Friday, December 23, 2011

Stay or Go? The NFL Draft Question

Yesterday’s news from sunny southern California came as a surprise and it had nothing to do with the Real Housewives on LA, much to my wife’s disappointment.  USC quarterback Matt Barkley announced at a pretty fancy press conference that he was returning to USC for his senior season and forgoing the 2011 NFL draft.  The immediate question that popped into my head was why?  Followed by what would I do?  Followed by I’m hungry…again. 

Barkley is not the first to stay; in fact he is one of many to do the same in recent years.  Sam Bradford, Jake Locker and Andrew Luck all recently stayed at their respective universities.  Even at USC, Barkley is not the first, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart passed up the NFL draft for a year and stayed as well. 

This recent trend has placed a smile on the faces of the educational elite as well as the Athletic Directors and University Presidents who reap the benefits of the dollars that flow into the institution when elite players chose to stay.   If we’re being honest though, Barkley is not staying for educational purposes.  He’s passing up the NFL and a nice sum of money because he loves his life at USC.  He’s the big man on campus and I’m sure he takes full advantage of those benefits, who wouldn’t? 

Staying in college these days is not as big of a deal as it used to be in terms of finances.  The NFL draft still provides life changing money, but with the new rookie salary wage scale, Barkley is passing up about $20 million dollars instead of $76 million.  Sam Bradford, who chose to stay at Oklahoma and pass on the 2009 NFL draft, became the 1st pick in 2010.  He was the last to be awarded a gigantic rookie contract, 6 years, $76 million with $50 million guaranteed.  When the new CBA was agreed upon a rookie wage scale was put into place to prevent large contracts going to unproven rookies.  That scale has changed the face of rookie wages, Cam Newton, the first pick in 2011 received a measly 4 year $22 million dollar deal from the Carolina Panthers.  Either way though, passing on millions no matter how many of them, can’t be an easy decision. 

To a different point, staying in college doesn’t seem to have that large of an effect on draft position.  Sam Bradford stayed, and became the following year’s number one pick even though he had a sketchy injury history.  Jake Locker who was projected to be a possible first overall pick in the Sam Bradford draft stayed and was still taken number 8 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2011.  Andrew Luck chose to stay even though he was projected to be the first over all pick in 2011; he is still projected to be the first over all pick in 2012. 

So the question becomes, would you stay or would you go?  If I were blessed with the choice, I would go to the NFL.  Passing up any amount of money to play at the highest level just doesn’t make sense to me.  If you are serious about getting your degree, you can take some money out of your pile of it and go back to school at any time.  Going back just to enjoy toga parties and pep-rallies at the risk of getting injured and losing it all just doesn’t seem like the right business decision to me.  But this isn’t business it’s life and to each his own. 


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