer.

  17. “Scholarship players are getting HUGE compensation for playing …”

    Not if they’re getting some garbage degree in a worthless major.

  18. Nice, great year for the Patriots to have 6 picks in the first three rounds.
    ( two compensation picks)

  19. Last year there were 106 early entries. 37 of those went undrafted. That’s 35%. Some of these guys would have a better chance of being drafted if they stayed in school.

  20. And if they didn’t have the the rule whereby players must be out of high school for at least three years and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season, you could probably add another 50 to 100 players to that number.
    And to protect the kids from themselves, it’s smart to make them wait until they are more mature to make this life-changing decision. Because as we all know, many more drafted players never make it in the NFL than drafted ones.
    Their college educations are far more important to most of these kids than if they try to make it in the NFL and fail.

  21. glac1 says:
    January 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
    As a taxpayer… if the NCAA ever starts paying these players they better charge them for their education.

    ————————————————————————-

    As a taxpayer… are you calling your representative to demand that the public universities in your state refund some of the profits they make from multi-billion dollar TV deals, ticket sales, jersey/shirt sales, etc. — and give some of that money back to the state budget???

    Are you calling to complain that a public university is paying a head coach >$5 million per year in many states???

    With 85 scholarhips… and assuming even $30,000/year tuition/fees, that would equal less than $3,000,000 each year for the entire team…. which is less than the American Athletic Conference Houston Cougers pay their head coach now, and that doesn’t include 8-10 assistant coaches on payroll. It is business… a VERY big business these days.

  22. largent80 says:

    January 18, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Once you factor in the compensatory picks, a 7-round draft will have something like 255 or so picks in it. So the underclassmen are going to comprise more than 50% of all of the draft selections? Either this year’s senior class is terrible, or a lot of underclassmen have very misguided expectations over where they will get picked (if at all).
    ————–
    While I understand your premise it’s not totally accurate. Yes, some of those underclassmen may not get drafted but if they don’t see their draft stock improving by playing another year because maybe their not getting playing time now or a highly ranked recruit is coming in next year their best shot may be to move on and try to wow at the scouting combine or as an udfa in training camp/off-season practices.

  23. Seems silly to come out early, unless you have a very good idea that you will go in the first couple of rounds. But, these are more than 4 rounds worth of players, and some seniors will get picked, so some of these guys will be 5th, 6th, 7th round, or not drafted. Those guys can make a team, but the odds are incredibly long, and another year of college might have helped them.

  24. glac1 says:
    January 18, 2019 at 1:17 pm
    they aren’t playing for free as most are getting a free degree if they attempt to pass the classes

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    These colleges just use them to make money. Don’t give me their scholarship is their pay. Take Alabama for instance. Let’s say 80 players on scholarship at 25k a year for tution. That’s about 2 million for the year on scholarship. Alabama’s 2017 football profit was 46 million

  25. For those high school players interested in playing professional football, they should play in the new development leagues where they can get paid. Reduce college football athletic scholarship from 85 to ZERO. Provide financial need scholarships as necessary like Ivy Leauge.

  26. captainloaded says:
    January 18, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    What? They got an education as a backup? What will they do if they do not make it? If only the ncaa only paid them to play.
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    It is virtually impossible for the average student to play and get their bodies to a level that they will be drafted by the NFL and study worthwhile courses. Plus, many of them have no business being students and only go the college route to play football #HardTruth

  27. Consider a player just out of HS. Physically immature. Mentally immature.Football immature.Educationally immature. One of tens of thousands of HS players with no more HS eligibility.Imagine offering their services to the NFL at that point. 3-4 years later, well fed, well trained, well known and potentially educated at no financial cost and having maximised their NFL potential.They are not playing for free. On and off the field, they are in a significantly better position to succeed at Pro Football or life in general. I think a players image should be licenses and compensated. If the NCAA is serious about educating “student athletes” the NCAA should offer them their education whenever,however,wherever and at whatever direction a(former) player seeks it. From Trade school to Med School, scholarship is for life for those who choose to utilise it.

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