The Norman Transcript

December 21, 2012

Shinn at 3 p.m.: Players weigh NFL options

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Over the next three and a half weeks, many college juniors will weigh whether to return to school for their senior seasons, or enter the NFL draft.

The two obvious Oklahoma players contemplating the jump are safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Both said this week that a decision hasn’t been made. Their position coaches along with OU coach Bob Stoops said they’ll get them all the information they need to make an informed decision.

However, the reality is once a player decides he wants to enter the draft logical reasons for staying in school rarely win out.

“The ones that have their mind made up to go are going to go no matter what,” Stoops said Wednesday night. “They generally went where they said they were gonna go. They generally didn’t play long and generally didn’t make much money because of where they were picked.”

Since Stoops became head coach in 1999, nine players who turned pro with eligibility still remaining. Some of the decisions were easy. Five were selected in the NFL draft’s first round: Safety Roy Williams (2002), defensive tackle Tommie Harris (2004), Adrian Peterson (2006), quarterback Sam Bradford (2009) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (2009).

The cautionary tale is with the players who left early, but were not first round picks: defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson (2002), safety Brodney Pool (2004), wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, linebacker Curtis Lofton (2008) and defensive back Reggie Smith (2008).

According to the NFL, the average career of a first-round pick is 9.3 years. It drops a significant amount in every round after that. The accepted average for an NFL career is around 3 1/2 years.

There’s a a reason most players are out after three years: salary structure. The minimum rookie salary is $375,000. The minimum salary for a player with a four-to-six years of experience is $685,000. It’s cost effective to load teams with younger players.

“Who are the guys after three years that are easy to let go of after three years? The third and the fourth, fifth, sixth rounders,” Stoops said. “They don’t have as much invested and now they have to pay you twice as much on your second contract. Why don’t I just get another kid out of college and pay him the same thing? We don’t have all the other things attached with pensions and everything else. It’s why the average years in the NFL is three or three and half. It’s exactly why.”

Of those non-first-round picks that left early, some worked out and some didn’t.

Wilkerson had and eight-year career. Pool played for seven. Smith played for four seasons and Kelly last just two seasons.

Lofton is the New Orleans Saints’ middle linebacker and is one of the few that got a big contract after his rookie deal expired. He signed a 5-year deal worth up to $33.5 million in March.

“My whole point is: you better maximize your window and get all you can out of it. If you don’t, you’re playing cheap, you’re playing at a discount. To me, you ought not do that.

Stoops whole point is players have to maximize their opportunity to be a first-round pick.

“What everyone doesn’t get is if you give that up, it never comes back. If you have the ability to be a first-rounder and you in the second, you’ve lost $4 million; that’s a significant amount of money you can never get back. You could’ve had it and finished your degree; that’s the point,” Stoops said.

“It’s also taking care of mom money. Second-round money is not taking care of mom money. You’re young. By the time you pay the taxes, your agent, you get a house, get a car, then you got 50 years of your life to live, you’re gonna go through that.”