Leaving College Early: Bad Decision or Good Decision?

For some college football players it is obvious that they should leave college early to enter the NFL draft. If their projected draft status is high enough, then leaving school early and cashing in on that first round signing bonus is the smart move because a players draft status can drop with the slightest tear of an A.C.L. or the decision to go after a 3rd national title a la Matt Leinart.  Players like JaMarcus Russell, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Lawrence Timmons, Greg Olsen, Reggie Nelson, Anthony Gonzalez, Ted Ginn Jr., Jon Beason, Jamaal Anderson, Jarvis Moss, Robert Meachem, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis all made smart decisions based on their projected “Big Money” draft status.  The proof is in the pudding; all of the above-mentioned players were drafted in the first round.  Below is a list of players who made the decision to enter the draft based on something other than basic common sense and draft day proved it:

Darius Walker, RB Notre Dame– Chicago Bears, un-drafted Free Agent Walker would have been the centerpiece of Notre Dame’s high-powered offense this year.  Instead, Walker will probably end up on Chicago’s practice squad before being allocated to NFL Europe.  Walker is not very big, not very fast and wasn’t very impressive at Notre Dame.  A big reason he did as well as he did was because so many teams focused on defending the pass rather than the average rushing attack of the Irish.  At the press conference where Walker announced his departure he said, “I really didn’t have a chance to think about it until I was eligible for it, which came after the bowl game and everything. So I just really feel like it’s right for me.”  So that explains why he made the decision to leave behind a respectable degree and a sweet opportunity in South Bend: He didn’t really think about, he just felt it was right.  I feel that its right for me to sit on my ass all day and watch television and drink, let’s see how that works out.  Nice move Darius.

Jon Abbate, LB Wake Forest-Texans, un-drafted free agent Another year at Wake Forest and he would have been a definite first day draft choice.  The biggest reason that he didn’t get drafted was his poor performance at the combine.  It wasn’t a surprise for him when he ran a dismal 5.0 second 40 yard dash at the combine. He is a monster on the field but physically he is not all that gifted. Another year of domination on the field would have made it more difficult for NFL teams to look past his average athleticism.  But its not like he should have known that poor results in the combine would cause his draft status to plummet:

Antwan Applewhite, DE San Diego State– Chargers, un-drafted free agent Undersized is an understatement for this young man.  There are high school OLB’s that are bigger than this guy.  Another year of lifting and gaining weight would have benefited him.  He is a good player with exceptional quickness but he can’t be very smart:because earning a degree at San Diego State entails getting out of bed 3 times a week and strolling through campus.  But he won’t need an education; he is a physical specimen who is going to crush people in the NFL:that’s why he signed a 2 year deal for the league minimum.
Rory Johnson, LB Ole Miss– Packers, un-drafted free agent A junior college transfer who was overshadowed by Patrick Willis. Next year he would have been the star on the defense and increased his draft status.  He admitted to testing positive for marijuana at his JC and again at Ole Miss, with the NFL’s new focus on character he should have stayed in school and stayed clean and let it blow over and show owners that he wasn’t a character issue.  Out of the 32 LB’s drafted, only 7 had faster 40 times.  He definitely had more physical ability than most other LB’s drafted.  But that  $2,500 signing bonus was too tempting: he could probably buy a pound of primo ganja with that:

Antonio Pittman, RB Ohio State– Saints 4th round. Pittman likely would have been a pre-season all American at running back and a frontrunner to be one of the best college football players in the country next year.  He would have likely been drafted high in the first round and sign for millions if he had stayed for another year.  Instead, he will have to live with a below average contract for the next few seasons.  But you can’t blame him for not wanting to be the king at Ohio State next year and then inking a contract with a signing bonus that would take care of he and his family forever:

Brandon Siler, LB Florida– Chargers 7th round He was delusional going into the draft.  Whether it was his agent that fed him this garbage or his own ego, he was dead wrong.  The week before the draft Siler said he thought he was a first round draft pick and that he would be disappointed if he wasn’t selected in the first 2 rounds. For months prior to the draft NFL scouts slated him as a 4th or 5th round selection.  Scouts doubt he is big enough to play inside linebacker and doubt he has the coverage skills to play outside linebacker in the NFL.  God forbid he listen to people who evaluate and project draft talent for a living.  With another season at Florida he could have worked on those skills and attributes.But, “I can’t wait to start playing at that level,” Siler said, “But I was the leader of the defense that won the national title.  That’s got to mean something.”  Dear Genius, Tommy Frasier and Chris Leak:.

I understand that college football players don’t get paid in cash like in the NFL but they are compensated with the opportunity to earn a college degree.  A college degree is something that no one can ever take away from them and will keep them from having to dig ditches or sell dope to earn a living. All of the above mentioned players have been picked up by NFL clubs but most of them will end up being on the practice squad and eventually end up playing in NFL Europe.  While I hope for the best for these players, the fact is most players in NFL Europe don’t end up having successful careers in the NFL and end up having to start a career in another field.  If they were to have stayed another year and earned degrees life after football would have been a lot more prosperous. And there is life after football:

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3 Responses to “Leaving College Early: Bad Decision or Good Decision?”

  1. Dylan says:

    “Dear Genius, Tommy Frasier and Chris Leak……”

    Dear Genius, the greatest college quarterback of all time spells his name Tommie Frazier.

    Also, college isn’t for everybody. If these kids just want to play ball, they can make a better living at the NFL minimum than 99% of college grads.

  2. Jim says:

    You have a good point college isn’t for everybody. But as student-athletes there is a department in place at every school to assis them academically and help them graduate, plus teachers consistently float athletes grades so they can stay eligible. It’s not that difficult. Why shouldn’t they hold on just one more year and put a little effort in so they can increase their earnings potential later in life? Becuase the average NFL career is 3.8 years…

  3. Cal says:

    Yes college is not for everybody. But that still doesn’t mean that players shouldn’t stay and gain the experience they need in college. If you go pro too early, you won’t have the experience you need in the NFL. Why do you think you see a lot of players that were great in college, left early, and are backups in the NFL, who had the possibility of being a starter in the NFL, if they had enough experience? Well there you go.