VETTEL: Draft Rule Should Change

I've been watching the NFL draft for more than a quarter century, dating back to when I sat in Cris Collinsworth's apartment in the spring of 1981. Watching "Cadillac" go through that torturous experience was an unusual exercise, but it pales in comparison to the modern era.

Brandon Siler was led to believe he was a likely third round pick, maybe a second and no worse than a fourth. That indication led him to decide to pass on his senior season at Florida and enter the NFL draft. Had Brandon Siler been told from day one that he was a seventh rounder I don't think there's any way he gives up his last season as a Gator. That mis-information ends up costing him dearly.

One-Sided Process

The problem of the NFL draft as I see it is that it is a completely one-way street for those who still have collegiate eligibility remaining. You come out or you don't, period. Basketball players have up until a week before the draft to pull out and return to school and if they're not comfortable with their situation. And if the NBA does not choose you, then you can elect to stay in the college game.

In baseball it's even cleaner. You don't bother declaring for the draft. Major League Baseball drafts whoever they want and every player has the right to accept or reject any pro offer without compromising their eligibility.

Only in football do you have to decide within a week of the end of your season and then suffer the consequences if you don't like where you're chosen. That system bites, and should be changed. There are a number of ways the system could be made fairer.

Contingency declaration ----- What would be wrong with allowing players to declare for the draft, but only under certain conditions? You could make it round-by-round specific and announce at the end of each round which players were no longer in the talent pool. If that's too complicated at least let guys declare for the draft provided they are chosen on day one. That would not have kept Ryan Smith around, but I bet Siler would have chosen that as an option.

30-day rejection period ----- If you won't let players take their names out of the draft, then at least give them a short period of time to reject the NFL and return to school if that's what they want. It would be tantamount to allowing them to decide by round; but the difference here is a team can pay beyond the "slot" in order to get a guy into camp. The NFL would have to decide how it wanted to handle the "rights" to that player, but the simple thing there is to do what baseball does and allow them to maintain the right to a draft pick until the day before the next draft. That too could mean more money for the player in question.

Later declaration deadline ----- If the NFL and the NCAA can not come up with something to allow the players to get an NFL evaluation after declaring without giving up eligibility then they should delay the decision deadline. Basketball players get a month to really do their due diligence and determine more accurately their "draft ability". And even after that they get to stay in the draft another six weeks before the deadline to pull out. In football they get as little as a week to make the decision and there's no turning back. That's not right.

The NCAA could take the lead in this process. No matter what the NFL or NBA rules might be, the NCAA makes its own policies in regards to collegiate eligibility. The NCAA can right this wrong and take strides to better protect the interests of the student-athletes involved so that they don't have to make such important, irrevocable decisions with such limited information.

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