The 2014 NFL Draft brings a lot of hope for college football players throughout the country. It’s a chance for many of them to take their talents to the next level, get paid more money than they ever dreamed of and provide for their families.
Generally, this is something players look forward to after their senior year of college and after they’ve earned their degree.
However, with each passing year, more and more underclassmen are declaring for the NFL Draft, pursuing that dream they’ve had since they were kids. And, for guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney, those dreams will become a reality as they will be picked in the top five of April’s draft.
But what about those players who aren’t going to be first-round picks, or for that matter, picked at all? What about them?
A record 95 underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft this year, but not all will see the field in the NFL. In fact, many of them won’t be drafted at all, nor will they be picked up as rookie free agents.
All you have to do is look at last year when a number of players suffered the harsh realities of the NFL. Some players weren’t drafted, but signed as rookie free agents and were still cut in training camp. Other players didn’t have their phone ring at all.
Stanford cornerback Terrence Brown was one of those players who was picked up as a rookie free agent. However, the Cincinnati Bengals cut him after the third preseason game. Hawaii cornerback Mike Edwards was another player who suffered a similar fate.
Then there’s former Tennessee State running back Trabis Ward who declared early and went undrafted. Not only was he not drafted, but he wasn’t signed by anyone as a rookie free agent. Ward still had a year left in college where he could have made a few improvements to his play and then had a chance to play in the NFL.
Just another crushed dream and missed opportunity to earn a college degree.
This year will be no different, either.
Of the 95 underclassmen that declared, at least 20 will suffer this same fate—maybe more. Some will get an opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster, but many won’t even get a chance.
Who will some of those be?
UAB junior running back Darrin Reaves comes to mind. He’s the 49th-ranked running back, according to CBS Sports, and the 710th-best prospect overall. California cornerback Kameron Jackson is another one who could be disappointed when all is said and done. He’s ranked 50th among corners and 462nd overall.
The bottom line is, while playing in the NFL is no doubt a dream for many prospects, for some that’s all it’s going to be. Most are going to have to become normal members of society and do something to contribute.
That’s where a degree comes in. Finishing your degree and being able to have something to fall back on is something every football player should consider. There are a select few that should leave college early because they can make a lot of money. But for every Jadeveon Clowney, there 10 other underclassmen who will never realize the dream.