The NFL has a great system where players must be three years removed from their high-school graduation before they can apply to enter the league. That way, college football acts as a feeder system where players can mature physically and emotionally and play some lower-level football before making the jump to the pros.
But that doesn't mean it's a perfect system. Every year there are underclassmen who leave school early and make a poor choice in doing so. A record 98 underclassmen entered the 2014 NFL draft, but 36 of them went undrafted.
"It's a bad business decision to do anything else," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, per al.com. "I don't care how you cut the mustard. And there's a lot of guys, again, making impulsive decisions about, 'I'm going to go right now' and not having the foresight to see the consequences."
Saban long has lamented that this good system isn't good enough, and Thursday at SEC Media Days he hinted what NFL.com confirmed later in the day: Change to the system is coming.
As it has stood up until now, the league's underclassman advisory board, which gave prospects one of five grades: up to the first round, up to the second round, up to the third round, outside the first three rounds and undraftable.
But now, as NFL.com's Albert Breer wrote, the NFL Draft Advisory Board now will give one of three grades to underclassmen wishing to know their status before declaring: first round, second round or outside the first two rounds, with the latter an indication from the committee that perhaps coming out at this time isn't the wisest move.
In addition, only five underclassmen per school will automatically be given grades, although the committee can be petitioned to make further exceptions. This is interesting, because there were six schools in this May's draft — LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford — that had more than six players drafted. LSU had six underclassmen declare.
Saban said the old system hurts the players.
"All these players that went out for the draft, they went out for the draft late or didn't get drafted, they were potential draft picks next year," Saban said. "They're not in the draft next year. They're not playing college football either."
Saban also believes that changing the system not only can help the NFL and the players make better decisions, but it also can strengthen the college football product as a whole by keeping kids in school. He watched five of his players leave early this spring, and only one — safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, to the Green Bay Packers — was taken in Round 1.
"It's not just this league, I think it's a national issue," Saban said. "There were 36 of these guys who never got drafted. I'm not talking about our league, but on a national level, and there were like 32 of them that got drafted in the first or second round.
"So these guys really should be still in college for every reason, to get an education number one, and number two to enhance their chances at the next level if they invest in a little more development."
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