October 20, 2016
This message is intended for college underclassmen. You will have a difficult decision to make soon on whether or not to leave school early for the NFL Draft.
There are plenty of factors to consider, and because I’m an advocate for higher education I tend to lean toward staying in school and getting your degree. That said each circumstance is different and there are always good and bad reasons for entering the NFL early.
If you are projected to be a first round pick and the guaranteed money it provides, that’s very hard to turn down. If you don’t believe you can improve your draft stock by playing out your senior year, then you have a tough choice to make. If you graduated early, that’s another factor to consider.
You will also need to understand the needs and competition at your position. For example, if you are junior wide receiver and there aren’t many senior receivers projected to be early round picks, then you may want to improve your draft chances and leave early.
These are some of the best, at least most positive reasons, to want to enter the NFL early. Eagles running back Ryan Mathews weighed all of these factors before leaving Fresno State after his junior season. He made a good decision.
Mathews had a $25 million contract with the Chargers and then signed with the Eagles for $11.5 million on a three-year deal. For every Ryan Mathews, there are too many who make poor decisions and either never get drafted or get drafted lower than they would have had they returned to college for another year. That cost them a lot of money in their first NFL contract. For those that go undrafted, their road to the NFL is far more difficult as a free agent. Many don’t make it.
The biggest mistake I see from players who leave early is they take more advice from friends, family and the media than they do from the NFL experts, including their coaches. Getting input from your friends for family is important, but should only be one small part of the equation. They are not sitting in an NFL war room and looking at countless hours of film on all available players at your position. And media members can get caught up on stats, and like your friends and family, they don’t have any idea what NFL personnel people are thinking about you. Your coaches are the best resource. They ARE in contact with NFL people and will give the best and most direct feedback.
Former BYU quarterback John Walsh made a poor decision. He left school after his junior season, based mostly on the feedback he got from media members that he was a “sure fire” first round pick. He didn’t get drafted until the 7th round and only played in one NFL game in his career.
There are a lot more John Walsh sad stories in the NFL than there are Ryan Mathews success stories.
You have to take ALL factors into consideration before making such an important and life changing decision. My best advice is that if you aren’t 100% committed to leaving for the NFL early then don’t do it. If you leave you can never go back to college, and you are missing out on that senior season to improve your draft stock and continue your education.
My core values are: protection, advocacy and trust. As you prepare for this process, I’d recommend you talk with as many NFL experts involved with the draft process as possible, including an experience agent who has your best interest at heart. Weigh all their feedback accordingly.