Brad Greer 1/18/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2013

Is the three-year college football player the new normal?

Coaches are selling it and high school recruits are buying it. The three-year  player is  becoming the latest trend in college football.

In 2011, a total of 56 college football underclassmen made the jump to the National Football League. Last season that number was broken as 65 players decided to turn the school books for a chance to play on Sunday and so far in 2013, that number has been shattered as 75 players have thrown their name into the hat.

Of the 75 underclassmen who have declared early, 32 are from the SEC. Leading the pack is LSU who has 10 players (11 if you count Tyrann Mathieu who was kicked off the team prior to the season), leaving early and this is by far the most in the country and maybe the history of the draft by one team.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Even two-time national champion Alabama could not escape the wrath as a trio of juniors, running back Eddie Lacy, defensive back Dee Milliner and offensive tackle D. J. Fluker decided to leave the Capstone for greener pastures. But with super freshman running back T. J.  Yeldon returning along with a solid recruiting class in the works, anybody that knows anything about college football knows the Tide does not rebuild they simply reload.

While most of this year’s bumper crop is made up of 17 defensive linemen and 13 defensive backs, so far only two quarterbacks have declared early, one of whom is Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.
So why the mass exodus of players leaving early? Some run into grade problems and see their best interest is to leave school. But in most cases it is all about cold hard cash.

As part of the NFL’s CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that went into effect before the 2011 season a cap was placed on how much a rookie can make. For example, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford signed a six-year deal for $76 million contract with the Rams as the first pick in the draft while the following year Cam Newton received a guaranteed $22 million deal over the next four years.

Also, as part of the CBA, players are not allowed to renegotiate their rookie deals until after their third season, and players know their biggest payday will come after three years. So with a rookie base salary is $390,000, the late round picks will be making the same amount of money with only the signing bonus being the difference. So by the time a player pays his agent and Uncle Sam, there will be little to no difference in the signing bonus.

So now you know why players like South Carolina’s Ace Sanders, Florida’s Jelani Jenkins and Jordan Reed and others who are nowhere near first-round picks are anxious to get their pro careers started.

Now do you see a trend starting?