Thursday, February 05, 2004

The floodgates open 

A federal judge declares Maurice Clarett eligible for the NFL draft. Clarett played one season for Ohio State in 2002 and was suspended form the team last year. Previously, the NFL required draft entrants to be three years removed from their high school graduation to be eligible. The judge ruled that the NFL rule violated antitrust laws. The NFL will appeal. They'll likely lose.

Assuming the decision is upheld, I don't think the NFL will turn into the NBA where the draft is full of high schoolers and college freshmen. Some reasons:

--Hitting: There's much more hitting in football than basketball. 18 year-olds simply aren't ready to get hit by 300-pound linemen and 250-pound linebackers.

--Predictibility: With few exceptions, the best basketball players in high school and college turn into the best players in the pro level. The same is not true for football. Half the stars in the league weren't even first round picks. It's much easier to see that Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett will turn out to be great players than comparable high school football players.

--Complexity: Basketball is a simple game. Football is very complicated. There's more for a receiver or a running back than just catching and running. There's also blitz pickups, playing angles, what to do when the quarterback scrambles. Or consider the responsibilities of a defensive back. The Patriots rookie DBs were confused in the Super Bowl. Just imagine a player with only one yar college experinece in that position.

--Choice: In basketball, there's only a few top level players in a draft. Teams have no choice but to draft that 18-year old phenom and hope he pans out, since the alternative is drafting a mediocre college player. In football, there's much more talent in the draft since there are more players. Also, since the talent level is close, football teams are more likely to focus on drafting guys who can play right away rather than hoping for getting that one great player. They'd rather have someone who can contribute in their first year than someone 10% better who can't play for two years.

Put all these factors together, team will avoid the players will less experience in the first round of the draft. And if that happens it won't be worth it for most players to come out early. Unless you really need the money, why be a second round pick and sign a 4 year, $6 million contract when you can wait a year and get $15 million? The only players the ruling will affect are the top 5 or 10 players each year.
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