Too many college juniors making mistake by turning pro

Brian VanGorder, who has coached in both college and the NFL, said adjusting to the speed of the pro game can be difficult for a junior. (AJC photo/Curtis Compton)

Brian VanGorder said adjusting to the speed of the NFL can be difficult for a college junior. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

When the Falcons selected Matt Ryan with the third pick of the draft two years ago, any gamble associated with taking a quarterback that early was somewhat minimized by the development they had seen him make during his senior season at Boston College.

As general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, “He is a perfect example of a guy who stayed in [school], got more work and matured at a level where we were happy with.”

On the flip side we have Jevan Snead. He is the captain of this year’s, “What Are You Thinking?” class of juniors.

Unprecedented numbers of juniors have declared themselves eligible for the draft. Snead didn’t improve as a junior at Mississippi. He regressed. He threw as many interceptions as touchdowns: 20. In his final college game, the Cotton Bowl, he went 13-for-23 with zero TDs and three interceptions. Talk to some scouts and you’re left believing he has “fifth round” stamped on his forehead.

But like too many others, Snead — against the advice of his coach, Houston Nutt — is turning pro. Why? Fear. Fear of an NFL lockout in 2011 (long shot). Fear of a rookie wage scale beginning in 2011 (overstated); 3) Fear of injury (no worse this year than any other).

It’s not for me to tell a young man what to do with his life. But this could be one of the saddest NFL drafts ever — sad because of the number of players who believe coming out now puts them ahead of the curve when in fact this may drop them behind it. An unprecedented number of

Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead is turning pro despite a poor junior season. (AP photo)

Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead is turning pro, against the advice of coach Houston Nutt. (AP photo)

juniors have declared themselves eligible. Expect an unprecedented number to go undrafted. (Exact numbers won’t be known until Monday, the deadline for players changing their mind.) NFL teams that normally evaluate 100 juniors are evaluating 200. Estimates are that the number drafted will increase by 50 percent.

The injury concern is understandable. Bu it seems implausible that the NFL and players won’t come to terms on a new CBA. There are too many billions on the table. But the most absurd concern of all is this projected rookie wage scale, which likely would have a significant effect on only the top half of the first round (16 players). It will have minimal effect on the other 250 players taken.

Some juniors are getting bad advice. Some, Dimitroff said, “are listening to the wrong people. They should listen to their coaches and the NFL [draft-advisory committee]. But many feel too anxious to test the waters.”

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has coached in both college and the NFL. He said of so many juniors coming out:  “Obviously, whatever you think about it as a coach, a player, an agent or anybody involved, there are examples you can find to support your claim.” But he added, “Usually the college player is just starting to gain a comfort level with the college game. The game is starting to slow down. Then he leaves and he enters the NFL and he has to go through that same process all over again. The NFL game is faster. There’s a lot more in terms of scheme, and the learning curve is difficult. If they don’t have a great foundation, learning to function becomes more difficult.”

Agent Pat Dye Jr. has advised juniors to return to school.

Agent Pat Dye Jr. has advised juniors to return to school.

Four Georgia Tech juniors recently declared themselves eligible: defensive end Derrick Morgan, running back Jonathan Dwyer, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and safety Morgan Burnett. At Georgia, linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones are forgoing their senior seasons. Morgan, Dwyer and Thomas all could be first-round picks. Slam dunk. The stature of Burnett, Curran and Jones is less certain.

Long-time sports agent Pat Dye Jr. believes the concerns of juniors jumping to the NFL this year are legitimate. But during his career, he said he also has tried to talk several players into returning for their senior seasons.

“At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I advise a lot of kids to go back to school,” said Dye, son of the Auburn coaching legend. “It’s probably 3-1 in terms of me advising kids to come back. I remember distinctly sitting down with [Georgia's Richard] Seymour and [Marcus] Stroud and recommending that they come back. Eric Moulds, I advised him to come back. My threshold is, if you have a chance to work yourself into a first-round pick by going back to school, then you should do that. But everybody has to make their own decision.”

The problem is when those decisions are based on fear — possibly baseless.

227 comments Add your comment

max

January 16th, 2010
3:00 pm

FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SUCK ON THAT

miles

January 16th, 2010
3:05 pm

heywood jablomey

January 16th, 2010
3:09 pm

wonder what this article is about. gotta try to be top 5 first…

Still In Texas

January 16th, 2010
3:13 pm

I can’t believe the GA Tech and UGA bashing hasn’t started yet.

heywood jablomey

January 16th, 2010
3:13 pm

rennie curran left b/c he said he wasnt going to grow anymore.
i think that is all the more reason to stay. at least enjoy another
year as a “star” and you’ll get drafted exactly the same next year
as you would have this year b/c your height isnt changing.

We got a defensive coach

January 16th, 2010
3:13 pm

I hope they make the right choice. Morgan Burnett may have made a bad choice but I could be wrong. R. Currin will be ok in the pro’s but then again who knows? I wish all of you juniors the best from GT and UGA .

red-headed ba$tard

January 16th, 2010
3:16 pm

mike, mandy, chris, sally, and phil gonna tear it up in the ATL

GO DAWGS. GOOD ARTICLE MR SCHULTZ.

UGAgrad71

January 16th, 2010
3:16 pm

I would like to see real college students attending school and earning their degrees. For those who want to go to the NFL, there should be as an example the NDFL – national developmental football league. We have minor league baseball teams attached to the major league club. Why not develop a series of minor leagues for players who want to go to the NFL. It galls me to no end to see colleges recruit and sign student atheletes who are not qualified to attend college academically, and must be baby-sat through out their time in college through the aid of speciall classes and tutors.

We got a defensive coach

January 16th, 2010
3:22 pm

UGAGrad71- Then there would be no college football or it would be nowhere near as competitive.

leland

January 16th, 2010
3:45 pm

Dear Mr. JS–I went to some trouble and at some length several months ago to tell you what “learning curve” means, but you continue on your uninformed, boneheaded way. You should drop the expression completely.

Also, if you see Dye again, tell him that it would sound better if he said something like, “All these players should make his or her own decision.”

Remember, there’s nothing like talking (and writing) good.

Your pal, Leland

SWGADAWG

January 16th, 2010
3:51 pm

Sure didn’t hear that from ya in the past. But when 4 GTs jump a sinking ship….it’s HORRIBLE!!!!!

Epaminondas

January 16th, 2010
3:56 pm

Oh, please, Schultz! Spare us the drama. In point of fact, more than half the players on division 1 starting college football (or basketball) teams have absolutely no business even being on a college campus period. They are ALWAYS going to take the money because they have zero interest in academics. And don’t give me these phony stats about academic scores of athletes. They’re enrolled in dumbed down courses (usually from some education department) and they have 24 hour tutoring. Duh! Money and TV have destroyed whatever academic reputations colleges once had vis a vis athletic teams. So let’s just not go there, okay?

SOUTHGADAWG88

January 16th, 2010
4:07 pm

The only thing that will stop it is for a lot of these kids to go undrafted.The NFL is not helping when most of the first rd draft picks are underclassmen.

Dawg1970

January 16th, 2010
4:08 pm

R Curran’s point was that his status wasn’t going to improve
(unlike a player like Snead who might move up). Rennie has a 1 yr old daughter who he must consider in career planning and the uncertainty of
injury. I don’t blame him one bit. Best of luck to him and thanks
for 3 good years.

Prowl22

January 16th, 2010
4:13 pm

It is interesting to see coaches jump ship for Green er pastures but many say thease young men should stay. I think it is important for each player to look out for their own future. Go Trojans, ND,

Dawg1970

January 16th, 2010
4:14 pm

Jeff, When does the quiet period for recruiting end? I can’t wait to see what the fallout is from all the coaching moves/hires>

Dawg1970

January 16th, 2010
4:17 pm

The early NFL entries also frees up scholarships and impacts recruiting
in a major way.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

January 16th, 2010
4:23 pm

Good year to have multiple 2nd and 3rd picks

bad idea

January 16th, 2010
4:30 pm

this is an article that should have been written earlier and an NCAA rule that needs to be changed. If your dangling 6 figures in a kid’s face, of course they are going so quit dangling it. Did this start with Herschel Walker? Well, it needs to stop now.

Paul

January 16th, 2010
4:32 pm

Jeff
I don’t know much about going pro from college. Do these guys have a chance to change their mind or is it final?

GT Falcon

January 16th, 2010
4:32 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Burnett is an idiot to come out. He’s a 5th rounder at best. ESPN even called him out on it. Claimed him the top 3 worst jrs to come out.

Not Disappointed

January 16th, 2010
4:32 pm

I may need time on this one…….

Wii

January 16th, 2010
4:36 pm

Haha. Nice defense sAINTS

Can't stand drew brees

January 16th, 2010
4:38 pm

Throw an int you whiny short wimp

Go Cardinals!

TallaDawg

January 16th, 2010
4:41 pm

To “we got a defensive coach”, Competiveness only requires teams of equal or near equal talent. Like UGAgrad71, I get tired of guys sucking up the precious few scholarships to good universities when they have no appreciation for what is being given to them and do not possess the ability to take advantage of it.

Also, why is our coach defensive? Did he do something we should know? On the other hand I am glad we found a defense coach.

Stinger Envy

January 16th, 2010
4:41 pm

((((30-24))))
((((73-66))))

When does Baseball season start?

Paul

January 16th, 2010
4:43 pm

Never mind Jeff. I see where you wrote the deadline. I should have read it first.

SWGADAWG inbred moron

January 16th, 2010
4:44 pm

hey SWGADAWG, your the sinkng damn ship @$$hole. Was GT preranked number one in the nation in 09? No, they were #15th and finished 13th with an ACC Championship that 11 other teams in the conference would have loved to have. Impressive in CPJ’s 2nd yr. Let’s see, UGA was preranked number 1 in 08 and cover of SI, remind me what you did? 5 stars and you got 8 wins, your the damn sinkin ship.

Tom

January 16th, 2010
4:50 pm

I think Burnett will come back. Not sure about the uga players.

Tom

January 16th, 2010
4:53 pm

Why do they call 2 per fouls on one team and one on another offsetting? Do they not know simple math in the nfl?

collegeballfan

January 16th, 2010
5:19 pm

If you want to keep the kids in school eliminate football scholarships. The coach can post a sign at the student union -”football tryouts next Saturday”. The students who are interested can tryout for the team.

Those athletes who want to go into professional football can be drafted by the pros- baseball does it ever year.

Anyone want to invest in the Macon Magics, AAA team affiliated with the
Falcons?

SOGADOG

January 16th, 2010
5:28 pm

If most juniors are not ready for the speed of the professional game, shouldnt the NFL require players sit 4 years after high school, or require they play four years of college ball, excluding the redshirt? I would like to see this implemented as it would help the college and pro game. Also potential pros could be protected with insurance in case of injury in college.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 16th, 2010
5:36 pm

At the rate coaches jump ship for money, can’t blame the athletes who play virtually for free. In fact, you could say that’s the way they’re coached.

jesse james

January 16th, 2010
5:36 pm

Next level, Next level, Next level, that is all some of these kids hear from their parents, AAU coaches, travel ball coaches, and many others. You see kids that jump from high school to high school, they have no idea of what team concept means. So it doesn’t surprise me to see them jump ship. It is so good to see guys stay and finsih their careers. I can see if a kid is going to be a number one pick or top pick. It would be hard to turn down. But some of these guys, you never hear of them again.

Witts

January 16th, 2010
5:38 pm

Let the NCAA and the NFL set up a fund to keep college players playing. Tie it to their position in the draft. They cash out only upon graduating. No- wait: the College coaches gotta get paid.

GT Dog

January 16th, 2010
5:41 pm

I see Curran’s situation in this light:

True, he isn’t going to grow any more, so his draft stock probably wouldn’t go up much with another year at UGA. The bad news is that he’s a borderline NFL player at best, so his chances of making a living as a pro ballplayer are slim. So that’s not going to change. So, let’s look at his options:

1. Leave this year, have a small chance to make it big in the NFL.
2. Leave next year, have a small chance to make it big in the NFL. But, have your degree with much brighter prospects outside the NFL.

Now…which scenario would be in the best interest of his daughter?

Funny, I don’t recall hearing alot of comments about getting that degree?

Matt "Choke" Ryan

January 16th, 2010
5:45 pm

Joe Flacco playing through injuries (Ankle, Hip) down the stretch………

What’s wrong with that picture?

GT Dog

January 16th, 2010
5:46 pm

Good comments Jesse. What are the odds again for a D1 player making it in the NFL? There was an article on that recently. I think it was something like 19-1 against it. And 70-something percent of NFL players are in dire straits financially within two years of retirement? Am I in the ballpark here? Tell me again why there’s such a draw toleave college and try the pros? It reminds of the lottery, lot’s of ignorant people blowing the grocery money for a miniscule chance at breaking even.

GeoffDawg

January 16th, 2010
5:48 pm

Reshad Jones is just ready to start getting a paycheck and if his heart isn’t with the Dawgs, then I wish him best of luck in his future endeavors. Curran, on the other hand, while I would love to have him back is probably one of those rare guys that is as good as he’s going to get in college and needs to strike while the iron’s hot.

On the tech side, I agree with Morgan and Dwyer being first rounders but Burnett is probably a third or fourth round guy and it’s quite a stretch to say that Thomas can be a first rounder. Unless he blows some doors off at the combine, no one’s seen him in enough pro style looks to evaluate his ability to be effective without the defense playing for the run every single down. I’d peg him as a solid third rounder.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

January 16th, 2010
5:51 pm

Dawgs88

January 16th, 2010
5:28 pm
Jeff you suck. I can’t stand any of your articles. I love it how you’re a sports writer who has never played…………..oh what’s the word I’m looking for………………..SPORTS. I wish the Atlanta Urinal Constipation would get some decent SPORTS writers for a change.

“COME COME” No need to call Ledbetter names :)

At least Jeff allows unbias opinions and you can’t say that about the rest of the AJC staff writers.

GeoffDawg

January 16th, 2010
5:52 pm

GT Dog – I disagree that Curran is a borderline prospect. Even if due to his height, he doesn’t make it as an every down LB, I think he has just the right kind of instincts, tackling ability, speed, and tenacity to be a tremendous special teams player over the long term. Guys like Bill Bates made a great living that way.

SEC FANATIC

January 16th, 2010
5:55 pm

All these guys think they are gonna be superstars in the NFL. And that is while they are in high school!! How many of these guys mistakenly put their name in the hat and then 2-3 years later you’re going, “gee, I wonder what ever happened to such and such”… Yep, they’re out there somewhere…struggling in the REAL world without a college degree.

jesse james

January 16th, 2010
5:55 pm

GTDog – You see it in all sports. Kids can’t enjoy playing the game because there is so much pressure from other sources pushing them to get to the next level. If you are good enough it will take care of itself. But many times these kids are misled by some agent that is nothing more than a pimp. They will lie and do everything they can to convince a kid to leave early. If a kid gets a big signing bonus that is a plus, but alot of times these kids get the minimum and then don’t make the team and they have nothing.

Another Dawg

January 16th, 2010
6:08 pm

Wow. Normally, Schultz, we read your inane articles and conclude that you have completely missed the point of whatever subject you’ve tasked us with reading about. This time, you’ve given us the gem that clearly shows you lack the intellect for this job, not just the perspective:

“Fear of injury (no worse this year than any other).”

The risk of injury is ALWAYS greater in a senior season. I don’t have any statistics that suggest seniors are at greater risk (well, actually, the data exists, but they aren’t normalized based on playing time so all it shows is “more seniors playing, more seniors getting hurt.”) Idiotically, you seem to view the risk of injury as the probability of getting hurt. The true risk of injury is the cost of injury multiplied by the risk. No one gives a crap about getting hurt; they care about what they give up as a result of an injury.

We see it every year, especially amongst running backs. There’s only so much punishment that a guy can take before he is bound for injury. The NFL looks at mileage on players at the end of their careers, fantasy players look at mileage on RBs in their previous season (the rule of 370.) By playing as a junior, a player is taking that many more hits. It won’t matter for the best players (that is, the one’s least prone to injury who will have the longest and most productive careers.) But players don’t have any idea how injury-prone they are, nor how long their career will last (and they have little-to-no control over either.) Logically, playing an extra (senior) season should increase the average player’s odds of injury. Any way you slice it, the odds of injury aren’t DECREASING by playing a senior season.

But the other half of the probability * effect equation is the effect of an injury. What happens to a junior who gets hurt? If it’s early, he’ll rehab and might come back at the end of the season. Worst case? He sits out his junior year rehabbing and returns for a SENIOR YEAR, where at worst he might be labeled a slight injury risk and drop a few spots.

What happens when he gets hurt as a senior? If it’s early, he’ll rehab and might come back at the end of the season. Worst case? He loses his senior season. Either way, an injury in his senior year results in an injury risk label, even for a player who performs at a high level. Worst case, you miss so much time that you’re only evaluated on your limited senior and/or junior performance, and labeled an injury risk. Now you see players going from first round to second round, and fourth round to undrafted. Now you see Sam Bradford going from Stafford’s $41 million guaranteed to Mark Sanchez’ $25 million. Looks like 16 million reasons to go pro.

Dawg stuck in Bham

January 16th, 2010
6:28 pm

Renie Curran…someone close to him that truly loves him, needs to speak truth into his life. He has never played in a 3-4 defense and it’s what the NFL runs alot. He has an opportunity to play a full season under an NFL experience DC that has run the 3-4 for years. What amazing teaching he would receive. Sure, he won’t grow physically taller, but he’d grow in his knowledge of what the NFL will be looking for.
Please someone talk some sense into him…

Paddy

January 16th, 2010
6:30 pm

Dawg88….your comments are rude and pathetic. Grow up!

just the truth

January 16th, 2010
6:37 pm

“UGAgrad71″ I applaud you. “We got a defensive coach” …… no it means the ones who want to play in divisions 1, would have to buckle down like your suppose to do in college and before. Remember this is a college first, not a semi-pro league where schooling doesn’t count. You know, the way it used to be!!

stw

January 16th, 2010
7:03 pm

MAX & MILES: GET A FRIGGIN LIFE. HOW PROUD YOU MUST BE OF YOURSELVES, BUT YOUR MOTHER SHOULD NOT LET YOU PLAY WITH “HER COMPUTER” !!!

Dawg Tired

January 16th, 2010
7:07 pm

GT Dog – Whether Curran is or is not a borderline NFL guy, your main point is on the money. It is very shortsighted to go one year early and forego a degree. In the long run he is better off with the degree whether he makes it or doesn’t make it in the NFL. Who are these kids listening to?

Bravissimo

January 16th, 2010
7:25 pm

Choke…Enjoy your boy Flacco tonite…its his last game of the season.
And there not even in this game because of him, Id say theyre there in spite of him.