LSU, Clemson underclassmen have just three days to decide on NFL draft

Michael David Smith

LSU beat Clemson in a College Football Playoff Championship Game that showcased several players who are good enough to play in the NFL right now, but still have some NCAA eligibility remaining. Those players don’t have much time to decide whether they’re turning pro or returning to college.

Unfortunately, those players don’t have much time to talk it over with their families, coaches and anyone else whose brain they’d like to pick about the pros and cons of turning pro. The deadline to declare for the draft is Friday.

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Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins, one of the players who has a decision to make, was asked immediately after the game whether he’s turning pro, and although he started to say the “right” things about how much he wants to graduate, he acknowledged that it’s too soon for him to decide.

“I’m even on it. I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Higgins said, via The State.

Many in the college and pro football world think the NFL should have a later deadline, so young players can have more time to decide. Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema, who is the former head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas, said in 2017 that he had spoken with other coaches who wanted to see their players get more time.

“I know Nick [Saban] and several other coaches in our league have proposed moving that date back a little bit to allow our guys to have a better understanding,” Bielema said. “There are times now where we have a bowl game in January, and a kid feels pressure or is hearing from outside sources that he needs to make a decision sooner than later. Then he makes a decision before the bowl game even takes place. That tells me that A.) he’s not focused on his priorities, and B.) he’s getting information from people who really shouldn’t be gathering and giving information, and it leads to an uninformed decision.”

That would be a good move by the NFL. The draft is still more than three months away and there’s no reason to rush players into deciding whether to enter it now. It would also be good for the NCAA to allow players to change their minds and get their eligibility back if they declare for the draft and then realize at some point before the draft that they’d rather stay in school. Asking 20-year-olds who have just poured all their energy into a national championship game to make life-changing decisions just days after seems unwise.

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