How often is it we have so much college football news to talk about from February and March?
On February 5th, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in favor of former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who had sued the NFL for the right to enter the its draft in April. The ruling struck down the NFL's rule that a player had to be at least three years removed from his high school graduation to be eligible to enter the draft, potentially opening the floodgates for high schoolers and college underclassmen to leave for the NFL. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin dismissed the argument that younger players aren't physically ready for the punishment of the NFL, noting that Clarett is bigger than Walter Payton was in his prime. Flawed logic, considering that there are quarterbacks in today's NFL that are larger than offensive linemen from Payton's days. But that doesn't matter; the truth is that if an 18 year-old is mature enough to choose to serve his country and possibly give his life in its defense, he is mature enough to choose to play professional football. Would it be a mistake? Maybe, but it's his mistake to make. And now, it's the law.
So what does this mean to the fan? Football fans everywhere are panicking. They're worried that their sport will suffer the same fate as basketball, which most followers feel has suffered in quality on both the college and professional level as younger players are drafted into the NBA. Are these fears justified? I doubt it. Think about it; most players redshirt their first year because they aren't big enough, strong enough, or fast enough for the college game. How on earth are they going to be able to compete in the NFL? NFL rosters are not very large; they only have 53 spots available. Players get injured over the course of a 16-game season, and NFL teams need their entire roster to be able to play at any time. There isn't any room on the roster for a player to be brought along slowly. Not that the player would develop better on an NFL bench than on a college field anyway. Will we see players leaving earlier than before? Of course. Will it be a mass exodus like we've seen in basketball? No. Players won't be skipping college to go play in exile in NFL Europe. Maybe a couple JUCO guys will if they get noticed.
OK, but it's
not like I haven't been wrong before. So what if there is a flood
of high schoolers and underclassmen
into professional football? Well, we can see what's been happening in
basketball. Since freshmen and sophomores started leaving for the NBA, we've
also started to see a few of the so-called "mid-majors" make a bigger splash on
the college scene. Schools like Gonzaga,
translate that into football. It is highly unlikely that players leaving after
their freshmen and sophomore years will become so widespread that it will have
the same profound effect as it has in basketball. But if it does, Navy will
actually be better off. Service academies tend to be more senior-laden than most
squads. Navy will continue to get the same players that they always have;
recruits that have their eyes set on the NFL weren't coming to
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Maurice Clarett went through all that drama to get the right to enter the draft only to show up overweight and too out of shape to run at the combine. The only high schoolers to declare weren't even starters on their own teams. We're a long, long way from all of this really being a factor.
Just rest assured that Navy will be fine either way.