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.