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
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.”
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.