Nowadays, one of the main topics swirling around college football is whether elite college athletes should stay to get an education and enter the draft after their four-year tenure, or whether they should leave for the pros after the required three years out of high school, usually in the college level. Yes, there are pros and cons for both, but it all comes down to the payday.
The take-the-money stance, as we will call it, is leaving for the pros after the three years to get that convenient payday. These athletes have worked their whole life, from little league flag football to the college level. If you are a first-round draft pick, based on last year, you will make no less than $6.76 million for four years. Top-10 will make no less than $12.60 million over four seasons, and the number one overall will make somewhere around $22 million over four years. So, saying that you’re gonna go in the first round puts you at $1.69 million a year. Not sure about you, but I don’t know of many jobs that start you at $1.69 million per year in your first year with them. In fact, no one drafted in last year’s draft got a contract less than $2.20 million ($550,000 a year), again a nice chunk of change for the first year on the job. You would have to be insane to pass up that money.
The NFL is a league where one hard hit could change your life forever, so take the money while you can. There are summer classes that they can take to get their education so they can do something after football, but when you have the chance to make upwards of two million dollars you take it because what are the chances that they will find a job that will make them two million in their lifetime?
Answer: Slim to none.
So take the money, I repeat, take the money. Yes, an education is very important — I am in college right now to better my life — but if you told me I could play football, or even just sit on the bench, in the NFL for a couple million, I would leave in a heartbeat and take online classes during the off-season. If you are projected to go undrafted, stay your last year to get your diploma and increase your draft stock so you can become a higher draft pick and make the big bucks.
One of the arguments for going to the NFL early is what if you get hurt in your rookie year. To that I say this, getting hurt in the NFL during your rookie year still gives you that large pay day of upwards of $550,000 a year. Say that same athlete would have stayed in college for his final year and gotten injured, now what? He will likely not get drafted, depending on the severity of the injury, and if he does it won’t be in the top rounds, much less as a top-10 pick.
I do however agree with the rule requiring three years out of high school, and do suggest going on to play college ball, but if you are going to leave early and get that money by all means do it. They need these three years to get stronger both mentally and physically.
As all the NFL scouts say, the game moves much faster in the NFL level. There are players who I think SHOULD have stayed in college for at least another year, like RG3 for example. He was the Heisman winner coming off a great season, so I have no problem with him going to get that payday. As we saw, he is very injury prone — so if that ACL injury would have happened the next year at Baylor, his draft stock could have plummeted far enough to fall even out of the second round.
Most recently Marcus Mariota would not go in the top-10. I don’t even think he would go the first round this year, because of his sprained MCL and head injuries. A scrambling quarterback hurting any part of his leg is not a good thing to see, so in his instance I think college for another year or two would be best, but not for the education purpose, but for the payout.
All in all it just comes down to how much you would make in the NFL and how bad you want to go. If you are expected to go high in the draft, go. If you are going later in the draft, that is when you think about staying, but at the end of the day going first or last still makes a nice chunk of change that would make you much more than any ordinary job out of college, so take the money and don’t risk it. You can always go back to get your education.