Nearly 40 percent of underclassmen go undrafted

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A troubling trend continues with underclassmen going undrafted. A record number of 98 declared for this year’s NFL Draft; 36 went undrafted, and nine of those were former SEC players.

RELATED: How did some of these SEC players not get drafted?

Nick Saban voiced his thoughts over the concerning trend, and he brought ideas to the table on educating players further in an effort to cut down on the number of players declaring then going undrafted. Saban suggested the following back in March to help eliminate the mass exodus of underclassmen.

“The way it’s going right now, I don’t think the NFL really wants all these guys coming out for the draft. They know they can develop better in college if they stay and play more, unless they’re going to be high draft picks,” Saban said. “It’s difficult for them to develop players the way they practice now, so if a player’s not a high pick, it’s much more difficult for them to develop as an NFL player. I even made the point that if we’re not going to do something like (an underclassman combine), maybe if a guy doesn’t have at least a top-three-round grade, you don’t even invite him to the combine.

“More guys go down at the combine than go up, because they’re not as fast,” Saban added. “And they don’t have a very good feel in comparison to all the other competition in the draft at their position. And when they come to that realization, it’s too late, the way we do it now.”

Saban’s idea of having a mini-combine series after bowl games and prior to the NFL Combine could help the perceived problem. It would let GMs, scouts and coaches put their eyes on prospects to get a stronger sense of where they’d ultimately be projected prior to the underclassmen declaration deadline.

Saban isn’t talking about elite prospects who are first- and second-round locks; he’s talking about players like Adrian Hubbard and others who had okay college careers and want to eagerly jump to the next level. Yes, injuries and grades have to be taken into context, and several players are going to leave regardless because of injury concerns.

Just last week, prior to the NFL Draft, Saban was concerned that as many as 30 or more underclassmen would go undrafted. Little did he know his 30 projection was low; it was actually 36.

“The thing that scares me the most about this is there may be 30 or more players this year because there are so many players that don’t even have the opportunity to make the team,” Saban said prior to the NFL Draft. “It’s not only not good for them, it’s not really good for the league and the NFL and it’s not really good for college football, either. I think we’re all losing if we continue to promote guys who aren’t high draft picks to go out for the draft early.”

So, who’s to blame for the perceived problem? ProFootballTalk said TV draft analysts, citing ESPN’s Todd McShay by name, are part of the problem. Below is a blip from the article on ‘draft gurus’, which is an interesting read.

McShay and those of his ilk routinely put ideas in the heads of players that have no relevance to what NFL teams actually think. Soon, McShay undoubtedly will unveil his incredibly-too-premature list of the top players for 2015, and he’ll include in that list — you guessed it — underclassmen.

The fact that these guys left school early without being drafted isn’t entirely the fault of McShay. But it’s hypocritical, to say the very least, for McShay to chastise those who persuaded players to leave school early in order to put in years of service toward a second NFL contract when McShay is a sizable cog in the machine that ultimately supports the argument that these players should quit playing football for free.

Draft analysts are paid to stir up projections by media outlets. The article also cited McShay’s draft projections last May, but players don’t make decisions in May based on ‘way-too-early’ draft projections. It’s a much bigger problem that has multiple layers of parties who should take blame. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the player making the final decision, and a process that helps better educate players of their projection and gives them more information regarding their decision could help.

Here’s a look at the undrafted underclassmen from 2014 who all had remaining eligibility:

DB Nick Addison, Bethune-Cookman
RB George Atkinson, Notre Dame
S Dion Bailey, USC
RB Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
RB Brendan Bigelow, California
WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
RB Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
WR Austin Franklin, New Mexico State
DT Carlos Gray, North Carolina State
TE Xavier Grimble, USC
T Terrance Hackney, Bethune-Cookman
CB Vic Hampton, South Carolina
LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
CB Kameron Jackson, California
TE Nic Jacobs, McNeese State
DT Anthony Johnson, LSU
RB Henry Josey, Missouri
TE A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
DB Albert Louis-Jean, Boston College
TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon
DE Chris McCain, California
DT Viliami Moala, California
RB Adam Muema, San Diego State
TE Jake Murphy, Utah
CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
DL Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
RB Darrin Reaves, UAB
OL Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
QB Brett Smith, Wyoming
RB Jerome Smith, Syracuse
WR Willie Snead, Ball State
RB John Spooney, Brown
WR Josh Stewart , Oklahoma State
DL George Uko, USC
FS Pierre Warren, Jacksonville State
RB James Wilder Jr., Florida State

Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • A lot of football fans think of the NFL as pay for play and college as amateur with university forgiving otherwise cash payable values. This is not the same as pay-for-play because the values are fixed and cannot be used to buy anything else + the worst player gets the same grant as the best, in the ncaa division of question. Every day of his life a player can be observed and a value assigned by one or all of the NFL francises. What is so special about the combine that it would cancel a player’s amateur status? The line is clear to me. You are an amateur until you accept cash or some negoiatiable value. Amateurs should not be declared ineligible for allowing anyone to evaluate them. They should be declared ineligible for using their status to redirect money in any way. Neither College or Pro players are worth anything without the association or league set up for them to play in. And fans want both an amateur and pro league.

  • It could all be solved by passing a simple rule, “If you do not get drafted as an underclassman you have the right to return to school”

    • That hurts teams and signees, though, right? Schools are allowed 85 scholarship players and depending on how many players leave early for the draft impacts how many high school prospects sign at schools.

    • Every player has the right to return to school, they just may do so without the benefit of continuing service on the football team. While it may be unfortunate, I think having underclassmen fail to get drafted may start to signal the importance of staying in school and finishing for a lot of these kids. I always hated watching all of the HS guys get drafted into the NBA only to sit on the bench for 3 or 4 years until they were actually ready to play, or not get drafter at all and because they signed with agents they were unable to go to college

      • Jon and Ty, thanks for bringing up this point. While 85 scholarships are the limit, rosters often have many more players getting zero financial aid. There should be college signing dates about 3 months after the pro signing dates about two months after the end of the NFL season. So everybody knows who they are replacing. The risk of signing players earlier should be absorbed by the sooners. You can’t come back after signing because you’ve been paid. Getting your college education paid for 3 out of 4 years is still a great deal. Loans happen, how good were your grades in that employable major field of study?

  • McShay kills me. I wish he would just stop talking. The NFL has a duty to allow an evaluation period for underclassmen. They should be allowed to discuss job opportunities with NFL assistant coaches just like other underclassmen who are studying engineering and business. A simple weekend football job fair would help. If you allow the juniors and seniors to hold down an on campus job or internship in the athletic department and increase those upperclassman’s stipends maybe it’ll help. The current rules just don’t help kids long term.